Well it is that time of year again - when there's parties a plenty, with lots of fancy drinks and of course loads of festive fare to enjoy as well.
I've kicked off what we fondly call "the silly season" with a cocktail party in my backyard. We had been thinking about doing this for a couple of years but were concerned we'd have planes landing all night, since we live under the Sydney flight path. Instead we had to battle appallingly hot weather on the very first day of summer. I must say I don't cope well with heat, and my face was flushed for the entire day. In fact I wasn't sure if I would ever return to my normal colouring again. But when we woke this morning, a cool change had blown in and some light rain had cooled things down.
I so enjoyed preparing canapes for my guests I thought I'd share them with you.
1 French bread stick
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic
250g rare roast beef, sliced paper thin
100g creme fraiche
2 tsp horseradish cream
1. Cut the French stick into 5mm thick slices. Just cut straight across - you don't want the crostini too wide.
2. Brush one side of each crostini with a little olive oil.
3. Slice the garlic in half and rub over the entire surface of each crostini.
4. Bake in a moderate oven for 5mins or til a little golden and very crusty.
5. Cool on wire racks then set aside until serving time.
6. Lay a rocket leaf on each crostini. If you mistakenly buy baby rocket like I did lay a couple of leaves on the crostini.
7. Fold the beef into a decorative ball/knob/lump - whatever you want to call it. You want to be able to see the dark edge and the pink middle.
8. Stir the horseradish cream into the creme fraiche and then spoon it into a piping bag with a small round nozzle. Pipe about half a teaspoon of cream onto each crostini and serve. I managed to make 32 pieces with the above ingredients.
3 Lebanese cucumbers
200g smoked salmon
100g cream cheese
juice of 1/2 a lime
32 baby capers
1. Slice each cucumber into 10 or 11 pieces about 8mm thick. The Lebanese cucumbers are nice because they have less seeds and more flesh.
2. Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until it's soft. Add the lime juice and combine thoroughly.
2. Fit a piping bag with a 1cm closed star tube and fill it with the cream cheese mixture. Pipe a decorative star of cheese onto each cucumber piece.
3. Separate the slices of salmon and roll each into a tube. Slice through the middle then cut 1cm wide tubes and place them end up on top of the cream cheese,
4. Position a caper in the middle of each piece of salmon.
5. Refrigerate until you serve. I made 32 pieces with these ingredients.
300g chopped mushrooms
1.5 cups almond meal
1/2 cup water
2 cloves crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste
6 sheets ready rolled frozen puff pastry
1 egg yolk, beaten
1. Chop the mushrooms even more until they are very finely diced.
2. Melt the butter in a pan and add the garlic. Lightly sautee then add the mushrooms and water. Continue to sautee until the mushrooms have reduced down and there's no liquid left.
3. Transfer to a bowl and set aside until the mushrooms are cool.
4. Stir in the ground almonds.
5. Lay a sheet of pastry on a pastry mat and mark out nine squares using a sharp knife. You don't need to cut all the way through.
6. Position a teaspoon of mushroom pate in the middle of each square. Using a pastry brush, paint around each ball of mixture with milk.
7. Position another sheet of pastry over the top and gently press down to cloak each ball of pate. Make sure you don't trap any air in the pocket and try very hard to seal the two sheets of pastry together.
8. Using a 6cm pastry cutter cut each ball out of the pastry sheet. I used a round cutter because it seemed easy, but you could use a heart or a star shape. As you cut each piece be sure to check all sides of the pastry are sealed. Brush the top of each piece with the egg yolk.
9. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 190 degrees celcius for 20 minutes.
10. Serve hot or cold. I served these with sweet chilli sauce.
My sneaky canape of the night was these vegetable gyoza. My local supermarket sells these in boxes of 16 for $7.00. A bargain I say! I still had to steam them and their fry them to make their bottoms crisp. But they were a welcome addition and helped me set my catering numbers for the other canapes. I served these with light Japanese soy sauce.