Drinks sorted? Now all you need are Annie Bell’s quick-fix festive nibbles.
V = VEGGIE
F = CAN BE FROZEN
Sausage roll bites
These are on repeat order in our house. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without at least one batch to savour with a glass of fizz.
250g all-butter puff pastry
plain flour for rolling
250g sausage meat
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp grainy mustard
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/gas 6. Thinly roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle the width of a sheet of A4 paper. Trim the long edges and cut this into two finger-long strips, about 8cm wide.
2. Using your hands, divide the sausage meat between the strips, rolling it into a long thin cylinder a little fatter than a chipolata, and laying it down the length of the pastry. Blend the mustards together then, using a knife, smear this in a line down the length of sausage meat.
3. Whisk the egg yolk and milk together then use it to paint one long edge of each piece of pastry with a 1cm rim. Fold the unpainted edge over the sausage meat, then put the painted edge on top and press together. Trim the ends of excess pastry, and if necessary cut the sausage rolls in half to fit a baking tray. Otherwise lay the two rolls on a nonstick baking sheet, sealed side down, then score the top with diagonal slits 1cm apart. Paint the top and sides with the egg wash.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then cut diagonally into 3cm slices and serve warm.
GETTING AHEAD You can make these in advance then reheat them for 10 minutes in the oven at 170C/150C fan/gas 3 1⁄2.
Parmesan chia straws
These straws come with a hint of cumin which is especially good with the parmesan.
SERVES 10 (VF)
unsalted butter for greasing
75g freshly grated parmesan
40g chia seeds
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg yolk
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp milk
320g ready-rolled sheet all-butter puff pastry, eg, 25cm x 34cm (see tip)
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/gas 6. Butter two nonstick baking sheets. Combine the parmesan, chia seeds, cumin and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Whisk the egg yolk, mustard and milk together in another small bowl. Pop the pastry into the freezer for 5 minutes to make it easier to handle.
2. Unroll the pastry, leaving it on the paper. Cut widthways into 1cm strips and halve these to around 12.5cm long – I use a pizza wheel for this. Transfer to the baking sheets, spacing them a little way apart. Brush the top with the egg wash, then scatter the parmesan mixture along the length of each straw, piling it up – don’t worry if it spills over the edges.
3. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Immediately loosen with a spatula. Ideally serve while still warm, or newly cooled.
TIP For crisp straws, it is essential to use all-butter puff pastry.
GETTING AHEAD These can be stored for several days in an airtight container and reheated for 5 minutes in the oven at 170C/150C fan/gas 3 1⁄2. They can also be frozen and reheated for 7 minutes.
Mini artichoke and truffle muffins
Artichoke and truffle pesto makes for a stylish cocktail muffin come Christmas, but any pesto can be used and there are plenty of jazzy takes.
MAKES 20/SERVES 6 (VF)
80g plain flour
15g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
1 medium egg
75ml whole milk
2 rounded tbsp truffle and artichoke pesto, eg Belazu 25g
unsalted butter, melted
1 heaped tbsp finely chopped black olives
3 heaped tbsp finely chopped spring onion
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 170C fan/gas 5, and arrange 20 mini baking cases on a baking sheet.
2. Combine the flour, ground almonds and baking powder in a medium bowl.
3. Whisk the egg, milk and the pesto in another medium bowl, then stir in the butter. Pour this mixture on to the dry ingredients and blend to a lumpy batter, folding in the olives.
4. Half fill each case with a heaped teaspoon of the mixture. Toss the spring onion with the oil and scatter generously over each muffin. Bake for 22-25 minutes until lightly golden and firm.
5. Serve them warm or newly cooled.
GETTING AHEAD The muffins can be made up to 48 hours in advance and rewarmed for 5 minutes at 180C/160C fan/ gas 4. They can also be frozen and rewarmed for 10 minutes.
Bresaola makes for a suave rollito and any soft cheese can be used – there are some delicious cream cheeses to choose from.
8 slices bresaola 50g-75g young (spreadable) goat’s cheese
1-2 tbsp fine cracker crumbs, eg Doria Doriano crackers or Carr’s table water biscuits (see tip)
1. Lay the bresaola out on a board, spread with goat’s cheese to just within the edge, then scatter a thin layer of crumbs over the cheese. Roll up as tightly as possible then stack these in a small bowl.
TIP Pound crackers with a pestle and mortar.
GETTING AHEAD These can be made a day or two in advance, in which case cover and chill.
Cherry mince-pie shortcake
This mince-pie meringue Breton gâteau is a melange of three of my favourite treats. It can be cut any size you want like brownies, is divinely fudgy and even better with a spoonful of boozy cream.
MAKES 36 MINIS (V)
225g self-raising flour, sifted
110g golden caster sugar
110g icing sugar, sifted
225g lightly salted butter, diced, plus extra for tin
3 medium eggs, plus 2 yolks
3⁄4 tsp vanilla extract
400g jar mincemeat
100g undyed glacé cherries, halved
1. Place the flour, both sugars and butter in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until the mixture is crumb-like.
2. Blend the 5 egg yolks with the vanilla in a bowl, then add to the dry ingredients and whiz to a soft, sticky dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and chill for at least a couple of hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 170C fan/gas 5. Butter a 23cm square (ie brownie) tin and line the base and sides with baking paper, cutting out the corners so the sides sit flat.
4. Press the dough into the tin, laying a sheet of clingfilm over the top while you smooth it with your fingers. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden, crusty and risen.
5. Spoon the mincemeat into a large bowl and mix in the cherries.
6. Whisk the egg whites until stiff in another large bowl using an electric whisk, then fold into the mincemeat in two goes. Smooth the mixture over the shortcake base and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly coloured on the surface. Leave it to cool completely then lift out of the tin using the paper sides and cut it into 36 bites.
GETTING AHEAD This will keep well for several days loosely covered.
Divine little crisp chocolate shells with soft amaretti centres.
MAKES 12 (V)
150g dark chocolate (approx 70% cocoa), broken into pieces 2 tbsp dark rum
12 amaretti biscuits
1. Gently melt the chocolate in a large bowl set over a pan with a little simmering water in it.
2. Line a dish (such as a baking tray) with baking paper; you can use a little of the melted chocolate to make the corners stick.
3. Pour the rum into a small bowl. Very briefly dip the dome of each amaretto, one at a time, into the rum then immediately coat it in the chocolate, using two spoons to turn it. Allow the excess to drip back into the bowl then place, domed side up, on the baking paper. Don’t worry if a little spills out from the sides, it will turn nicely crisp.
4. Chill the amaretti for at least 30 minutes before covering.
GETTING AHEAD These can be made a couple of days in advance. Store in the fridge and serve chilled.
TIPS Be sure the amaretti biscuits have bases, as occasionally they can be hollow. You won’t need all of the rum or the chocolate, but you need enough for the task, and both can be reused.
Spicy luxe nuts
These deliciously sticky nuts take in two of my favourite varieties that we all too rarely come across. Plus, with a hint of ginger in there, they are the pinnacle of Christmas cocktail nuts.
SERVES 8 (V)
1 tsp vegetable oil
100g pecan nuts
100g macadamia nuts
2 tsp tamari or dark soy sauce
2 tsp maple syrup
2 tsp lemon juice
1⁄3 tsp ground ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Brush the base of a large roasting pan with the oil. Combine the nuts in a medium bowl and spread in a thin layer over the base, and toast in the oven for 20 minutes.
2. Blend the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle over the nuts, stir to coat and then roast for another 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Loosen with a spatula, spread over a sheet of baking paper and leave to cool.
GETTING AHEAD These will keep well for a good week in an airtight container. Being sticky, they may require gentle separation.
Recipes: Annie Bell. Food styling: Emily Kyd. Props styling: Jennifer Kay. Photographer’s assistant: Sophie Bronze.