Christmas is coming!
(Sorry to any Scrooges out there reading this blog, but it’s true.)
We are less than five weeks away from the most wonderful time of the year, and I for one am SO EXCITED.
(I’m actually typing this to the sound of “Driving Home for Christmas”, if anyone needed proof of my love for Christmas…)
Back in September, Gary and I moved into our little flat, and for the first time ever, we’re going to be able to host our own little Christmas celebration.
Now, I’m not joking about the ‘little’ part. Our flat is adorable, but it’s also teeny-tiny, so hosting a proper Christmas dinner is out of the question.
Instead, we’re going to be super adulty adults and do a drinks and Christmas canapés night.
And I won’t be throwing a bunch of frozen snacks in the oven (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Instead, I’ll be going the whole hog and making (most) of mine from scratch.
Cos guess what? Turns out it’s super easy!
A couple of weeks ago, the lovely team at John Lewis invited me down to a cooking class at the Waitrose Cookery School.
Tucked away round the back of the huge Waitrose by Finchley Road station, the Cookery School is a HUGE open-plan area, with tons of space for entertaining and enjoyment.
We grabbed a glass of prosecco on arrival, and headed over to greet everyone… and then ignored everyone. Because LOOK. CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!
John Lewis provided all the decorations, and we all fell in love with this adorable tiny pink camera ornament. (I’ve actually got about ten of John Lewis’ gorgeous baubles locked into my wishlist for December. They’re SO pretty!)
The lovely barman, Matt, whipped up some festive cocktails, including a mulled pomegranate caipirnha, and an amazing spiced gin and tonic.
Then it was time to strap on our aprons and get cooking!
Our lovely Irish chefs, Gerry and Shauna, introduced the Christmas canapés we’d be making, and demonstrated the steps for each recipe.
They’re all super easy, and very delicious. Perfect for impressing your friends this holiday season!
First of all, who knew samosas were SO easy to make?!
Charlie chopped up pears, added spices, and made a perfect pear purée, which we dotted on top of the warm pastries.
CONFIT DUCK SAMOSA WITH SPICED PEAR PUREE
For the confit duck filling:
75g confit duck leg
1.5 tbsp Hoisin sauce
For the samosa:
2 sheets of filo pastry, cut in half, and then again lengthways into 3, leaving you with 6 ribbons of filo
50ml unsalted butter, melted
For the spiced pear puree:
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 lemon, juiced
1tsp leftover sherry
1. In a small pan combine the raisins and the sherry. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and leave to soak for 1 hour. Once soaked strain the raisins, reserving the sherry.
2. In a small bowl mix together the soaked raisins, shredded confit duck leg, hoisin sauce and ½ of the reserved sherry. Mix well, cover and chill.
3. Preheat an oven to 160C. Lay a strip of the filo lengthways on your work surface and brush all over the the melted butter.
4. Place a tsp of the filling at the top of the sheet of filo. Fold the top right hand corner over to make a triangle shape. Follow the triangle pattern all the way down the filo strip. Brush again with the melted butter and place on a baking tray with the seam underneath. Repeat with the remaining filo and filling.
5. Place in the oven and bake for 6-7 minutes until golden, turn the samosa and bake for a further 6-7 minutes until golden brown all over. Remove, place on a cooling rack and let cool.
6. Place the chopped pear pieces into a mini blender. Add the allspice, lemon juice and sherry liquor. Blitz to a smooth puree, remove and pour into a small container.
7. Spoon a tsp of the spiced pear puree onto each samosa and serve.
Fun fact about me: risotto is one of my all-time favourite things to cook.
Modesty aside, I make a damn good white wine risotto. So this was definitely my cup of tea!
I softened chopped shallots, garlic and herbs in a pan, then drizzled in white wine, and sprinkled with the rice. Then I added hot stock, one ladleful at a time, letting the liquid absorb slowly, in between ladles.
We cooled the risotto in the fridge, then rolled it into balls, dusted them with flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs, and finally: deep fried them. (I’ve never used a deep fat fryer before! It’s kinda cool.)
PARMESAN RISOTTO BALLS
1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely crushed
1 sprig thyme
20g unsalted butter
½ tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp white wine
100g arborio rice
450ml vegetable stock, warmed
80g parmesan, finely grated
2-3 tbsp plain white flour
1 egg, cracked and beaten
100g dried breadcrumbs
1. Place a medium sized pan onto a low heat. Add the oil and butter. Add the shallot, garlic and thyme and cook for 1-2 minutes until the shallot is soft. Pour in the white wine, bring to the boil and let bubble until it is almost fully reduced.
2. Tip in the arborio rice and coat in the shallot and wine mix. Begin to add the warmed stock, a ladle at a time and stir until absorbed by the rice. Continue to do so with all of the stock ensuring that the stock is fully absorbed otherwise your risotto balls will be too wet.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated parmesan. Season with pinch of salt and cracked black pepper. Spread out onto flat tray and place in the fridge to cool.
4. Once cool, remove from the fridge and scoop using a measuring spoon into 10-15g balls.
5. Dust each one with the flour, then coat with the beaten egg and finally roll each one in the breadcrumbs. Roll each ball gently in the palm of your hand to form a nice round shape, place on a clean tray and return to the fridge for 5-10 minutes to firm up.
6. Meanwhile heat a fryer to 180C. Remove the balls from the fridge. Place in the fryer and cook until golden in colour. Remove and place on kitchen paper to drain any excess oil.
7. Season with sea salt, and place a cocktail stick into each. Serve with some lemon mayonnaise.
The bad news: I was so busy doing the parmesan risotto balls and drinking cocktails, that I completely missed how to make the hazelnut and chocolate orange biscotti.
The good news: Claire made it, and I ate three slices and it was delicious. I took some home for my sister too, and she also loved it.
The better news: the lovely Waitrose Cookery School sent us the recipe, so you can learn how to make it.
The best news: it’s actually the easiest recipe of the whole bunch, and SO easy to customise with different flavours!
HAZELNUT AND CHOCOLATE ORANGE BISCOTTI
50g blanched hazelnuts
120g Leckford white plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
35g dried cherries
25g orange dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 large free range egg
½ orange, finely zested
1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4.
2. Place the hazelnuts onto a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden. Remove and leave to cool.
3. Place the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Mix well together to form a dough, adding a splash of water if the dough is slightly dry. Tip onto a floured surface and gently knead until soft. Divide into 2 and roll each into a sausage shape.
4. Line a baking tray with baking paper and lay the sausages on top, making sure they are well part. Place in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown and firm to touch. Remove and turn the oven down to 140C, gas mark 1.
5. Leave to cool slightly, then slice each roll at an angle into 1cm thick slices.
6. Place the slices onto a lined baking tray, return to the oven and bake for a further 12 -15 minutes until firm and crisp.
7. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. Place in an airtight container until required.
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Which do you think would be your favourite Christmas canapé?
Obviously, I’m #TeamBalls…
*I was a guest of John Lewis for this event.
All recipes came from the Waitrose Cookery School.