Thursday, 10 January 2013

Size Matters...

Before I start any kind of waffling on about cupcakes or cookies, or indeed waffles, I feel that an apology is in order. I fear (less fear, more utter disgust at my own neglect, the last time I logged on being more than a year ago) that I have left the Kitchen Hour rather out in the cold. So much so that it has grown up and changed its name...Welcome to Relish, a (kind-of) new and (hopefully) improved blog, hopefully I have missed the awkward teenage years...

I do, however, have a few excuses that might get you back reading, and me actually filling the oven instead of using it as a radiator to defrost my frozen fingers, still struggling to adjust to the bleak winter temperatures of Suffolk in January.
As most of your probably know from the bombardment of sunny photos and annoying status updates throughout the past year, I have been on a little 6 month holiday. Yes, yes I was finding myself; wearing hessian jumpsuits, taking on sunrise yoga, reciting Eat, Pray, Love on deserted beaches, you know the drill.
Well no, me neither. The closest I got to yoga was some rather enthusiastic dance moves in dingy clubs, and I think it is entirely fair to say that my trip involved less barefoot trekking and more eating anything in sight, consuming copious amounts of cocktails and alternative I hear you say, well, as someone who was obviously more successful at finding their inner ying or yang than I was once told me, 'its all about the journey.' And I returned from mine a whole lot fatter.

So as I was enduring a slow and painful cardiac arrest as I climbed the 2000 steps to Machu Pichu,  the blog took rather a back seat. But now I am home, not altogether found but, as proved by the sheer number of travelling photos involving some kind of food, still seriously committed to the art of eating. And, to boot, I now have a wealth of stories (some hopefully mildly amusing, I will leave the mystery underwear thief story for another time) and new recipe ideas that will be spilling out of my brain and onto the long left blank pages of this blog. 

And what better to start the year, and a new blog, with than a flashback to the festive season, a glimmer of what once was as we stare the most dreary month of all in the face from our overflowing desks.

This Christmas, as ever, I came over all Stepford wife. As soon as the advent calender becomes short of doors to open I go absolutely crazy for all things miniature and mixed. And although I was rather taken with my Auntie's adorable mongrel puppy in a Santa costume, it was cocktails and canapes in particular with which I was obsessed.

Whilst Christmas and the New Year are the perfect time to crack out the canapes, with more mingling and hanging around the drinks table than is ever tolerated at any other time of the year without vicious and unwelcome rumours beginning to circulate, food in miniature is surely a good idea at any time. A huge tray of varied and delicious canapes is guaranteed to inspire a gasp at any occasion, although if you, as I did, select a random Tuesday afternoon as your chosen occasion, be prepared for a few of those gasps to be followed with hushed murmurings of 'is she, you know, OK??'

But, if the time is right, try any of these sure to impress canapes and get your modest face ready to revel in the delight of your guests. Fail-safe, and universally loved Yorkshire puddings with roast beef and horseradish cream, the lightest, melt in the mouth parmesan shortbreads with roasted tomatoes and red pepper jam, smoked salmon and dill tartlets with quick pickled cucumber, corn cakes with ginger chilli prawns and mango salsa, or even, a Christmas classic, bubble and squeak with turkey and cranberry sauce. The possibilities are endless. Just think of your favourite dish and shrink it to a bitesize morsel. It is like being Willy Wonka for the day, Charlotte and the Canape Factory,I can't help thinking that making canapes is what I was born to do.

And don't let your imagination stop at the savoury, sweet things are perfectly suited to being canapized (yes, I made that word up) too. How about moist almond and orange sponges, adorned with greek yoghurt and pomegranate, dark chocolate and orange tarts with hazelnut praline, or white chocolate, orange and  rasperry profiteroles, scattered with beautiful green shards of pistachio?

Be creative, as long as you have a base to adorn with your favourite toppings (small rounds of fried bread for stilton mushrooms, pastry cases, shortbreads, bilinis for smoked salmon and crรจme fraiche...) the world is your oyster. In fact , if you are feeling really fancy, why not use a couple of oysters in their shells for canape vessels too? The kitchen is your playground, go fourth and miniaturise...

PS. I will be following this post with a guide to my favourite homemade (let's call them 'in-house' to sound slightly more professional..) cocktails to complete your soiree; spiced pear mojitos, sloe gin sours and elderflower gin fizz to name but a few. I will await my invite!

PPS. These are my favourite savory canape recipes, but if you are planning an evening of bite-size treats and want some more ideas and recipes, please feel free to ask..My brain is almost overflowing with all things canape! X

Yorkshire Puddings with Horseradish Cream and Roast Beef.

These get a great reaction without fail. The Yorkshire recipe (adapted from Leith's Cookery Bible) is the best I have come across, always producing perfectly risen puds with the ever desirable hole for gravy, or in this case, filling, at their centre. Try to use the smallest muffin tin you can find, mine has adorable, inch wide indentations, the prefect bitesize treat! This recipe makes around 30 canapes, but feel free to double, triple or quadruple up as you please,  or to use this recipe for full sized puddings.This one is always a winner, they will fly off the tray, I promise!

Yorkshire Puddings
110g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
290ml milk

Horseradish Cream
1tbsp Horseradish sauce
2 tbsp Creme fraiche
juice 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

To Serve
Roast beef slices (rare, home roasted beef is the ultimate but any good quality slices from your butcher will be delicious)
A few sprigs of watercress
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200oc

To make the puddings, sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the egg. Using a whisk mix in the egg, gradually adding flour from the edge of the well. Slowly whisk in the milk until the batter is smooth.
Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until needed.
When you are ready (these will keep in an airtight container for a of days), preheat a small muffin tin filled with a small amount of oil until very hot.
Cafefully pour in a small amount of the batter (only fill the tins about half full, or the puds will be massive!) and quickly return to the oven.
Cook for about 15 minutes or until well risen and golden. Leave to cool and admire your handiwork!

To assemble, mix all the ingredients for the cream in a bowl, seasoning to taste.
Spoon a little of this mixture into each pudding and arrange a small sliver of beef and a sprig of watercress on top. Add a twist of pepper and add to your canape tray!

My Favourite Parmesan Shortbreads with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Pepper Jam.

These are my go-to canape. Delicious and easy to make, the shortbreads can be adapted to carry any topping. Try adding black olives to the dough and crowning with feta, roasted red onions and basil, or topping with pesto, creamy goats cheese and pinenuts. This recipe makes 40, mix up the toppings and you can guarantee no-one will get bored or hungry.

60g plain flour
45g cold butter, diced
60g parmesan, grated
Pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder

Pepper Jam
I/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 jar fire roasted peppers, sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
Small bunch of basil, chopped
Salt and pepper

20 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Basil leaves
Parmesan shavings

Firstly, and this can be done a couple of days in advance, or at least on the morning of your party, arrange the tomato halves and garlic in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and season.
Bake the tomatoes on a low heat (around 150oc) for a couple of hours or until resembling something beautifully sunblushed.
Store in an airtight container until needed.

Preheat the oven to 180oc.
Place all the ingredients for the shortbreads in a food processor and pulse to form a smooth dough.
Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/2 cm thick. Cut out with a small round cutter and place on a tray lined with greaseproof. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool completely before adding your toppings.

To make the jam, fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until softened. Add the sliced peppers and cook for a few minutes.
Add the vinegar and sugar and simmer until the jam is thickened and glistening. Add a little more sugar or vinegar according to your taste, before stirring in the seasoning and basil. Leave to cool.

To arrange, top the biscuits with the jam and a tomato half. Adorn with a shred of basil and a parmesan shaving, serve.

No comments:

Post a Comment