Christmas nibbles and healthy tipples
Sarah Monier–Williams' crowd-pleasers for the festive season.
Sam's Baked Egg Bar
I’ve been very naughty and stolen this recipe from Sam Gates’ brilliant family cookbook Food For Your Brood as, quite simply, it solves the problem of what to give big groups who won’t agree on what to eat. This is absolutely the perfect Boxing Day breakfast – feel free to come up with your own topping. Perfect for using up leftovers and best served with crusty bread.
(quantities are per person, so adapt as required)
2 tsp fresh cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Spinach, gruyère and chilli
1 tbsp of cooked spinach
1 tbsp of finely grated gruyère
Pinch chopped red chilli (or chilli flakes)
Mushroom, garlic and thyme
2 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced and sautéed in butter with ½ tsp fresh garlic and a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves
Sun-dried tomato and rocket
½ tbsp finely grated parmesan
1 tsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped rocket
Prosciutto and truffle oil
1 tbsp shredded prosciutto and a dribble of truffle oil
Cheddar, ham & chutney
1 tbsp finely grated cheddar
1 tbsp chopped ham
½ tsp chutney
Smoked salmon & chives
1 tbsp diced smoked salmon
½ tsp finely chopped chives
1 tsp finely diced shallots
Heat oven to 180 ºC.
Generously butter a ramekin or small ovenproof bowl. Spoon in your chosen filling (reserve a little for sprinkling on top), plus 1 tsp cream. Carefully crack an egg into the ramekin and add another teaspoon of cream. Sprinkle the reserved filling over the top and season well.
Place all ramekins in a deep baking tray or roasting pan. Carefully pour boiling water into the tray or pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the ramekins (you’re aiming to cook these in a bain-marie). Place in the oven and bake for 10–12 minutes, depending on the size of your eggs.
– Healthy tipples –
It’s always a rather nice surprise when a host makes an effort with interesting non-alcoholic drinks, instead of digging around the back cupboard for a bottle of Ribena as an after-thought. Find it in your heart to bring some joy to those nominated drivers.
A great non-alcoholic tipple which can be made with any ripe melon or fresh apples and ginger, this take on a Martini feels like a proper grown-up drink. Great fun to get teens making this as they can experiment with other frozen fruit in the mix. Grown-ups can add a dash of rum or Grand Marnier if absolutely necessary.
Melontinis and appletinis
Melontini – 1 medium watermelon or large honeydew, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks.
Appletini variation – ½ melon, 6 eating apples (Pink Lady are good), peeled, cored and diced, and a 1cm piece of ginger
Handful of mint leaves
4 limes, peel roughly cut off (reserve the pieces of peel) and diced into four pieces
Plenty of crushed ice
Straws and mint sprigs to garnish
Put the mint leaves, melon (or melon, apple and ginger) and limes into a blender with a dash of soda water. Pulse at first until the mix starts to liquidise. Then blend until very smooth and strain into a jug. Pour over crushed ice in individual glasses, topping up with more soda water and decorating with mint sprig and lime peel.
– Sarah’s puff pastry pleasers –
As far as we Brits are concerned, puff pastry is a winner. Whether we’re filling it with custard and fruit or using it to top off a pie, it’s a surefire winner and even Mary Berry admits to using the shop-bought stuff. Welcome to guilt-free, ultra-speedy nibbles baking.
(N.B. Each recipe makes around 15–20 portions).
Doggy rolls with chutney
I make super-sized versions of these for my husband to take fishing with his friends. Make these too large and they’ll soon be the ones that got away... for nibbles, it’s better to think minnow-sized mouthfuls.
1 pack ready-made all-butter puff pastry
8 good sausages, any flavour
Jar of fruit chutney
One beaten egg
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds to garnish
Preheat oven to 180 ºC.
Unroll the puff pastry, retaining the parchment on the base. Cut in half so you’ve got two rectangles. Squeeze out the sausage-meat from the sausages and line up along the centres of both halves. Spoon over the meat a tablespoon of chutney per sausage. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg, then, taking each roll in turn, bring the pastry together on one side to enclose the filling.
Brush the top of each long sausage roll with egg and sprinkle over seeds to decorate. Using a sharp knife, cut each into 10 smaller pieces. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Bluffer’s Puff Pizza
There’s always one cheap cheese you bought on a whim, but which no-one’s touching. Maybe that basic brie, or a bargain cheddar you thought might come in handy. Remove pastry from its packaging and put onto a silicone baking sheet or greased tinfoil, smear over a thin layer of pasta sauce, add any combination of Christmas leftovers – turkey, bacon, ham, artichokes – then top with old bits of cheese and a sprinkle of herbs. Season, bake for around 20 minutes until golden brown around the edges and cut into suitable portion-controlled sizes for the appreciative audience – mini bites for nibbles, quartered for hungry youths, to serve with salad (which they’ll probably ignore).
Irresistible Coconut Custard Apple Tarts (makes 12)
You will not believe how easy these are to make, or how perfectly satisfying they are, not to mention suitable for any guests demanding “dairy free”.
1 pack ready-made puff pastry (not the all-butter version)
1 large can coconut milk
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence or some seeds scraped from a vanilla pod
1 tbsp of Bird’s custard powder mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
8 apples (any variety), cored, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Grease the holes of a shallow 12-bun tin (around 24cm x 30cm size) with sunflower oil. Unroll the puff pastry and, using the rim of a sturdy glass, cut out circles slightly larger than the holes and press into the 12 sections. (N.B. You’ll have some pastry left over so simply squish it all together and roll out again to make easy jam tarts).
Put the coconut milk, egg, sugar, vanilla essence and custard powder mixed with water into a saucepan. Bring up to the boil gently, stirring all the time so the egg doesn’t curdle. When the mixture thickens, add the diced apples and the ground cinnamon, stir well and spoon the mixture out, dividing equally between the 12 pies. Bake for about 25 minutes at 180ºC or until golden brown.
Blue Peter game pies
Straight from the “here’s one I prepared earlier” catalogue of M-W household favourites, this surefire winner of a pie can be made months in advance and resuscitated from the freezer to a fanfare.
About 500g of random diced game, ham and/or chicken
1 large diced onion
1 tin Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup
Diced handful of mushrooms (not vital)
Handful of fresh herbs – can include thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary, chives, marjoram – chopped finely, or 1 tbsp of dried mixed herbs
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Sauté the onion in sunflower oil until it goes translucent, then add the meat and the mushrooms. Season well and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, then stir in the soup and the herbs. Bag up, label and put into the freezer until required.
Defrost in the microwave when needed, tip into a pie dish and top with ready-made puff pastry, remembering to cut a hole in the pastry for steam to escape. Brush with beaten egg and bake for about 20 minutes at 180ºC or until golden brown. Serve with winter greens and truffle mash. Job done.
See Sarah's A–Z guide on how to prepare for the perfect Christmas party, HERE.