I love a good party, don’t you?
It’s better than a bad party anyway.
Or perhaps after a few whiskies it hardly matters what the party’s like as you’ve been trying to convince the coat stand to go home with you for the past twenty minutes and have recently decided that what ever that terrible music on the stereo is, it’s fantastic.
Well, one way to avoid chatting up someone else’s home furnishings by 11pm is to line your stomach with some tasty snacks before the Sambuca shots start making the rounds.
Prevention of unacceptable dancing: not guaranteed.
One of the many excellent things about my friends is that they like to get involved with party food. It would be so easy to rock up to a gathering with a plastic box of mini muffins from the shop, but when we gets together, there’s a lovingly arranged cheese board, home made bars and cakes, and carefully constructed canapes. (And some crisps and mini pizzas from the corner shop – we’re only human.) We get pissed and sing badly anyway, but that’s just how we roll.
There have been Whitney Houston singalongs. They are epic.
Er… So, food! I’ve gathered (read: pinched) a delicious assortment of nibblies to suggest to you for the nearly overwith Religiously Neutral Holiday Season of Festivity, and there are options for veggies and meaties alike – plenty of cheese involved here, which is just the thing before a stiff drink or seven.
As we’re discussing cheese, let’s start with the nibbly equivalent of [insert name of highly addictive, preferably illegal substance here]. Some might call these a cluster of mini heart attacks, I call them… actually, I don’t call them anything because I’ve got three in my mouth, but it’s basically squeaky, salty cheesiness, wrapped in the loving embrace of some pigginess.
Bacon & Halloumi Rolls (<– I know!)
- 250g Halloumi cheese (one block)
- 10 Rashers pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
- 1 tbsp Chopped chives
Heat the oven to 200C (fan 180C).
Cut the halloumi into 20 sticks.
Gently stretch each rasher, then cut in half. Season with a bit of black pepper, then sprinkle with the chopped chives. (I skipped the pepper, assuming, correctly, that the smoky bacon and chives would pack enough of a punch.)
Roll each half around a stick of halloumi and arrange on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the pancetta/bacon is brown and beginning to crisp.
Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a few layers of kitchen roll to drain. Things could get ugly if you don’t.
I’d suggest scattering in a few cherry toms, as a cool, acidic chaser to the smokiness and salt.
Remember, these are for sharing, and no one will be impressed if they find you in the cloak room with an empty plate and a glazed expression of extreme satiation on your face.
Now let’s throw in a little something for the vegetarians. Essentially, it’s tomatoes.
Tomatoes soaked in vodka.
An important thing to remember with this bad boy of a nibble is that you need to get the boozy ball rolling two days in advance. Worth the bother?
Bloody Mary Tomatoes
- 250g Baby plum tomatoes/cherry tomatoes
- 200ml Vodka
- 1 tbsp Sherry
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- a few drops Tabasco sauce
- 1/2 tsp Celery salt
- 1 tsp Celery salt
- 1 tsp Cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp Sea salt
Two days ahead, score a little cross on the base of each tomato and place them in a sealable plastic box, cross-side up.
Whisk together the vodka, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and celery salt, and spoon it over the tomatoes.
Place the lid tightly on the box and leave it in the fridge to allow the tomatoes to marinate for two days.
Before serving, drain the tomatoes and let them come to room temperature.
Mix the salts and cayenne pepper together in a small dish.
Serve the tomatoes on a plate with the dish of salt mixture, into which guests may dip their tomato before eating.
Again, no hiding in the cloak room getting squiffy off a plate of tomatoes – that’s even less cool than the cheese devouring thing.
Yes. Back to cheese. We’re still making the non-carnivorous among us happy, this time in a slightly more sophisticated, no less delicious, beautifully seasonally appropriate snacklet.
This can be done two ways… Sort of. Ether way, it’s a pastry casing, housing a gooey combo of melty brie and sweet-tart cranberry sauce.
If brie doesn’t do it for you, Wensleydale, goat, camembert, or even a spoonful of cream cheese will do. Have a play!
Brie & Cranberry Parcels (or Blossoms, if you, like me, can only find puff pastry…)
- 6 sheets of Filo pastry
- 4 x 25g pieces of Brie
- 4 heaped tsps Cranberry sauce or relish
- 25g Melted butter
Make sure you have all the ingredients to hand as filo pastry tends to dry out quickly. The cheese should be in squares, if you want neat parcels, otherwise it can be any shape.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Lightly grease a baking tray and set aside.
Cut the filo sheets in half so you have twelve sheets, three for each parcel.
(I unrolled the puff pastry and cut off a strip long/wide enough to make three equal squares – this could be repeated till you run out of pastry.)
Put three on top of each other but with the corners at different places.
(If using puff pastry, one square will do as the pastry is already made up of many teeny tiny layers, and is quite thick. How cool is it that the pastry comes on its own baking paper?)
Place the cheese in the centre and top with the cranberry.
Bring up the sides and pinch to make a sack or parcel. (Mine looked a bit like rose buds…)
Brush the edges of the pastry with butter to seal it.
Arrange the parcels on the baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
(Now, if using filo pastry, you’ll end up with little golden parcels, something like the above. My puff pastry, er, blossomed, so I ended up with something more like three-bite brie and cranberry tarts. Which, honestly, was no bad thing…)
Whether you end up with buds or blossoms, these are most delectible served warm, but pretty much to die for even when at room temperature.
This post is a bit last minute for New Years Eve, true, but any of the above can be done in under an hour (okay, the tomatoes, not so much) and will be happily hoovered up by any whose path they might cross.
I have a few other party nibbles up my proverbial sleeve, but we can discuss those in 2012.
For now, I shall wish you all a happy new year, and look forward to documenting more messy kitchen situations for you in the not too distant future.