Yay! Time to reconnect with family, friends but still observing the masks and hugs at double-arm’s length! That requires strong resolve because we surely don’t want to undo all the good work we’ve done!
In addition to the lifting of travel restrictions and making your break-out plans, have you been keeping an eye on the calendar, cos, dare I say it, but Christmas isn’t too far away?
Who knows exactly what form the traditional Christmas gatherings will take, and I’m supposing that many folk are keeping the plans kind of loose at this stage?
Still it doesn’t hurt to begin dreaming up some delicious, and perhaps new, recipes to try out. All being well there might be some social gatherings, be it family, long-lost friends or street-neighbours finally being able to reacquaint with each other. So my mind is focusing on bite-sized morsels that will go down well with a cool drink and lots of gossipy chatter!
Continuing on my cheat’s theme, I always like to have a tin of dolmades in the pantry together with some delicious olives. These are two elements you can whip out at a moment’s notice to create the start of an antipasti platter. Also handy are some of the delicious dips you can purchase if you’re time poor and not up to making your own. If you have any cheese in the fridge, be it a sharp cheddar, a creamy brie, or some marinated fetta – well you won’t need much else.
Having various types of pastry in the freezer is a very handy practice so that you can conjure up magical party food without too much fuss. For example wonton wrappers, which are readily available at the supermarket, can be made into crispy, edible ‘cups’ to be filled with all manner of salady-type ingredients. They look impressive, and are a little bit different from the usual crispbreads and savoury biscuits we often reach for.
You let your imagination run free. Depending on how many people you’re feeding, and what other finger food items will be on offer, you may only need two ‘cups’ per person.
So let’s say you’re planning to stay well under the limit of 20 persons in your home and have 10 of your nearest and dearest round for celebratory drinks. Thaw 20 wonton wrappers and preheat oven to 220C. Using two mini muffin trays (40ml holes), spray the pan with olive oil spray, or brush thoroughly with EVOO. Using a 7cm biscuit cutter to cut a disc from each wonton wrapper. Alternatively simply cut away the four corners to make a sort of ‘octangular’ shape. Wonton wrappers are quite robust, so don’t be shy. Lightly spray or brush both sides of the discs with olive oil. Press discs into prepared pans. Bake for 8-10 mins or until lightly browned and crisp. Allow these to cool on a wire rack – they can be stored in an airtight container for a couple of days if necessary.
The fillings can vary – I like to put a little bit of finely shredded green cabbage, carrot and radish – combined with a dollop of mayonnaise to which I add a dash of tabasco, or, sweet chilli sauce. Place a small amount of salad in the crispy wonton cup, top with a teaspoonful of avocado and a slither of either smoked trout, or a small slice of smoked chicken. Delish and a delight to the eye! I’m sure you get the idea and can come up with lots of different fillings. Keeping to ‘Asian’ flavours works well as a combo with the wonton pastry.
We’d been invited over for a glass of wine with our near neighbours, and not wanting to turn up empty handed I made some yummy, bite-sized mini ‘spring rolls’. Again, diving into my stores in the freezer I had some spring roll wrapper pastry, and having done my little bit at the community garden, I also had some freshly picked silverbeet. A good starting point. Spring roll pastry is available in the supermarkets, simply thaw the packet about ½ hour before using.
Peeling apart the single layers might be a bit tetchy for some, but the pastry is reasonably robust, indeed elastic, so if a slight tear occurs, simply begin peeling from a different angle. You’ll be rolling the pastry onto itself so any tiny tears will be ‘covered’ or patched so to speak.
After shallow frying the mini spring rolls in rice bran oil, I simply carted them over to the neighbours in the same pan, thus keeping them just nicely warm. I took a platter to serve them on with a dollop of garlicky yogurt and separately a dollop of chilli jam. They went down well with a cold beer after my busy-ness in the garden that afternoon!
We had fun catching up with local neighbourhood news and began to dream about the road trips we might take in coming months.
I hope these recipe ideas with get you enthused to invite folk over to your house very soon!
SPINACH AND FETA ‘COCKTAIL SPRING ROLLETTES
• 4 sheets spring roll pastry½ cup rice bran oil
• 200g silverbeet (or spinach)
• 1 cube (1.5cm approx) Meredith goats cheese – or similar
• 1/8 teaspoon chilli flakes
• ½ cup finely diced brown onion
• 1-2 tbsp (extra) rice bran oil or EVOO
• To serve – ½ cup yoghurt mixed with 1 clove of garlic, very finely minced or crushed
• ¼ cup chilli jam or other spicy condiment such as kasoundi.
Carefully wash and squeeze dry the silverbeet – remove most of the white stalks. Chop finely – set aside. Heat a small heavy based skillet with the 1-2 tablspoons rice bran oil or EVOO and sauté the finely chopped brown onion until translucent and soft. Add chilli flakes. Add shredded silverbeet (or spinach if using) and over a med-high heat cook and stir until the silverbeet is wilted. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Crumble the goats’ cheese into the mix – it doesn’t need to be all smooth. Season with freshly ground pepper and some grated nutmeg if desired.
Lay the 4 sheets of pastry out on a work surface, and working fairly quickly (so as not to let pastry dry out and become brittle) brush liberally with rice bran oil using a pastry brush. Holding the pastry down, use a sharp knife to cut each sheet into four smaller squares. Place a tablespoon (approx) of the silverbeet filling in the centre of each square. Starting from one corner fold the pasty over into the centre of the square – it looks similar to an envelope fold. Then tuck in and fold over the two points in toward centre, roll into a ‘cigar’ shape and finally take up the last corner – this one is diagonally opposite the starting corner. The attached image will assist you I’m sure!
Wipe out the skillet with paper toweling, reheat with a thin layer of rice bran oil, and lightly fry the parcels until the pastry is nicely golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel. Serve warm. Makes 16.