Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Preparing to Party (Tried and Tested)

Time has been galloping by - the de-cluttering has continued, market stalls have been manned, evenings out have been had and we've even had the builders in. So lots to share, but where to start?

One of the few areas of our house that has not yet been de-cluttered are the shelves in the utility room which house my (rather too many) recipe books, along with tins and a large bucket for brewing.  


I really should have attended to this as our drinks party is looming and tracking down favourite recipes can take an enormous amount of time.  So now that I have tracked down the best recipes from last year, I thought I would post them here, then a) I will know where to find them next time round and b) you may like some of them.  I'd add that all of them are the kind of 'small effort, maximum impact' recipes that are useful at this time of year, all being ones that people rave over.

Gilbert White's Very Nice Mulled Wine

Photo courtesy of altonevents.com

This is a seriously old recipe from Gilbert White, the naturalist who wrote the famous tome 'The Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne' which was published in 1780s.  

As such the measurements are a bit hit and miss, but a bit of gay abandon in the kitchen is always good. (No tittering at the back please!)

3 jugs good red wine
2 1/2 jugs tea
1/2 jug orange juice
1/2lb soft brown sugar
juice of 2 lemons
orange for decoration
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp mace
3 pieces of bruised root ginger
1 tsp grated nutmeg

In your cauldron pour the good red wine, the tea and the juices won from the citrus.  Stoke the fire to heat the liquor and add the sugar and spices.  The brew must come hot on the stove so that it frets but do not cause to boyle.  When the surface is sullied with scum, use a spoon to clean it.  

When all be ready just before an hour passes, you must strain the liquid through fine muslin and present it forth in a handsome bowle with orange pieces afloat.

Give it to your guests and their stomachs will smile and from their lips will issue compliments.

Coronation Chicken and Mango Filo Baskets 
(from a Sainsbury's Magazine)

Brush 3 sheets of fresh ready rolled filo pastry with melted butter.  
Cut into 5cm/2in squares.  Overlap 4 squares at different angles and push into the hole of a mini-muffin tin.  Repeat 11 more times.  

Cook at 180 degrees C, fan 160 degrees, Gas Mark 4 for 6-8 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire tray.  (Can be stored unfilled in an airtight tin for at least a day).  

Mix 3 tablespoons mayonnaise with one and a half teaspoons curry powder, 3 teaspoons mango chutney and a squeeze of lime.  Season.  Shred 6 tablespoons of cooked chicken and mix into the mayonnaise mix, with 3 tablespoons fresh mango and 3 teaspoons fresh coriander.  

Spoon mix into cooled baskets and garnish with a chunk of mango and a little coriander.

Then go back and make at least two more batches, because they are going to disappear in a trice!

Delia's Posh Sausage Rolls

400g good quality pork sausagemeat or sausages
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1/2 a 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
plain flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
salt and freshly milled pepper

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6/400 degrees F/200 degrees C/Fan Oven 180 degrees.  Roll the half pack of pastry out to12 x 10 inches/30 x 25.5 cm), then cut lengthways into two oblongs.

Combine the sausagemeat, sage and onion with a really good seasoning of salt and pepper.  

Divide the meat mix in two and shape each half into a long sausage shape the same length as the pastry.  Place the sausage onto the pastry strip, then dampen one long edge with beaten egg.  Seal the edges well, then turn the roll over so that the sealed seam is underneath.  

Next, use a very sharp knife to cut the roll into 1 inch/2.5cm individual sausage rolls.   Use a pair of scissors to snip two little slits in the tops before brushing with beaten egg and baking for 20-25minutes till golden.  

Cool on a wire rack and when cold, store between layers of baking parchment.  

You can freeze these to allow you to make them ahead of time - Delia suggests making them in the first week of December for Christmas Eve nibbles.  Freezing is definitely a good option because if you make them just a day ahead, you may well find that most of them will have disappeared by the day itself!

Peking Cups
cucumber, peeled
125g/4oz ready cooked chicken, shredded
6 teaspoons Plum Sauce
2 spring onions, sliced

Cut cucumber into 12 x 2cm/three-quarter inch slices
Scoop out most of the seeds to make a hollow and fill with chicken.
Top with 1/2 a teaspoon of Plum Sauce and a bit of spring onion.

Don't make up ahead of time as they will ooze and become all drippy!

Sticky Sausages (from Good Housekeeping)

Toss 900g/2lb cocktail sausages in a bowl with 3 tablespoons runny honey, 5 tablespoons hoisin sauce and 1 teaspoon mustard seeds.

Cook in a roasting tin at 200 degrees C, 180 degrees Fan oven, Gas Mark 6 for 35-40 minutes., stirring occasionally.  Serve warm with a handful of cocktail sticks.  Wonderful cold too, but you probably won't ever get to try them this way!

Photo courtesy of allaboutyou.com

Katie Stewart's Mince Pies 
(from my very old and battered copy of The Times Calendar Cookbook c1980!)

For me, these are the best mince pies ever, due to the special pastry.  And most people who taste them are keen to get their hands on the recipe...

Can be baked 1-2 days ahead of serving

275g/10oz plain flour
225d/1oz ground almonds
175g/6oz butter
75g/3oz caster sugar
finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons milk

450g/1lb mincemeat (bought, or home-made)
1-2 tablespoons brandy

Sift the flour into a mixing basin and add the ground almonds.  Add the butter, cut up into small pieces, and rub into the mixture evenly.  Add the sugar and lemon rind and stir in.  Lightly mix the egg yolk with the milk and stir into the dry ingredients. Mix to a fairly firm dough, then tip onto a floured surface and briefly knead till smooth.  Chill for 30 minutes before rolling.

This quantity makes 2 dozen normal sized mince pies, or oodles in my favourite mini-muffin tin size.  

Bake the pies at 200 degrees C/180 degrees Fan Oven/Gas Mark 6 for 15-20 minutes for normal sized pies, till golden brown.  Dust with icing sugar before serving hot, warm or cold.

Photo from bbcgoodfood.com

Amaretti with Lemon Mascarpone

26 Amaretti biscuits
Pared rind of half a lemon (pith removed) cut into thin strips
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp golden caster sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
100g mascarpone

Put the lemon juice into a small pan and add the sugar, then dissolve over a low heat.  Add the finely sliced rind and cook for 1-2 minutes - it will curl up.   Lift out with a slotted spoon and lay on piece of baking parchment, reserving the syrup. Sprinkle the rind with a little caster sugar.

Beat the mascarpone to soften, then stir in the syrup.  Crush two of the Amaretti biscuits and put aside for later.  Put a blob of mascarpone on each of the remaining Amaretti biscuits, then top with a couple of slivers of rind and sprinkle with Amaretti crumbs.


  1. It all sounds delicious!
    What time do you want me?

  2. Ooh, these all sound great. Am liking the ease but wow factor of Peking Cups. Hmm, drinks party...no, no money left :(

  3. Those sticky sausages and Peking Cups look YUMMY!