Life Christmas

Thursday 2 October 2014

Catherine Fulvio's party pieces

Published 03/12/2013 | 12:48

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As Christmas approaches, it's the time for easy entertaining and I love using antipasto  or tapas style boards

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Ingredients and recipes don't have to be traditionally from one country. Blending and mixing all our fabulous flavours on one fabulous board is very exciting and creates great texture and colour.

For the actual board, it’s best to use a metal or wooden one, that is large enough to hold all the pretty little dishes comfortably and there should be sufficient space to add handfuls of crispy winter leaves and slices of jamon serrano.

Sharing plates is so sociable, people gather around the table to help themselves and the chat begins. I love making Caprese Tartlets, which deliver a delicious taste of summer during winter.

You could also add little ‘somethings’ like prawns with a lime, garlic and red chilli dressing, mini meatballs, goats cheese and rocket tartlets and the very easy to make patatas bravas. Try mini chicken satays with a chilli sauce and arrange roasted orange or red peppers on the board in little glass dishes to add a touch of colour. Slices of tortilla or warm chorizo and hazelnut salad are really good as well as breads like focaccia and breadsticks wrapped in pancetta and rosemary. Marinated artichokes and orange zest olives add to a very delicious board as do the wonderful selection of local cheeses.

 

Caprese Tartlets

Makes 12

Using filo pastry is very convenient, especially when you have a large crowd coming over. I like to keep a close eye on the filo when these tartlets are baking, as they sometimes come out of the oven a little darker than I wanted them.

Cutting filo can be a bit difficult sometimes, so I use a clean pair of scissors. Why don't you try a fruit version of this, with melon balls, black grapes and blackberries, with mint leaves and a cassis mascarpone spooned over the fruit?

 

YOU WILL NEED

•             6 sheets filo pastry

•             50g butter, melted

•             200g small cherry tomatoes, some whole and others halved

•             1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

•             1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

•             4 spring fresh thyme, plus extra for garnishing

•             100g mozzarella, torn into small pieces

•             7 fresh basil leaves, plus extra for garnishing

•             2 tbsp shop bought basil pesto

•             Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas four.

Brush a 12-hole muffin tin with melted butter, making sure to brush the top of the tin as well.

Place a sheet of filo pastry on a board and brush with melted butter. Add two more sheets on top, brushing each with butter. Cut in half length ways and then cut into six rectangles. Line the muffin tin with the pieces and brush a little melted butter over each pastry case.

Bake for six to seven minutes, until golden and crisp. Keep an eye on the filo to make sure it doesn't get too dark.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the cherry tomatoes on the tray, drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and scatter over the sprigs of thyme. Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Add the mozzarella to the roasted tomatoes together with the basil leaves.  Spoon in the pesto and check the seasoning.

Carefully remove the pastry cases from the muffin trays and spoon the filling into the crispy filo pastry. Garnish each tartlet with a sprig of thyme or basil leaves and serve immediately.

 

Tapenade

Makes about 120g

This one takes just a few minutes to buzz together and you have a tasty little mix to spread on crostini or even to dip cucumber sticks into.

•             120g pitted black olives

•             2 tbsp capers, drained

•             lemon, juice and zest

•             2 small anchovy fillets

•             1 large garlic clove

•             60ml extra virgin olive oil

•             Ground black pepper

•             1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

•             4 spring fresh thyme, plus extra for garnishing

•             100g mozzarella, torn into small pieces

•             7 fresh basil leaves, plus extra for garnishing

•             2 tbsp shop bought basil pesto

•             Salt and freshly ground black pepper

•             1 tbsp chopped parsley

 

METHOD

Place all the ingredients except the parsley into a food processor and blend to for a rough textured paste. You may need to add a little more olive oil. Check for seasoning and add coarsely ground black pepper.

Stir in the chopped parsley and spoon into a jar and seal.

Store in the fridge.

 

Roasted Grapes with Jamon Serrano

Serves 6 to 8 (tapas servings)

The roasted grapes are simple and can be added to salads or served on a cheese board. They keep in the fridge for a couple of days as well. Thin wedges of figs or peaches are also delicious when lightly roasted this way.

 

YOU WILL NEED

•             500g red seedless grapes, divided into  small bunches

•             2 tbsp sherry vinegar

•             8 to 10 thin slices of jamon serrano

 

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put bunches of red grapes on the tray and drizzle with the sherry vinegar. Roast for about 10 minutes on one side and then turn them over and roast for about eight minutes on the other side. (the cooking time depends on the size and sweetness of the grapes – sweet grapes can burst open if they're left in the oven for too long, as they're laden with lovely juice). Baste the grapes from time to time. They will soften and caramelise. Arrange the slices of jamon serrano on a platter alongside the grapes and serve.

 

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