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.
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
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
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
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
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, finely chopped
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.