Tag Archives: harissa

Christmas Canapes

There are only so many bowls of Doritos and dip that you can eat in a month. Don’t get me wrong, I love those processed, cheese-dusted, crunchy beauties (give me Doritos over Kettle Chips any day of the week), but sometimes you just want something a little more refined. That’s not to say fussy, or time-consuming, or expensive. But a little elegance at Christmas is sometimes necessary.

On Saturday I found myself doing canapes for 60 and, with the aid of two super-capable helpers (always a little awkward-making when your sous-chef is more experienced than you), cranked out close to 700 canapes and mince pies with no fuss whatsoever. You could quite happily do a couple of these (along with some mulled cider, perchance), without any stress.

Christmas Koftas

The idea of these was that they look like mini Christmas puds. If you hadn’t spotted that already.

Makes around 30

500g minced lamb

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon harissa

1 tablespoon ras el hanout

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 egg

Olive oil

100ml Greek yoghurt

A handful chopped mint

Juice of half a lemon


Barberries (available in Persian stores – otherwise pomegranates will work)

Make the kofta mix (can be done ahead) by putting the lamb mince, harissa, spices, onion and egg in a bowl along with a good slug of olive oil and some pepper. Mix thoroughly by hand, and set aside until ready to cook.

The mint yoghurt can also be done ahead. Finely chop the mint and add to the yoghurt with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Refrigerate until needed.

An hour before cooking, soak the barberries in boiling water for 45 minutes, then drain and press out any excess moisture.

Set the grill to 240C (you could fry the koftas but with guests you may not want to have a smoky, smelly kitchen). Form the koftas into small balls, season with salt and pop under the grill for 8 minutes.

Rest for 1 minute then garnish with a drop of mint yoghurt, a sprig of coriander and a couple of barberries.

Chicory with gorgonzola, cranberries, walnuts and truffle oil

Makes 30

2-3 heads of chicory (3 to be safe)

200g Gorgonzola, roughly chopped

A handful of dried cranberries, roughly chopped

A handful of walnuts, roughly chopped

Truffle oil

Wash and dry the chicory, and break apart carefully, saving the larger leaves for a salad (they will probably be too big for canapes). Trim the bottoms of the longer leaves and arrange on a plate. Add a few bits of Gorgonzola, cranberries and chopped walnut. You can do all this ahead, then just drizzle with a little truffle oil before serving.

Chicken liver parfait on crostini with pomegranate

Makes plenty (the parfait will keep and be of much use over Christmas)

1.2kg of chicken livers, washed, trimmed, and roughly chopped

450g unsalted butter

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

100ml brandy

2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, finely chopped

Pomegranate seeds

A French stick style baguette (as thin as possible)

Melt 250g of the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. When completely melted, add the garlic and thyme leaves and gently poach in the butter until the garlic is starting to colour at the edges. Add the chicken livers, season with salt and pepper, and continue to poach for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn up the heat to high and add the brandy. Carefully set fire to the pan with a match and burn off the alcohol (don’t be alarmed by the longevity of the fire – it will die eventually (just keep tea towels, children and pets away)).

Once the flames have died down blend the livers in a food processor or with a hand blender. Failing these you can make a coarser pate by beating the livers with a wooden spoon.

Transfer to a bowl or posh parfait jar and leave to cool. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter until the milk solids separate to the bottom. Pour the clarified butter onto the parfait and leave in the fridge to set. Will keep for a week.

When you’re ready to devour this heart-stopping concoction, slice the baguette and pop under the grill for a couple of minutes. Slather on a teaspoon of parfait (or quenelle if feeling poncy) and garnish with pomegranate seeds.


Filed under Recipes

Rhubarb cock-ups and the godfather cocktail [steamed sea bass]

I had a complete, abject kitchen disaster last night. And not just cooking for myself (which ought to be the time for experimentation and culinary abandon). Lachlan, a family friend of my flatmate Sam, was in Bristol for a conference and needed feeding. It seemed like a good moment to make use of some of the meat and veg that I had brought back from home after Easter – in particular the groaning bag of rhubarb that was firing wonderful, earthy, acidic notes out of the fridge every time I opened it. I settled upon the idea of rhubarb and custard. But my mind was elsewhere, completely distracted from the important issue of belly fodder and rather more focused on my dissertation. I poached the rhubarb in far too much water, which robbed it of its delightful astrigency while diluting the caster sugar I had added, leaving me with a colourless and fairly tasteless rhubarb soup. I should have chucked it and started again. I didn’t. Develop the soup idea, that seemed like the thing to do. A hot and cold rhubarb and custard soup – that is what this ruddy dissertation has reduced me to. I made custard, curdling it then only semi-rectifying it in the same way one might try and salvage a split mayonnaise – whisk another egg yolk and pour your curdled mixture, ever so slowly, into it, whisking all the while. By this point it had been about half an hour since we had finished our pearl barley risotto and I feared Lachlan might start banging his spoon on the table. I ended up serving a custard that was neither hot nor thick nor sweet enough, and a tasteless rhubarb slop. I reckon there is a recipe there though, if executed well – the reverse effect of cold cream on hot crumble, in hot custard on cold rhubarb? I just don’t know anymore.

The pudding aside, it was an evening that has proved disastrous for the aforementioned dissertation. It is 11.40 and I am writing this in bed with a stinking hangover, mainly thanks to Lachlan’s reckless off license purchase of whiskey and amaretto to make the Godfather – 1 part of each with ice. Tasted amazing. I feel terrible.

And yes, the writing as gone astray, and I fear I will be able to offer little before June, what with my finals coming up and that. I’ll try posting something every now and then, but don’t get your hopes up.

Meantime, here is something I knocked up at home, using the wild garlic that carpets the woods at this time of year.

Steamed sea bass with couscous and harissa mayonnaise

Serves 4

4 whole sea bass
Wild garlic leaves if you have ’em
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
200ml groundnut oil
1 tablespoon of harissa

Fill a roasting tray 3 inches deep with water, stick it on the heat and bring to the boil. Stuff the sea bass with the wild garlic, season and place on a rack above the water. Cover tightly with foil and steam for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, mustard and vinegar with a pinch of salt and very, very slowly, pour in the oil. It should start to thicken pretty quickly, at which point you can marginally speed up the pouring operation. If it starts to split you can add a little milk, or follow instructions above. When you have your finished mayonnaise, stir in the harissa. Some chopped garlic leaves too, if you fancy.

Cook the couscous according to the pack instructions and serve with the steamed fish, harissa mayonnaise, and a green salad.

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Filed under Ramblings, Recipes