Onto another Christmas food cliché; the party nibble. For parties too drunken for them to be called 'canapés' and too aspirational to be called mere 'snacks', the 'nibble' is in all your faces at this time of year.
The rules of party nibbles are such: they have to be small enough to eat in one bite or two, they're much cuter if they are in fact 'mini' versions of big food (OMGZ LOOK, IT'S MINI!), and the more bling the better. My party nibbles tick every box.
Throughout December you will be bombarded with glitzy TV adverts for supermarket party foods and, no doubt, be blinded with a vast array of foodie blog posts about them. But in this post taste is paramount, and relative ease for maximum nibble-osity is key.
(I say this post is about party nibbles, but frankly you can stuff your face with them all sat in front of the TV with your pyjamas for all I care.)
Full-size muffalettas are an iconic sandwich with it's origins in the Italian community of New Orleans. This nibble doesn't even need cooking; it's all in the assembly. See how good I am to you?
Ingredients to make roughly 24:
1 square loaf of focaccia (you can use plain or any flavour, but I think slow-roasted tomato works best)
3 slices of Emmenthal cheese
9 slices of salami Milano
8 slices of montadella
Baby spinach leaves
Roasted red pepper chutney (I use Tesco Finest)
Firstly to get the best shape trim the crusts off all four edges of the focaccia, and then slice in half through the centre to create one giant sandwich.
Smother 3-4 of tablespoons of chutney over the soft side of each slice of focaccia, then cover the bottom slice with the baby spinach leaves. Then add two layers of the montadella (4 slices should completely cover the bread), followed by one layer of the Emmenthal, and finally one layer of the salami Milano. Top with the other slice of focaccia.
Place the entire focaccia onto a solid board and cover with a length of clingfilm. Then put another board on top of the focaccia and weight down with a couple of tins. Leave this for at least 2 hours, or overnight if you have time, in order to squash the fillings together and prevent the muffalettas falling apart when cut up.
When it's been sufficiently squished together remove the weights, board, and clingfilm and use a large knife to cut into small squares (about an inch square) and finish by piercing with a cocktail stick (for both practical and pretty reasons).
Quail Scotch Eggs with smoked bacon
More OMGZ mini food now, but with a smoky bacon-y twist.
Ingredients to make 12:
12 quail's eggs (to make this even easier use ready-hard boiled and peeled eggs, available at Waitrose)
400g of sausage-meat
4 rashers of smoked back bacon
Salt and pepper
120g panko breadcrumbs (they're crispier than normal)
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons of plain flour
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
If you haven't taken my excellent advice or can't source the ready-prepped quail's eggs, start by boiling the eggs in water for 3 minutes, then plunge into iced water immediately. When they're cool carefully peel them, remembering to gently rinse off any leftover shell, and set aside.
Fry the bacon in a tablespoon of oil until it's cooked, but not crispy, then remove the bacon from the pan and drain on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll. When it's cooled dice the slices reasonably finely. At this point you should also preheat the oil to 190c - it's safer and quicker to do this in a deep-fat fryer, but if you don't have one use a deep, heavy pan. Also preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan).
Mix the sausage-meat with the oregano, seasoning, and diced bacon - I prefer to do this with my hands so that the ingredients are well and truly mixed together (and it's delightfully messy).
Now set out the flour on a plate, the eggs in one bowl and the breadcrumbs in another. Take a small handful of the meat mixture (about twice the size of the egg) and roll into a ball using your hands. Then flatten the ball, place the egg in the middle, and fold the meat around it. When the egg is entirely covered roll in your hands again to regain the ball shape.
Roll the egg in the flour and pat off any excess, then coat completely in the beaten egg, and then drop into the breadcrumbs and roll it around until it's covered. Fry the egg for 3-4 minutes until it's golden and crispy, then remove from the fryer and place on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll to drain.
When all your eggs are fried put them on a baking tray and finish in the oven for 5 minutes. When they're done, allow to cool and then serve cut into halves.
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tartlets
What am I forgetting? Oh yes - BLING. There are lots of ways to introduce the bling factor into your nibbles, but none as oozey or glam as these tartlets.
Ingredients to make 12:
320g of shortcrust pastry, ready-rolled (hey, it's Xmas, who wants to mess about with a rolling pin?)
200g of dark chocolate
175 of golden caster sugar
120ml of double cream
120g of butter, cubed (plus a little extra for greasing)
1/2 tsp of sea salt flakes
Gold leaf (for tarting up...)
First preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan) and grease a 12-hole tartlet tray (the same you'd use for mince pies) with butter. Cut out circles of pastry with a pastry cutter that's slightly bigger than the diameter of the hole of the tray - this will ensure that the tartlet is the right shape and size. Place the pastry into the holes, prick the bottoms a few times with a fork, place a circle of greaseproof paper into each one, and finish with a few baking beans. Cook in the oven for 12 minutes, until crispy and cooked through. When they're done, remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
In a heavy-bottomed pan gently heat the sugar with 3 tablespoons of water until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and then simmer for a couple of minutes until the syrup turns an amber, caramel colour (but don't stir!). Then carefully (it will spit) stir in the cream and salt, and then the butter. Leave aside to cool for a few minutes. While the caramel is cooling melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water.
When the caramel has cooled, but is still liquid, spoon into the tartlet cases. Fill them about 3/4 full. Then set aside to cool and firm up for about 10 minutes.
When the caramel has firmed pour over a small amount of the melted chocolate, making sure the surface is level and shiny. While the chocolate is still liquid use a cocktail stick to carefully place a couple of flakes of gold leaf into the centre. Then place the tartlets into the fridge so that the chocolate cools and solidifies.
The finished tartlets will be oozey in the centre and crisp on top.