The rules for a good drinks nibble are simple and finite: no plates, no crumbs, and a combo of fat, salt and spice so addictive that you can’t stop eating them until they’re all gone. And you want a dip in there too. Your recipes were right on the money. I just wish you’d been there to taste them with me: they did my bottle of bubbly proud.
The winning recipe: cheese and olive rolls
I made Fadime Tiskaya’s addictive bites three times. First with filo, as she’d originally suggested. Then with puff and (because I was, um, distracted by a bear in my kitchen) the butter intended for the filo pastry in the filling – a truly excellent mistake. And lastly, with puff and the right filling, just to check. My conclusion is that: the bites are perfect every which way, but that I preferred them rolled in puff. And, butter being butter, the erroneous addition to the filling only made them better.
300g ready-made puff pastry
For the filling
100g feta cheese, crumbled finely
75g green olives, stoned and very finely chopped
40g salted butter, chopped (optional)
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp chilli pepper
½ tsp sumac
¼ nutmeg, grated
Sesame seeds, to garnish
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cover a baking tray with baking paper.
2 In a bowl, mix together the filling ingredients with a fork.
3 Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut into 3 equal pieces. Along the long edge of one of the pieces, pile a third of the filling in a strip about 1cm wide, then roll the pastry and filling over to the opposite side, creating a long log. Repeat with the other two pieces of pastry and the remainder of the filling. Cut each log into 10-15 equal pieces.
4 Transfer them on to the baking tray, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 15-25 minutes or until golden.
Fennel seed and chilli shortbread
TwinnyDip, such elegance in a biscuit. I loved the fragrant sweet and spicy bite, and the crumbly texture. If I were making them for a party, though, I’d shape the dough into two logs, to make the cookies that bit smaller.
2 tsp fennel seeds
30g caster sugar
A generous pinch of salt
115g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
A generous pinch of chilli flakes
1 In a frying pan, toast the fennel seeds over a medium heat until fragrant and just starting to colour. Toss the pan every now and then to prevent burning. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2 Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt and mix well. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until you obtain a breadcrumb-like texture. Add 1½ tsp of the fennel seeds and the chilli flakes and mix well.
3 Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Bring the dough together and shape into a soft log, about 4-5cm in diameter. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
4 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Remove the dough from the fridge and, using a sharp knife, slice into discs about ½-1cm thick. Place the cookies on the lined baking tray. Sprinkle over the reserved ½ tsp of fennel seeds and some more chilli flakes (optional) and bake for 15–20 minutes until the edges just turn golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and leave on the baking tray for 5–10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
Artichoke and cumin dip
Anna Thomson serves this pale green beauty with grilled halloumi dippers – an unbeatable combo while the cheese is still hot – but it would work just as well with chips, veg sticks, grilled pitta or sourdough toast. So many options.
Makes a big bowlful
2 x 400g tins artichoke hearts, drained
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to garnish
Juice of ½ lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp salt plus extra to taste
A handful of parsley, finely chopped, reserving a few leaves to garnish
Chilli flakes, to garnish (optional)
1 Blitz all the ingredients in a blender/processor. Season with salt and pepper.
2 Drizzle over some olive oil. Garnish with parsley leaves and chilli flakes.
Christmas butternut crisps
Left to her own devices, my three-year-old would have finished the lot here in one sitting, LeftoverLiz.
Makes a medium bowlful
½ tsp each of powdered ginger, cinnamon, paprika and coarse sea salt or fleur de sel
A few black peppercorns
300g butternut squash, peeled
Sunflower oil, for frying
1 Grind the spices together quickly, using a pestle and mortar to crush the peppercorns.
2 Slice the butternut squash thinly using a mandoline or food processor.
3 Heat a 5cm depth of sunflower oil in a wok or fryer. Add the squash crisps a handful at a time, frying until golden (about 4 minutes). Drain well on scrunched kitchen paper.
4 Toss with the spice and salt mix.
Bobby Ananta’s childhood treat, using leftover rice, is so much fun – actual rice crispies you make from scratch. The salt is a keeper too. I can see it working on roast veg or a poached egg on toast.
350g jasmine rice, cooked
500ml vegetable oil
1½ tbsp golden syrup
For the salt
4 tbsp sea salt
5 dried makrut lime leaves, deveined
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 Finely grind the salt, makrut lime leaves, chilli flakes and black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle.
2 Shape the cooked rice into small lumps the size of a pound coin. Place evenly spaced on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake in the oven at 100C/210F/gas mark ¼ for 1 hour or until completely dried out.
3 In a deep frying pan, heat 5cm of oil to 170C/335F, then deep-fry the rice in small batches – they will double in size. Drain well on kitchen paper.
4 Drizzle the rice crackers from a great height with golden syrup until lightly covered, then sprinkle with the salt.
Mushroom and cheese cake
More dinner than drinks party to my mind, but delicious nonetheless. I love how Detoutcoeur Limousin makes mushroom in a cake a good thing.
Makes 1 loaf
1 tbsp cooking oil
250g mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Salt and black pepper
200g baby spinach, fresh or frozen
115g butter, melted
180g natural yoghurt
225g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
120g grated cheese (any favourite strong-flavoured cheese; I used a mixture of cheddar and gorgonzola)
1 tbsp dill, chopped
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line a 1½ litre loaf tin with baking paper. Heat the cooking oil in a large frying pan. Add the mushrooms with the crushed garlic, salt and pepper and fry over a high heat for a few minutes. Spoon the mushrooms into a dish and set aside to cool.
2 Add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted/fully defrosted and cooked through. Drain any liquid, leave to cool for a few minutes, then roughly chop.
3 Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave, cool for a few minutes, then add to a bowl with the eggs and yoghurt and lightly whisk together.
4 Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in the wet ingredients, followed by the spinach, mushrooms, cheese, raisins, dill. Season. Mix, then pour into the loaf tin.
5 Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until risen and golden brown on top and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
6 Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes in the tin before removing. Serve in slices warm or cold.
Have a go at our next theme, CLEMENTINES!
Three easy ways to take part:
by noon on Wednesday 14 Dec.
Selected recipes will appear in Cook and online on 7 January (we’ll be announcing out home cook of the year on 31 December!