Festive Finger Food

latkes with lumpfish roe by Sue StyleI’ve had loads of fun in 2012 with my workshops: plenty of variety (Fish for the Fearful, Real Mexican, Spring and Autumn Veggie feasts, Spanish/Catalan cooking, bread, Mediterranean Buffet, Taste of Alsace/Basel/Baden, Party Pieces etc.) with a mix of publicly advertised classes, private workshops (where folks get together their own group and come and cook up a storm on the theme/day of their choosing) and corporate/team-building events. The last one was yesterday, phoa. So now there’s no possible excuse for putting off my own Christmas preps.

Just a quick word before I get busy on that wreath…December workshops included some yumptious nibbles – always good to have a selection up your sleeve for the hols (tho’ not literally; a bit messy). Most can be done ahead, which takes the pressure off the cook and keeps questing stomachs quiet while you put the finishing touches to those party pieces/veggies/gravy/dessert(s). Or take some to a party as a Mitbringsel (neat Swiss-German phrase meaning something you take/bringen with/mit) – takes the pressure off fellow cooks and makes it more convivial. Here are some ideas to get the gastric juices flowing – and to spark some creative thoughts of your own.

MINI-RÖSTIS WITH FROMAGE BLANC AND LUMPFISH ‘CAVIAR’ AND/OR SMOKED SALMON STRIPS

mini-rostis with 'caviar' by Sue Style

Bite-sized potato patties (aka latkes) topped with a splodge of fromage blanc and finished with red or black lumpfish roe and/or smoked salmon. If you like, fry the Röstis ahead of time and reheat them on a baking tray in the oven @ 180 C till golden and sizzly before adding the toppings.

Makes about 20 bite-sized Röstis
500g firm, waxy potatoes (3-4 large)
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 eggs
1 tablespoon potato flour (fécule) or cornflour (Maizena)
salt, pepper, grated nutmeg
plenty of chopped flat-leaf parsley
vegetable oil or duck fat for frying the Röstis
200ml fromage blanc
1 small jar each of black and red lumpfish ‘caviar’
and/or 4 slices smoked salmon, cut in tiny strips
parsley to garnish

  • Peel the potatoes and grate finely using a food processor or grater
  • Tip the grated potatoes onto a muslin or loose-weave teatowel, gather up the cloth into a tight balloon and squeeze out as much juice as possible over the sink
  • Mix together in a bowl the chopped shallot, eggs, fécule or cornflour, salt, pepper, grated nutmeg and chopped parsley
  • Stir in the squeezed out potatoes, and mix well together
  • Heat a film of oil or duck fat in a non-stick frying pan and fry mini-Röstis (about the size of a 5-franc coin) till the underside is golden-going-on-brown (about 5 minutes)
  • Flip the Röstis over, add more oil/fat if necessary to film the bottom of the pan (don’t skimp on fat, or the Röstis will be dry and burnt in patches rather than crisply, evenly golden) and fry the second sides – another 5 minutes or so – you need to do this in at least 2 batches
  • Remove Röstis to a serving dish lined with absorbent paper and keep them warm in an 80-degree C oven if serving soon; OR let them cool, then reheat at 180oC for 10-15 minutes until golden and sizzly
  • To serve, spread Röstis with a smear of fromage blanc and top with red and black lumpfish roe (alternating colours looks nice) and/or smoked salmon strips

BITE-SIZED BURRITOS (OR PUMPERNICKEL ROUNDS) WITH GUACAMOLE AND PRAWNS/SHRIMP

mini-burritos with guacamole by Sue Style

Cut or stamp out small rounds from tortillas (flour or corn/maize), spread with guacamole, top with prawns/shrimp and roll ’em up or fold ’em over. Corn tortillas are good for gluten-free guests, but note that they’re much less pliable and don’t roll up very satisfactorily – best just to stamp out rounds and plonk guacamole on top. Third possibility: put a dollop of guacamole on top of pumpernickel rounds (buy them in a roll, ready sliced) – a startlingly delish bit of Mexican/Swiss/German fusion. And don’t forget: you can make guacamole ahead, as long as you cover it with clingfilm, pressing it tightly into the surface to exclude any air.

Makes about 20 burritos

guacamole by Sue Style

Guacamole
1 fresh green chile, de-seeded and chopped
a bunch of fresh coriander/cilantro
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 avocados
juice of 1 lime

5 tortillas or wraps or 1 packet pumpernickel rounds – or do a mixture
20 cooked, shelled prawns (not too large)

  • Put the chile, coriander, garlic and salt in a pestle and mortar and pound to a rough paste (or chop very finely together and put in a bowl)
  • Mash in the avocados with a fork and sharpen with lime juice
  • Cover the guacamole tightly with clingfilm, pressing it right against the surface, otherwise it will go black. Refrigerate till needed
  • Heat the tortillas very briefly in a frying pan (no oil) or in the microwave @600w for 1 minute to make them supple
  • Stamp out 6 cm rounds from each tortilla using a plain cookie cutter or scone cutter, or cut rounds using a 6-cm glass or saucer as a template
  • Put a dab of guacamole on each tortilla round (and/or on pumpernickel rounds), lay a prawn/shrimp on top. Tortilla rounds can be left flat, or rolled up or folded over – fix with toothpicks if necessary to hold them together

PETITES FLAMMEKUECHE EN AMUSE-GUEULE
Pastry, bacon and onion appetisers

tartelettesRound here, Flammekueche is a staple: it’s Alsace’s answer to pizza, only much nicer because the dough is rolled out paper-thin. Traditionally they’re made in large rectangles and served on a board cut in segments for everyone to help themselves. These ones are made bite-sized, great for nibbling with a glass of wine. It’s absolutely permissible (obligatory, in fact) to buy the flammekueche bases in supermarkets in Alsace, or use a ready-rolled round of puff pastry. Ahead of time tip: assemble the flammekueche and refrigerate until ready for baking.

Makes about 30 mini-flammekueche
2 Flammekueche rounds, 30cm-diameter or 1 x 230g disc of puff pastry
200ml crème fraîche épaisse
100g allumettes de lardons (fine strips of streaky bacon)
1 onion, finely chopped

  • Stamp out rounds from the flammekueche bases with a 6 cm scone or cookie cutter (or use a Christmas cookie cutter, various shapes) and lay them on a baking sheet – you should get about 16 from each base
  • Alternatively, if using puff pastry, stamp out pastry rounds with cookie cutters, then re-roll the trimmings for a second lot of pastries
  • Spread the stamped out rounds with crème fraîche, sprinkle with lardons and finely chopped onion
  • Refrigerate if not to be baked immediately
  • Heat the oven to 220oC
  • Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown
  • Serve on a napkin-lined board or tray

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