Monday, 17 December 2012

Party food!

I really love catering for parties - with a steady, never-ending stream of tempting nibbles (both savoury and sweet) being carried out of the kitchen until the guests can eat no more and have to waddle home... So here are two of my longest-standing (and most sucessful) party pieces which I dished up yesterday for a Christmas get-together (with goat cheese tartlets with red onion marmelade and tomatoes, banana bread and mini raspberry and white chocolate muffins - recipes to follow another time!):

Curried puffs

These are unashamedly retro - something you would expect 70s cookery writer Josceline Dimbleby to have put on her dinner table (together with avocado mousseline and coronation chicken) - but fear not: they are utterly irresistible - and so easy to make! (The job is even easier if you use a pasty maker - one of my trusted party food tools in the kitchen):

1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped
200g lamb mince (or beef and pork)
a handful of frozen peas
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp sweet mango chutney
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 x 230g puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 190°.
Sweat off the onion, garlic and ginger in the oil and add the curry powder. Cook for a minute and stir in the mince, breaking it up with a spoon, then fry until browned a little. Add the frozen peas and let them thaw, then stir in the chutney, garam masala and seasoning. Leave to cool. (This can also be done a few days in advance.)

Cut out as many 10 cm discs as you can of the pastry (re-roll the leftover scraps as well). Put a generous spoonfull of the curried mince on one half, then brush the edges with the egg and fold over into a semi-circular shape, making sure to press down all the edges firmly. Brush all over with more egg and bake for 20 - 25 mins until puffed and golden.

I often double or treble the quantities and turn the extra/left-over mix into one big pie or 4 individual ones (made with puff or shortcrust pasty). They then go in the freezer for another day (served with a green or a tomato-cucumber-onion salad).

Vietnamese meatballs

Meatballs are one of the easiest things to serve at parties as they can be made a good few days in advance - and they freeze very well. I've made these beauties so many times that I could literally do them in my sleep, but a few years ago I became obsessed with creating an ever-expanding "flavour range" for my boulettes: North African, Indian, Middle Eastern... I was like a demented Heston Blumenthal ("Let's push it chef - we can do it: Sardines and chocolate! Saffron and lard!! Sandals and beetlejuice!!!"). They were all very nice but none were as good as the original version:

500g mince  (pork and veal or just pork)
1 bunch of spring onions (whites AND greens)
3 cloves of garlic
a fat thumb of ginger, peeled
1 stem of lemongrass
a good handful of coriander (leaves and stems) and mint (leaves only) each
a good tbsp of fish sauce
1 egg
50g fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp of vegetable oil

Blitz the onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, herbs and fish sauce into a paste. Put the mince into a large bowl, add the paste, egg and breadcrumbs. Season and mix well. Put a handbowl of water next to you and roll the mix into small walnut-sized balls (wetting your hands after every four or so balls makes this very easy).
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the meatballs over a medium heat until lightly browned. (You might have to do them in batches). They will be cooked through when they are firm to the touch.

My default recipe for boulettes is 500g mince = 1 egg = 1 onion = 50g breadcrumbs and it works every time: good fryable consistency without being too firm/dry.
You can substitute the grated zest of a lime for the lemongrass.
When using the meatballs from cold, reheat in a tbsp of oil for a few minutes until hot.

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