Fast Festive Treats, including Deserve-To-Be-Famous Rarebit Puffs

It’s that time of year, the time when you can’t move for cocktail sausages, smoked stuff on blinis and small, overpriced battered things in boxes of 12. But there is another way, a homemade way and although you may scream ‘I DON’T HAVE TIME for such niceties’ I am about to suggest three levels of homemade: the piece-of-piss, the slightly less easy and the little-bit-more-complicated-but-so-worth-it way. I mean, you don’t really want your guests to remember you for peanuts now do you?

So one step up from Kettle Chips is the Parmesan crisp. As long as you have a grater, a baking sheet and an oven you can make these. Grate a heap of Parmesan and put it in smaller heaps (about a dessertspoonful will do it) onto a non-stick baking sheet (NOT on foil, to which it will stick, god knows why). Leave space between them to spread (though you could just make one big one and let people tear bits off) then bake at about 220ºC/200°C fan-assisted/gas 7 for a few minutes until the cheese has melted and flattened out. Watch carefully because they take very little time. As soon as they are golden, flat and bubbling remove from the oven and leave to cool on a baking sheet. Marvellous minute mouthfuls.

In the slightly less easy category I have three suggestions: these nuts, these Gruyère biscuits or, if you want something very seasonal, how about a Stilton and walnut cracker? This is an Ina Garten recipe and, like the Paul Hollywood biscuits, it is a three-step process: shove everything into a mixer to make a dough, roll and chill, slice and bake. Peasy!

Stilton and walnut crackers (adapted from Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?)

For about 30-40 you will need:

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
1 egg
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shopping list
55g walnuts
225g Stilton

How to
1. Chop the walnuts into small pieces and put to one side. Beat the egg with a dessertspoonful of water and also put to one side.
2. Chop the butter and Stilton into small pieces, put into a food mixer/processor and mix until smooth. The recipe says this takes a minute; it doesn’t…it takes about five.
3. Add the flour and some salt and pepper to the butter and cheese then mix until the dough turns into large crumbly lumps. Drip in about a tablespoonful of water bit by bit, mixing between each addition until you have a lump of smoothish dough. It will be an unedifying green colour but don’t worry about this.
4. Lightly flour a large chopping board, dump the dough onto it and roll it into a long cylindrical log. Now brush the dough all over with the egg then spread the walnuts beside it and roll the dough in them until completely covered. Wrap in cling film and chill for about 30 minutes (longer won’t hurt; it keeps up to four days apparently).
5. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C/gas 4 and grease a non-stick baking tray or line one with baking parchment. You will probably need several trays depending on the size of the log/biscuits.
6. Unwrap the dough then slice it into chocolate-coin-thick discs. Space them out on the baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes, turn the tray then bake for another 10 minutes or so, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and be ready for the inevitable questions about their light greenish tinge…

And finally, the veritable pièce de résistance: Nigel’s rarebit puffs. I made these for my hog roast Antic Disposition party and they disappeared very very quickly. The recipe appears in two of Slater’s books, Real Food and the new Kitchen Diaries II (self-plagiarism is a Nigel-ism I have noticed a couple of times), but who cares about repeats of something so gorgeous. I have just made a batch to use up some leftover puff pastry and, erm, so that I could take a photo, and they’re a much better lunch than a sandwich.

Three recipes in one blog? Don’t say I never give you anything.

Rarebit puffs (adapted from Real Food/The Kitchen Diaries II)

I’ve doubled his recipe so this makes about 20, depending on how big you make them.

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
5 cloves of garlic
60g butter
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg

Shopping list
100g Parmesan
200g mascarpone
750g puff pastry (ready-rolled or blocks)

How to
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan-assisted/gas 7.
2. Peel, top and tail and finely slice the garlic.
3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat, add the garlic and leave to cook, stirring now and again, until soft and barely coloured. Put to one side to cool.
4. Meanwhile grate the Parmesan.
5. When the garlic butter is cool, mix in the mascarpone, most of the Parmesan (save about a tablespoonful), mustard and some salt and pepper.
6. Unroll your pastry sheets or roll each block out to a square about 30 x 23cm. It doesn’t have to be exact, obviously. Cut each sheet/block into four lengthways then six widthways. You should end up with lots of relatively similar-sized small squares of pastry.
7. Put a teaspoonful of the cheese mixture into the middle of half of the squares.
8. Beat the egg and brush it round the edges of the cheese-filled squares. Now press the other squares onto the top and all around the filling, making sure they are well sealed.
9. Put the parcels onto a baking sheet, prick them in their fat middles with a fork, brush with the remaining egg then sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan.

They should look a bit like this.

They should look a bit like this.

10. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until puffed and golden then serve hot. Probably the best, most interesting, most delicious of all pre-dinner snacks on the planet.

This entry was posted in barefoot Contessa, Cheese recipes, Food for friends, Nigel Slater, Party recipes, Real Food, The Cook Shelf and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Fast Festive Treats, including Deserve-To-Be-Famous Rarebit Puffs

  1. Tony Austin says:

    Cannot wait to try the walnut and stilton Crackers

  2. Drew Elliot says:

    Well how fortuitous is your latest blog.

    But I forget myself,

    Bonjour mon ami de Londres, ca va?

    All well here ‘up north’ where it has been a glorious day which enabled me to walk a long length of the sea front, often this is made impossible (well for me anyway) by the wind blowing in from the North Sea, but today the sun shone and there was not even a breeze. Cold and frosty underfoot but very invigorating.

    But I return to your blog – Christmas lunch for the last couple of years has just been Janet and I plus Janet’s elderly ‘not too much for me and the beef looks undercooked’ father. But this year, oh no, there will be ten of us. Well, we don’t have ten chairs nor room round the table even if we did have. So a gourmet finger buffet is now being planned. In fact just before realising your email was in my inbox J and I were saying we needed to sit down with pen and paper and make a plan.

    Et puis, voila! Some suggestions plopped out of the ether. So, Merci buckets for that, for we wouldn’t want to be remembered for just Morrison’s budget crisps and nuts, thought I’m sure when the Antic crowd were at rainy Loupiac in the summer they munched their way through several bags and boxes of Intermarché’s meilleur.

    Any other suggestions you have stored away will be gratefully received.

    Might we see you on the 28th at Christmas Carol? If not, pas problème.

    Always good to hear from you,

    Big hugs,


  3. Tony Austin says:

    Made the walnut and Stilton crackers this afternoon, getting the right quantities of flour is the main problem as with at the beginning the mixture wasn’t solid enough. I think I put too much in eventually and that has affected the flavour but overall they are delicious and VERY moreish, I polished off quite a few as I cooked dinner tonight and next time I am throwing a suitable event they will definitely be on the menu.

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