Create your own 5-star fayre
Alberto Rossi, executive chef at Dublin's InterContinental Hotel in Ballsbridge, shows you how to create gourmet nibbles for your party guests.
Makes 10-12 Arancini
500ml of chicken or vegetable stock
2 fistfuls of carnaroli rice
1 small shallot
10 strands of saffron, or some saffron powder
½ glass of white wine
80g grated Parmesan cheese
50g grated Mozzarella
For the coating: 1 spoon flour
1 egg, beaten
Bring the stock to the boil and make sure that it is seasoned correctly. Dice the shallot as fine as you can. Put a small size pot pan over low heat. Add a spoon of oil, add the rice and with a spoon (preferably wooden) keep turning it. It is very important to toast the rice prior to cooking as it helps release the starch in a uniform way.
After 1 minute, add the shallots and the saffron; keep turning for another minute and deglaze with the white wine. Once all the wine has evaporated, add the stock, two ladles at a time; make sure that most of the stock is absorbed before adding more. It will take about 12 minutes to cook - you want it al dente, as it will be cooked again in the fryer. You might not need all the stock.
Once it is cooked, remove from the heat, add the butter and grated Parmesan and mix gently. Pour it on a tray and let it cool down in the fridge until cold.
Once ready, take some of the rice in your hands and make a ball, size-wise, one or two bites maximum. Make a small well in the rice ball (with your small finger ) and add inside a bit of grated Mozzarella; seal the hole and roll it again. When you have the rice balls ready, bread them all - first pass them in the flour, then in the egg and finish them in the breadcrumbs. To cook, deep fry them until golden.
If you can't deep fry them, shallow fry in a pan until golden and pass them in the oven for 5 minutes to make sure they are hot inside and the cheese is melted. Serve as is or with a pesto dip. Enjoy!
CHRISTMAS SAUSAGE ROLL WITH A TWIST!
200g sausage meat
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp honey
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
5-6 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 roll of ready-made puff pastry
1 egg yolk, for brushing
In a mixing bowl, add the sausage meat, paprika, honey, cinnamon and finely chopped sage leaves; mix with a spoon and let it rest for 20 minutes in the fridge. Get your baking tray and line it with a baking sheet.
On a clean working surface, unroll the puff pastry; take your sausage mix out of the fridge and place it on the puff pastry, ƒcm from the bottom edge. Try your best to shape it (as a sausage!) as it will be easier to roll it.
Now, brush the pastry and start to roll it over the stuffing; once you get to the top of pastry sheet, with the knife, cut off the extra pastry, allowing an overlap of about 1cm. Place in the fridge for another 20 minutes to allow the pastry to set a little; it will help clean cutting of the sausage rolls.
Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C. When ready to bake, brush the sausage roll with the egg yolk and cut in 2-3cm pieces; lay them standing on the baking tray, allowing some space between them. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden.
CRANBERRY AND BRIE PUFFS
50g dried cranberries
Dash of brandy
100g Brie cheese (or Camembert)
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
Dried thyme (unless you have some fresh in the garden)
1 egg yolk
Put the cranberries in a glass, add the dash of brandy and cover them in hot water. Unroll the puff pastry and cut into squares of 2.5cm. Separate all the squares and, with a ring cutter, remove the centre of half the squares.
Brush the whole squares with egg yolk, and top them with the squares with the centre removed, making mini vol-au-vents. Place on a tray layered with silicon paper. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Turn the oven on to 180˚C. Drain the cranberries, chop them roughly. Slice the Brie in fine slices of 3mm x 3mm.
Precook the puff pastry for 10 minutes in the oven; take the tray out and put the chopped cranberries in the hole; top up with 2 pieces of Brie and sprinkle with a few thyme leaves (if you have fresh ones, it makes a real difference). Put them back in the oven and cook for a further 5 minutes.
SALMON AND CREAM CHEESE TIAN
30g capers, washed and chopped
1 spoon chopped parsley
200g cream cheese
400g sliced smoked salmon
In a bowl, mix together the capers, parsley and cream cheese; work it until it is like a spread.
Find a container (one of those small Tupperware kinds) - square or rectangular works best.
Put a teaspoon of water in the container (this helps the cling film stick to the bottom) and line the bottom with cling film 2-3 times. Lay down a layer of smoked salmon, overlapping it a bit; make sure the bottom of the container is fully covered.
With a spoon, add the cream cheese and spread it evenly; you want a decent amount, at least 3mm thick.
Lay more smoked salmon on top and then spread more cream cheese, like before.
Cover the top with the smoked salmon, wrap in cling film and refrigerate. Two hours before serving, pop the container in the freezer for 1 hour; take it out and remove the tian from the container. By being almost frozen it will make it easier to take it out and to portion it.
On a chopping board, cut the tian as fingers, squares or any shape you fancy. Just make sure to put it in the fridge for 1 hour so it is completely defrosted.
FESTIVE 'BACON AND CABBAGE' SPROUTS
20 Brussels sprouts
1 pack pre-sliced Parma ham (or Spanish serrano Jamon)
Tooth picks, soaked in water for 15 minutes
Remove the outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts and wash them in cold water. Pre-cook the clean sprouts in salted boiling water for 1 minute; drain and allow them to cool down. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C.
With a knife, cut the Parma ham slices in squares (5x5cm). Place each Brussel sprout in the middle of the Parma ham square and wrap it and secure with the help of the toothpick which has been soaked in water (so that they do not burn in the oven).
Place them in Pyrex dish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until crispy. Remove the toothpick and plate them up using a decorative cocktail stick .