Saturday 16 December 2017

It's the small things: Try these fun Christmas nibbles

Furikake popcorn for a festive treat
Furikake popcorn for a festive treat
Baked prawn toasts
Baked ricotta with spiced flatbread

Festive snacks don't have to be fiddly, says Bill Granger

The best thing about Christmas is that you can live like there is no tomorrow.

You can spend more money than you have, drink more than you should and not worry about what you're eating, because you know that in January the penance will come and you will pay for it all with diets both fiscal and calorific.

If you ask me, there's no place for canapés at home. Christmas is about indulgence, fun and partying, and there is nothing more depressing at home than little perfect, over-fiddled-with canapés that look like they came from a supermarket party-food collection. In my experience, everyone is happier and more relaxed nibbling on things around the kitchen table, helping themselves to gutsy food; real food.

If you're feeling ambitious, you can make all of these, but even if you just want to do one, it's enough. A bottle of wine and a platter of prawn toast, a few cocktails and beers with a tray of nachos, or even simply some funky popcorn before going out to dinner; that's the kind of party I want to be at!

Furikake popcorn

Furikake is that Japanese seasoning you often see on rice. A combination of dried seaweed, sesame seeds and bonito flakes, it makes for the coolest popcorn.

Serves 4, or 6 if served with other dishes

You will need:

2 tbsp light-flavoured oil, plus extra to drizzle

80g popping corn

Furikake, to taste

To make:

Put the oil and corn in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Cover with a lid. Shake the pan occasionally over the heat and when you hear the first pops increase the heat, shaking the pan often. Make sure you don't open the lid at this stage. When the popping slows or stops, remove from the heat.

Drizzle very lightly with oil and sprinkle with furikake. Toss well, sprinkle over some more furikake and serve.

Baked prawn toasts

Keeping the prawns chunky and baking the toasts rather than frying them freshens up this party-food classic . It also means that your place won't end up smelling like a chip shop…

Serves 4, or 6 if served with other dishes

You will need:

250g peeled raw prawns, roughly chopped

2 spring onions – two finely chopped and two shredded

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2cm fresh ginger, grated

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp cornflour

1 thick baguette, thickly sliced

3 tbsp sesame seeds

Light-flavoured oil, to drizzle

To make:

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7. Combine the prawns, chopped spring onion, garlic, ginger, egg and cornflour. Season with sea salt and white pepper and keep chilled until needed.

Baked ricotta with spiced flatbread

I love the lightness of the baked ricotta served on the spiced bread. Try to get the fluffy Lebanese flatbread we used here, although standard pitta also works well – there's enough spice topping for about 4 pittas.

Serves 4, or 6 if served with other dishes

For the ricotta

Handful mint leaves, roughly chopped

Handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped

500g ricotta

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

For the bread

2 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tbsp honey

1 large flatbread

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp crushed chillies

To serve: Crudités, such as fennel or celery

To make:

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. For the ricotta, stir the herbs in a bowl with the ricotta and olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Now take two 30cm square pieces of baking paper and lay them on top of each other at different angles. Spoon the ricotta into the centre. Gather the paper to form a parcel and secure with string. Put on a baking tray and cook for 20 minutes, taking care that the paper doesn't come into contact with the top of the oven.

For the flatbread, combine the olive oil, garlic and honey and brush all over the flatbread. Scatter with the spices and chilli and bake for 10 minutes until golden.

Open the ricotta parcel on to a board and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Serve with the flatbread and crudités.


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