Parties should be fun, without the stress of spending loads or days making vol-au-vents. By the time New Year's Eve arrives, I am often ready for some straightforward recipes and these little canapés hit the spot. A very British tart cut into little squares and some festive salsa always go down well and I’ll serve them with some pretty drinks that go down even better.
CRANBERRY & BROWN SUGAR MOJITOS
The perfect festive cocktail – crisp, with a warming brown-sugar-rum glow. Lovely finished with a grating of nutmeg.
- 10 limes, each cut into eight wedges
- 200g cranberries
- Small bunch of mint, leaves picked
- 10 tbsp demerara sugar
- Big bag of ice
- 500ml good-quality dark rum
- 1 litre soda water
- Prepare each tumbler with a wedge of lime, a few cranberries, a pinch of mint leaves and one tablespoon of demerara sugar. You can do all of this beforehand and store the glasses in the fridge until you’re ready.
- Use a cocktail muddler (or, if you don’t have one, the end of a rolling pin) to gently squash the lime, cranberries and mint together in the glass, until all of the juice has been pressed out and the sugar starts to dissolve.
- Take the bag of ice out of the freezer, then cover with a tea towel and give it a good bash with a rolling pin until it’s all crushed. Fill each glass with the ice.
- Pour 50ml rum into each glass and top with soda water. Use a stirrer to swizzle the whole lot together, so the rum and all the goodness at the bottom gets thoroughly mixed. Serve with sprigs of mint.
Smoky tortillas & celebratory salsa
These couldn’t be easier to put together and people love them – it’s fiery party food at its best.
- 10 wholemeal tortillas
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds, crushed
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Olive oil
For the salsa:
- 2 red onions, cut into wedges
- 200g jar roasted red peppers (piquillo are best)
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 800g tinned cherry tomatoes, drained
- 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Few sprigs of parsley, leaves picked
- Few sprigs of oregano, leaves picked
- Zest and juice of 1-2 limes
- First, make the salsa. Heat a griddle pan and grill your onion wedges until nicely charred, then set aside to cool.
- Once the onions are cool, chop them up and place in a mixing bowl. Then dice the roasted red peppers, chilli and drained tomatoes, until they’re a good salsa texture, and add them to the onions. Mix in the cinnamon, herbs, lime zest and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
- Squeeze over the lime juice, a half at a time, tasting as you go, until you find the perfect balance. You should get enough acid from the lime as well as heat from the chilli – add a little more of each to suit. Once you’re happy with it, transfer to a serving bowl.
- Now for the tortillas. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/fan 190ºC/gas mark 6, then stack up the tortillas and cut them into eighths.
- Scatter the triangles over two baking trays, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, crushed cumin seeds and lemon zest, then drizzle over a little olive oil. Toss them all together, making sure they’re evenly seasoned on both sides.
- Spread them out evenly, so they’re not overlapping too much, and bake in the oven for five to eight minutes until they’re golden brown and crisp. Served alongside the salsa, they provide the perfect vehicle.
DARK BERRY & ROSEMARY- JUNIPER GIN FIZZ
There’s something satisfyingly British about this hedgerow Mojito. Its zippy juniper-herbaceous edge is a welcome change from rich festive drinks.
- 500g frozen blackberries
- 4 lemons, chopped into little pieces
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked
- 10 juniper berries
- 5 tbsp honey
- 500ml good-quality gin
- 1 litre soda water
- Divide the blackberries, lemons and rosemary evenly between each tumbler, then add a juniper berry and half a tablespoon of honey. These can be made ahead of time and sit in the fridge until your guests arrive.
- When you’re ready to serve, use a muddler or rolling pin to mash the berry mixture until the fruit is crushed. Fill each glass with ice, top with 50ml gin and a dash of soda water, stir well and serve.
Sweet leeks, punchy cheddar, thyme and nutmeg make this a really satisfying mouthful. It’s so easy to make, too – even easier if you use shop-bought pastry. Cut into little squares to make it canapé-friendly.
- 1 tsp butter
- 4 leeks, finely sliced
- Few thyme sprigs, leaves picked
- 2 bay leaves
- 150g strong cheddar, grated
- 150g leftover cooked spinach
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 200ml milk
- 1⁄2 nutmeg, grated
For the herby pastry:
- 300g plain flour
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 4 springs of thyme, leaves picked and chopped, plus extra to serve
- 150g butter or vegetable shortening, chopped
- To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and add the chopped thyme. Rub the butter or shortening into the dry ingredients until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add 50ml ice-cold water and knead into a smooth dough – careful not to overwork it. Add more water if you need. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180ºC/fan 170ºC/gas mark 4 and prepare the filling. Melt the butter in a hot pan, then add the leeks, thyme and bay leaves, and fry over a medium heat for about 15 minutes until soft. Once cooked, remove the bay leaves and set the rest aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, line a 35cm x 24cm baking tray with greaseproof paper and roll out the chilled pastry just bigger than the tray. Using your rolling pin, transfer the pastry to the tin, pushing it gently into the sides and corners, being careful not to tear it. Cover the pastry with baking paper and fill with dried rice or beans and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then remove it from the oven, carefully lift off the paper and rice or beans and return to the oven for a further five to eight minutes.
- In a bowl, mix the cooked leeks with the cheese, spinach, eggs, milk and nutmeg. Fill the pastry base with the cheesy filling and top with some thyme sprigs. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes until golden and set. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes, then slice and serve warm.
Recipes from Anna's new book, The Modern Cook's Year, available now