Whilst reading this blog you should be listening to Demis Roussos. Treat yourself and click the link for a blast from the past. This one’s for Barbara who inexplicably asked for suggestions for appetisers.
Now I’m not a great appetiser cook to be honest. It’s all too fiddly for me. However when we were in New York I spent many hours in Kitchen Arts and Letters determined not to buy. However the proprietor reminded me that I could save excess baggage charges if he mailed them to me at home and they would also be tax free. It took me about three months to realise of course that I still spent the money and the postage, just saved on the tax. But it is a gorgeous shop and I recommend it if you are in New York. It has coffee and chairs and I stayed there five hours. One of the books I purchased (before having the best pedicure ever on 5th Avenue, watching well coiffed women in spiky heels, whose clothes cost more than my house, marching past for their ‘quick wax darling’) was Martha Stewart’s Appetisers. So, Barbara, you are in luck.
Before we delve into Martha, I will just recommend a couple of things. One is to make it easy on yourself. Please don’t use piping bags and dots of caviar. Don’t butter bread carved into tiny squares. Don’t make swans out of radishes. Keep it simple.
Another is to keep charcuterie in mind. Think lots of plates of proscuitto or Iberico jamon, sharp little olives, salami or french saucisson, cornichon, quail eggs halved and spiced with a sprinkling of smoked paprika, hot radishes accompanied by bowls of salt, dotted around the room.
Another is toasted bruschetta topped with chopped tomato, olives and fresh basil, seasoned with seasalt and a grind of black pepper. Or little toasts spread with smoked mackerel pate perked up with horseradish.
Consider offering tiny shots of gazpacho (you can buy it ready made) served ice cold with a splash of vodka and a little sprinkle of celery salt and a little celery stick to stir (you got it – it’s a Bloody Mary)! Or you can do the Virgin Mary option minus the vodka. You can buy little plastic shot glasses in Makro or Poundland for practically nothing. This is what I did for Paul’s private view a couple of years ago, which just proves the point that I can do appetisers on a grand scale if needed – I just prefer the easy life!
When we were in Le Puget earlier in the year the charcuterie was served with tiny, buttery, parmesan biscuits. About the thickness of a one pound coin I have since replicated them at home.
Use your food processor for this. Pulse 100g cold butter with 100g plain flour with a pinch of cayenne pepper and a teaspoon of mustard powder. Then grate in 50g each of strong cheddar and parmesan. Mix together then add a tiny splash of one beaten egg and pulse again till it almost comes together. Turn out knead it slightly and wrap in clingfilm and put in fridge for half an hour while you have a coffee. Then roll out to about 1.5cm thick and use a small cutter. Brush the biscuits with remaining egg and sprinkle with a little more parmesan. Place the rounds on parchment paper on a baking tray and bake at 180C for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray. Guaranteed to be gone in 10 seconds flat!
Now, consulting Martha, if you really must mess around with fiddly things, she suggests the following:
- Mini empanadas, which are just circles of pastry filled with something tasty. Little two-bite Spanish pies that look like Cornish pasties to you and me.
- Prawns on sticks – what could be simpler?
- Puree’d vegetable dips – colourful but oh so boring
- bacon wrapped bites – bacon wrapped round things like shrimp, figs, dates, chillis. Really, isn’t life to short?
- Crudites with dips – do you really want a dip that someone else has dipped their celery stick in for the third time?
- proscuitto wrapped round asparagus or breadsticks – pur-lease
Believe me. Keep it simple. Plates of charcuterie, good bread, some shots, little triangles of watermelon with feta, olives, cornichon, good tomato salsa on buschetta, home made grissini maybe should be the limit of your cooking. Make them with bread dough, roll into thin sticks, cover with fennel or poppy seed or parmesan and bake for 5 minutes.
Shirley Conran said “Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom”. She was right!
And here’s the link to Abigail’s Party …… Now. Where’s my Demis Roussos? And my cocktail sticks?