Non-Naff Little Dishes To Serve At Your Christmas Drinks
The Debrief: We’re officially banning the word ‘Canapé’ and all the fiddly stress that comes along with it. Here are some embarrassingly easy little dishes to serve
Illlustration by Anna Sudit
Just saying the word ‘canapé’ to me is enough to bring me out in a panic. I once spent six hours at Christmas individually making 80 duck egg scotch eggs with a runny yolk, which everyone later ignored in favour of the Doritos and dip selection my mate had bought from the corner shop at the end of my road.
Needless to say, I spent so much time time and energy faffing around trying to force my friends to eat my painstakingly involved and laughably complicated offerings that I had a shit time at my own party – I actually think tears were involved and crisps were thrown in the bin in a moment of hysteria brought on my canapé-induced lack of sleep (and a bucket-load of wine).
Obviously, this way madness lies and I resolved to permanently ban the word ‘canapé’ from my parties henceforth – they’re usually hideously naff anyway. That isn’t to say that I don’t want to give my mates little dishes to keep them happy (and their stomachs lined) when they’re coming round for drinks, but these days I still to three rules:
1.) They can’t include any ludicrous ingredients that I can’t buy at a supermarket.
2.) They must be salty (best with booze).
3.) They have to require the minimum effort possible from me for the maximum amount of flavour – cheats and shortcuts are actively encouraged if not required.
I’m unshakeable on these rules and I am much happier for it. As are my mates – no one likes to see their friend stressed out and teary when they should rightfully be pissed-up singing Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You. So here is my list of easy, cheap and delicious little dishes that I wheel out every time I want to have a good time. There’s enough to feed a small army here, so pick and choose according to how many people you want to feed (and what you can pick up at your local supermarket).
Pecorino With Chilli Jam
This is not so much a recipe as a (very delicious) construction job. Buy some pecorino. Buy a good chill jam. Cut the pecorino into slices. Top with chill jam. Job’s a good’n.
If you can’t find pecorino, a good parmesan or even some cheddar works a treat as well.
Salmon and Horseradish Ceviche
This looks unfairly elegant for the amount of work it actually takes to prepare. All you have to do is buy some salmon, cut it into thin strips and let it sit in a bowl for up to ten minutes with some lemon, salt and pepper and a pokey grating of fresh horseradish (which you can get at most supermarkets now). If you want to be dead posh, you can serve small servings of the mixture on little spoons, but I suspect this is probably gilding the lily a bit. Plonk it in a bowl next to some soda bread and some butter and it’s happy days.
Sage and Parmesan Palmiers
Basically, the best cheese straws you’ll ever eat. Buy some pre-made all-butter puff pasty, brush it with well-seasoned egg wash, grate an almost disgusting amount of parms over the top and dot with sage leaves. Then, fold either side of the party rectangle in on itself in concertina folds, cut into inch thick slices and bake in the oven. They should come out looking like little hearts which is a bit cheesy, but they more than make up for any quaint appearance by packing a serious flavour punch.
Cheese-Stuffed Dates With Proscuitto
It sounds rank, but when I tried them for the first time in Lake Como in Northern Italy, I literally. Could. Not. Stop. Eating. Then. And they’re now one of the most popular things I make for my mates at drinking parties. Just buy a packet of dates, stuff them with teaspoons of goats cheese and wrap (messily) in proscuitto. Just try it.
Pan Roasted Herby Nuts
All seasoned drinkers love a salt nut (wehey!) and these are the best around. Buy a selection of whatever unsalted nuts you like (I always go heavy on the cashews) and plonk in a pan with a tablespoon each of melted butter, smoked paprika and brown sugar and a sprinkle of finely chopped rosemary and lots of sea salt. They take about four minutes to cook and are like crack [insert obvious joke about crack and nuts here].
White Bean, Rosemary and Truffle Oil Crostini
Truffle oil might not seem like a very frugal, twenty-something ingredient for me to suggest you buy, but I am going to do it nonetheless. The oil isn’t very expensive (about seven quid) and you need hardly any of it to inject absolutely enormous flavour into so many dishes (it’s AMAZING stirred into scrambled eggs at the last minute). In this guise, it’s stirred into some mashed up, tinned white beans (butter beans are good) with some rosemary and plonked onto some, again, shop-bought (are you sensing a theme here?) crostini. Posh (and yummy) beans on toast.
Fried Ravioli With Spicy Tomato Sauce
This is simply THE best thing you can do with supermarket ravioli. Buy ravioli with whatever filling you like – I like Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference chicken and chorizo for this – and deep fry them in vegetable or sunflower oil until they turn brown and float to the top. They’re amazing dipped into a thick arrabiata, which you can make by reducing some tins of cherry tomatoes down with some wine, garlic, chilli flakes and olive oil (but you can also find it in the supermarket if you’re pushed for time). Grate some parmesan over the top and you’ve got the best nachos ever.
Mini Jacket Potatoes
Bake some new potatoes and top with sour cream and chives They’re adorable and make you feel like a giant, which is very pleasing. Also really good for soaking up booze.
Roasted Parsnips With Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Honey
Cut a few parsnips in thin, lengthways strips and bake them in a hot oven (200 degrees C) with some salt and pepper and olive oil until they’re crisp (about 20 minutes). When they’re cool, top with a blob of blue cheese, a some crushed walnuts and a drizzle of honey. These are unashamedly Christmassy.
The Best Pork Scratchings In The World
Classic pub grub for the pork enthusiast in your life. You’ll need to go to a butcher to make these, but it will cost you next to nothing once you’ve got there. Ask your butcher for a slab of pork rind with at least 1cm of fat (tell her how many you want to feed and she should work out how much you need for you), which you’ll want her to cut into strips for you. When you get home, rub the rind with smoked paprika, fennel, cumin seeds and salt and roast in an oven set at 220 degrees for about half an hour and you’ll have the best pork scratching you’ll ever taste. Whoever gets a nipple wins a prize.
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