Clas­sic canapés for party peo­ple

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

Drinks par­ties can be tricky for the home cook. Over the years I’ve done loads of them in restau­rants, gal­leries and event spa­ces, for any­thing be­tween 10 peo­ple and 10,000, and some­times with as many chefs as guests. But at home the good host wants to en­joy her own party, and not di­rect a mob of cooks with com­plex equip­ment.

Clas­sic canapé recipes of­ten call for last-minute at­ten­tion to de­tail so I’ve put to­gether recipes that will work well for a party at home and still al­low you to en­joy the event, sim­ply drift­ing through the kitchen ev­ery now and then to pull another tray of de­li­cious snacks from the oven.

Pre­pare well in ad­vance, then stand back and be ready for the plau­dits that are sure to be com­ing your way. A pro­vin­cial French clas­sic, th­ese are ba­si­cally con­fit pork belly. They’re per­fect for canapés as you pre­serve them in their own fat so you can keep them in the fridge for the whole of the fes­tive pe­riod, ready to be re­heated when guests ar­rive.

Serves 10 1.5kg/3½lb kg pork belly (the thick end), skin re­moved, ribs re­moved, cut into 3cm cubes 50g/2oz sea salt ½ bunch thyme 75g/3oz lard 250ml/8½fl oz dry white wine 4 bay leaves, peeled 6 gar­lic cloves 1 tbsp pep­per­corns 2 tbsp su­gar Mus­tard, to serve

The day be­fore cook­ing (or ide­ally three days be­fore), toss the pork belly cubes with the salt and a cou­ple of thyme sprigs, cover, and re­frig­er­ate for at least 12 hours.

The fol­low­ing day, pre­heat the oven to 140C/275F/gas 1. Rinse the salt and thyme from the pork un­der a cold tap and dry with kitchen pa­per.

Heat a large fry­ing pan over a high heat, and add the lard. When it has melted and is very hot, very care­fully add the pork, fat-side down and fry on all sides un­til golden brown all over. Turn the heat down if the fat starts burn­ing.

Trans­fer to a large bak­ing dish and spread the pork out in one layer. Pour over the wine and add the re­main­ing thyme, bay, gar­lic cloves, pep­per­corns and su­gar. Pour over the re­main­ing fat in the fry­ing pan. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 1½ hours. If the pork isn’t soft yet, re­turn to the oven for another 30 min­utes. Once ten­der, re­move the pork, drain most of the fat and leave the pork to cool in the re­main­ing fat. At this point, you can keep the ril­lons in their fat in the fridge for up to three weeks.

When you’re ready to serve, pre­heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Place the pork cubes on a bak­ing tray smoth­ered with a cou­ple of ta­ble­spoons of the fat and place at the top of the oven for 8–10 min­utes, un­til the pork is siz­zling and crisp. Serve with sea salt and mus­tard. Th­ese can be kept raw in the freezer, ready for when peo­ple turn up. Puff pas­try is fine too if you don’t want the faff of filo. They’ll just be slightly less del­i­cate.

Serves 10 Fill­ing: 1 tbsp but­ter 1 small onion, finely chopped 250g/9oz spinach, blanched and squeezed dry of wa­ter A pinch of Turk­ish dried chilli (op­tional) 200g/7oz feta cheese 1 heaped tbsp Greek yo­gurt beaten with 1 egg Pas­try: 1 x 270g/10oz packet filo (puff is fine too) pas­try sheets 50g/2oz but­ter, melted, plus ex­tra for greas­ing Ap­prox 2 tbsp se­same seeds Ap­prox 1 tbsp nigella seeds 1 egg yolk, beaten with a splash of milk

Pre­pare the fill­ing first. Melt the but­ter in a fry­ing pan and fry the onion with a pinch of salt un­til soft, about seven min­utes. Roughly chop the spinach and stir into the onion, along with the chilli flakes if you want.

Take off the heat, and crum­ble in the feta and stir in the yo­gurt and egg mix­ture. Check and ad­just the sea­son­ing and leave to cool.

Mean­while (if cook­ing im­me­di­ately) pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Lay out the sheets. Filo comes in dif­fer­ent sizes, so you may have to cut it to size. For each börek, you need a dou­ble layer of pas­try in a rec­tan­gu­lar shape ap­prox­i­mately 25cm x 10cm. This can be done by fold­ing a piece in half, or lay­ing two sheets one on top of the other. Keep the sheets you’re not us­ing yet un­der a damp kitchen cloth.

Grease a bak­ing tray with but­ter. Use a pas­try brush to paint the melted but­ter over the top sur­face of the pas­try and be­tween the two sheets so they stick to­gether. Place a ta­ble­spoon of the cooled mix in the bot­tom left-hand cor­ner of the rect­an­gle in a tri­an­gu­lar shape. Fold the lower left-hand cor­ner over the mix to form a tri­an­gle. Fold the top left-hand side over and con­tinue fold­ing un­til the pas­try is used up and you have a neat, tight tri­an­gle. Place on the bak­ing tray and make the rest of the böreks. When fin­ished, brush the tops with any re­main­ing but­ter.

If cook­ing im­me­di­ately, brush the egg wash lightly over the tops and sprin­kle over the se­same seeds and nigella seeds. Place in the oven for 20-25 min­utes un­til golden. Serve warm or at room tem­per­a­ture.

If freez­ing, skip the pre­vi­ous step. Place in sin­gle lay­ers in a plas­tic con­tainer, with grease­proof pa­per be­tween the lay­ers. There is no need to de­frost be­fore cook­ing, sim­ply egg-wash and scat­ter with seeds be­fore cook­ing for 20-30 min­utes. Shape the risotto into balls and freeze so all you need to do is coat them and fry them when guests ar­rive. For a veg­e­tar­ian ver­sion, use veg­etable stock and veg­e­tar­ian Parme­san-style cheese.

Serves 10 1 onion, finely chopped 2 gar­lic cloves, finely chopped 2 cel­ery sticks, finely chopped 80g/3oz but­ter 150g/5oz wild mush­rooms such as girolle, pied de mou­ton, trompette de la mort or dried porcini, finely chopped 1l/1¾ pints of boil­ing chicken stock 300g/10½oz of carnaroli risotto rice 200ml/7fl oz of white wine 100g/3½oz grated Parme­san, plus a lit­tle ex­tra to serve 2 hand­fuls of pars­ley leaves, finely chopped 2 eggs, beaten

Can-do canapés: clock­wise from above, pork ril­lons; spinach and cheese böreks; Christ­mas palmiers; wild mush­room arancini

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