I'm not very good at nibbles - when Ruth Pretty's DomPost column is about elegant party food, my eyes tend to glaze over. But this time I knew I needed to Make an Effort. I wanted to come up with a good variety of finger food that was easy to make, easy to eat and had distinctive flavours that were not too strong (Frances doesn't like chili, for example).
So down to Moore Wilson's I went. If you were so minded, you could just cruise round the frozen food shelves in their big grocery section and collect various packets of ready-made morsels, from samosas to stuffed mushrooms. But as scores of end-of-day downtown events over the years have taught me, most of them are not really very nice to eat. And Frances would definitely not be impressed - as I explained in my memoir, she has a most discerning palate. On the other hand, I didn't want to make everything from scratch, and a few judiciously chosen short-cuts can be a big help.
What I took home worked very well: frozen blinis, pumpernickel bread, and small filo tart cases, along with an on-special tub of pesto, small-party-sized packs of salami and smoked salmon pieces, sour cream, horse-radish, small tomatoes and mushrooms.
The day before, I made the filo case fillings: creamed mushroom (Frances loves mushrooms) and egg with parsley and chives, with a recipe from one of Lois Daish's classics, A Good Year (see below). On Saturday all I had to do, not long before the party, was:
- lay out the cheese and crackers;
- lay out the pumpernickel and top it with pesto, salami and sliced tomato;
- defrost the blini, mix horseradish into the sour cream, and put neat blobs of it on them, topped with the salmon (I made more of these because they're so popular);
- fill half the filo cases with the warmed mushroom mix, and the rest with the egg mix (cold, but taken out of the fridge a bit earlier). This has to be done just before people arrive, so they don't go soggy.
Doesn't sound like much, but it did all take a while. I timed it quite well - I was just finishing the egg cases when Frances arrived. It all tasted good, nearly everything got eaten - including the deliciously retro sultana birthday cake - and we all had a very good time.
Chopped egg filling with parsley and chives
Lois Daish's recipe puts this into little cheese pastry cases, rather than filo, and I will make those properly another time. Any leftover egg makes excellent sandwiches next day. This amount fills 12 pastry tart cases or 30 small filo cases.
3 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 (half) c cream
salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
finely chopped parsley and chives
Put the hard-boiled eggs on a board and chop into little pieces. Put the cream in a bowl, add a squeeze of lemon juice and whisk briefly until it is still soft and floppy. Add the chopped eggs and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir in the parsley and chives.
This will keep, covered, in the fridge overnight - just give it a good stir next day before using.
I forgot to take a photo of my filo cases, so these are the tarts from Lois's book. And I should have cut the pumpernickel in half again, to match the size of everything else. Next time...