There is nothing like getting a group of people together, cooking some great food and opening a bottle of wine, or three.
If I’m going to have a dinner party, I see this as being a great excuse to set a proper table, with a tablecloth, and proper cloth napkins (how I loathe paper napkins at a dinner), polish the silver and make sure the crystal is gleaming. Oh yes, then there are the flowers.
However, as much as this is lovely, and it is worth making the effort from time to time, our busy lives can just make this all too hard.
Recently, I celebrated a birthday, and I do like to get my nearest and dearest together to help me celebrate. A formal dinner party would be nice, but to be fair, I don’t want to spend the whole evening waiting on my friends. I like to create a whole lot of finger food, which is all prepared beforehand. Food that can be eaten with fingers, or at the very most a fork. It is such an easy way to entertain, and to be able to feel like you are part of the fun and not chained to the stove.
In doing this, although most of the food is finger food, I like to cook one hot dish, usually pork belly, my favourite, which does require that fork.
Here are a couple of ideas I like to make for such an occasion.
Caramelised Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tartlets with Thyme
For the pastry
40g grated Parmesan
½ tsp mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 large beaten egg
¼ cup cold water
Place the flour and butter into a food processor and process until it resembles breadcrumbs. Remove and place into a bowl. Add the Parmesan, mustard powder and cayenne.
Mixing with a dinner knife, add the water a tablespoon at a time and mix to form a dough. Note you may not have to use all the water. Finish bringing the pastry together with your hands.
Cover and place into the fridge for at least half an hour. It’s very important that you do not overwork the pastry, or it will go tough.
Remove from the fridge and roll out as thinly as possible. Using a pastry cutter, line 24 small well-greased tins, making sure that the pastry stands proud of the top to allow for any shrinkage. Prick the bases with a fork and brush with the beaten egg. Place back into the fridge for another 30 minutes to rest.
Bake at 180° for about 10 minutes.
For the filling:
2 large onions, finely sliced
110g good goat’s cheese (Salade Chevre is ideal)
chopped fresh thyme
1 large egg
1/3 cup cream
¼ tsp mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter and sauté the onion, very gently, for about 30 minutes until it is starting to caramelise. Set aside and allow to cool.
Whisk the egg and cream with the mustard and cayenne. Add remaining seasoning.
Carefully place the onion and crumbled goat’s cheese into each pastry case, followed by the chopped thyme. Pour over the egg and cream mixture. Place back into the oven, at 180°C for about 15 minutes or until they are golden and puffy.
Belly with Apple Cider Cream Sauce
1.5kg pork belly (get your butcher to score it)
50g softened butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced
300ml apple cider
¼ cup crème fraiche
Place the pork belly into a greased roasting pan. Rub with the softened butter and olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and fennel seeds.
Place into a very hot oven, about 220°C (fan), for about 30 minutes or until the crackle has formed.
In the meantime, place the sliced apple into another high sided roasting pan. Remove the pork belly from the oven and place on top of the apple. Carefully pour the cider around the pork, but don’t cover the crackle.
Reduce oven temperature to 140°C (fan) and return pork to the oven. Bake for a further 2 hours, or until the pork is very tender.
Remove the pork from the oven dish. Mash the apple with a fork and add the crème fraiche. Place onto the heat and reduce to a thick sauce.
To serve, carefully remove the crackle from the pork and cut into thin strips. Cut the pork itself into large bite-sized pieces. Plate up with a piece of crackle and a drizzle of the delicious sauce. Easily eaten with a fork.
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Via: Nourish magazine