Last Saturday night, the girls and I organised a Christmas party at my place for 15 or so of us. It was a fun night – lots of cocktails and chit chat. We organised it so that everyone had a job: Miss F, Miss K and Miss R were in charge of drinks and decorations, while Me and Bonnie were in charge of the food (of course!).

Naturally, we decided to split the work load in two: I would do savouries and Bonnie would do sweets. Today’s post is about my half of the work, the savouries. Bonnie will be writing a special post on the sweets soon.

For a group of 15, I decided I needed to create a menu of finger food as there is not enough room at my kitchen table to fit all of us! I wanted to make things easy for myself, so I decided to make a selection of small tapas items that could be pre-prepared and simply taken out of the fridge when my guests arrived for something to snack on. This would then be followed by a few simple warm items for the main event, that I could make throw together once everyone had arrived.

For my tapas, I found a great recipe for Pea Felafel in this month’s Gourmet Traveller. The recipe says to shallow fry them, but my first batch turned out misshaped, so I ended up deep frying them, which I’ve done in my recipe below. They’re quite easy to make and a great vegetarian alternative.

I then found a recipe in Bill Granger’s book “Simply Bill” for silverbeet rolls. They’re kinda like dolmadis, but made with silverbeet instead of vine leaves. Again, another simple vegetarian recipe that keeps well in the fridge overnight so you can prepare them well in advance.

Knowing Bf-B is a huge fan of saganaki, I decided to have a go. It’s really just grilled haloumi so it’s super simple, but everyone loved it. I prepared mine ahead to make things easy so it was served cold, but warm saganaki is far superior if you can manage it. The lemon is a must.

I had seen a few recipes for scotch eggs around, and decided I would make turkey ones with quail eggs so they would be bite-sized. The hardest bit was sourcing the quail eggs, which I found at the Asian grocer on Glenferrie Rd ($3.50 for 18.. bargain!). They’re a little fiddly, with the crumbing and deep frying but they were easily my favourite item of the tapas. I did break a couple of eggs as I was peeling them, so be carefully. I found that rolling them on the bench to crack the shell all over made the process a bit easier.

Remembering I had some choux pastries leftover from my Races Catering in the freezer, I thawed these out and heated them in the oven for a few minutes till they were crunchy before stuffing them with Danish feta and some Maggie Beer plum paste.

Finally, to round off my dishes to an even 6, who can go past the simplicity of good olives marinated in balsamic and chilli?

Following my cold starters I devised a few warm dishes that were quick to prepare. Bonnie was adamant we had to have prawns on our menu, and so I found another great Gourmet Traveller recipe for creole spiced prawns which I altered slightly to suit what spiced I had in the cupboard. I bought 1.5kg of uncooked banana prawns, though any kind of uncooked prawn will do. Peeling off the shells and deveining them was a bit of a process, but one that can be done well in advance. Just before the guests arrived, I tossed them in the spice mix, meaning I only had to turn them out into a hot pan and fry them before serving with some aioli I had made.

My family always has pork at Christmas, so I found a great recipe from Adam Liaw for fennel and peppercorn pork belly squares served with apple sauce. During the party, I threw my pre-parepared pork in the oven and an hour later simply sliced it into cubes and served it with skewers and the apple sauce I had made earlier.

Finally, what would Christmas be without Turkey? I didn’t want all the fuss involved in cooking a whole one, so I decided to make turkey burgers (though I added some pork mince as turkey is quite lean, so they should really be turkey AND pork burgers..) I pre-cooked the patties and just reheated them during the party to make life easy. When they were ready, I got a few friends to help out making them up: one put the brie on the rolls, another put on the cranberry, another added the pattie.. They were done in no time!

I’m really happy with how everything turned out. Making the tapas ahead of time made things so much easier, especially as my girlfriends commandeered my kitchen to make cocktails when they arrived. After a few, I was glad I only had a few simple things to do to prepare the warm items. You don’t want to be stressed out at your own party!

Keep an eye out for Bonnie’s post on what came next for dessert…

CHRISTMAS COCKTAIL MENU

Turkey Scotch Quail Eggs
Pea Felafel
Silverbeet Rolls
Saganaki
Danish Feta and Plum Paste stuffed Choux Pastries (choux recipe here
Balsamic Marinated Olives


Grilled Prawns w/ Creole Spices
Fennel and Pepper Pork Belly w/ Apple Sauce
Turkey Burgers w/ Brie and Cranberry 

TURKEY SCOTCH QUAIL EGGS

16 quail eggs
500g turkey mince
1 tbsp garlic salt
pepper
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs, beaten with a fork
2 cups fine breadcrumbs
oil for frying 

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil. Add half the quail eggs and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from water and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Repeat with remaining eggs. Once cool, gently crack the shell and peel eggs carefully. Set aside.
  2. Combine turkey mince, garlic salt and season with pepper. Form into 16 meatballs.
  3. Take one meatball at a time and flatten it out. Place hard boiled quail egg on top and wrap mince around to enclose. Repeat with remaining meatballs and eggs.
  4. Dust each egg with flour, before dipping in the egg mix and coating in breadcrumbs.
  5. Heat oil to 180C in a saucepan, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds.
  6. Fry eggs in batches for 5 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on absorbent paper. Cut in half and serve warm or cold.

Makes 36


PEA FELAFEL

500g frozen peas, thawed
1 small Spanish onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
oil for frying

  1. In a food processor, process peas, Spanish onion, garlic, herbs, flour, baking powder, and spices until well combined (you might need to do this in two halves depending how big your processor is). Add breadcrumbs and pulse to combine. Season to taste.
  2. Roll mixture into small balls about 3cm wide.
  3. Heat oil to 180C in a saucepan, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Fry felafel in batches until golden. Remove from oil and drain on absorbent paper before serving warm or cold.

Makes 30 approx.


SILVERBEET ROLLS

1 bunch silverbeet with large leaves
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup long-grain rice
1 cup tinned chopped tomatoes
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper

  1. Wash the silverbeet thoroughly and cut away stalks. Cut leaves into 10cm x 10cm squares, reserving the leftover scraps. Line a deep pan with the leftover pieces. Put silverbeet squares in boiling water until completely softened. Refresh under cold water and leave to drain.
  2. Make the filling by combining the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Lay a piece of silverbeet flat, and place 1 tbsp of mixture in the center. Roll up the silverbeet square halfway, fold in the edges, and then roll up completely. Repeat with remaining rolls.
  4. Put the rolls in the lined pan. Pour over enough water to just cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the rice is cook through. Remove from heat and remove rolls from the pan. Allow to cool before serving.

Makes about 20.


SAGANAKI

500g haloumi cheese, sliced into 3mm slices
1 lemon, cut into wedges

  1. Heat a pan over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Fry haloumi for 1-2 minutes either side until well browned. Remove and serve warm with lemon wedges.

Serves 8 as a starter


GRILLED PRAWNS W/ CREOLE SPICES

1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp dry chilli flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1.5kg large uncooked prawns, cleaned, shells removed, tails intact
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

  1. For Creole spice mix, dry-roast coriander, cumin and fennel until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Combine with chilli flakes, oregano, thyme and prawns. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan or BBQ. Cook prawns until pink, about 3-5 minutes. Serve warm with aioli.

Serves 8

AIOLI
1 egg
1 tbsp dijon mustard
squeeze lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
200ml canola or vegetable oil
salt and pepper 

  1. In a food processor, process egg, mustard, lemon juice and garlic until well combined.
  2. With the motor running, slowly in a steady stream add the oil in a drizzle until aioli is thick. Season well with salt and papper to taste.

Makes about 1 cup


FENEL AND BLACK PEPPER PORK BELLY W/ APPLE SAUCE

1kg pork belly
3 tbsp fennel seeds
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt flakes

 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar

  1. Remove any hairs from the skin of the pork belly using a disposable razor with the lubricating strip removed. Place pork in the sink, skin side up, and pour over boiling water. Dry well and using a sharp knife, poke smalls holes in the skin. If your butcher hasn’t already done so, score cuts into the meat side at 3cm intervals across the grain, without cutting through the skin.
  2. Dry roast the fennel seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and combine with garlic and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Grind to a smooth paste and rub into meat side only of the pork. Leave to marinade overnight, uncovered, skin side up.
  3. Preheat an oven to 220C. Place pork, skin side down, on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes before turning and cooking for a further 25-30 minutes until cooked through. Switch the oven to grill and grill the pork for 3-5 minutes until the skin is crispy. Rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting into bite-sized pieces and serving with apple sauce.
  4. FOR APPLE SAUCE: In a large pan, combine apples, vinegar and sugar. Bring to the boil and cook for 10-15 minutes until apples have collapsed. Process in a food processor until smooth and serve warm or cold with pork.

Serves 8 as a starter


TURKEY BURGERS W/ BRIE AND CRANBERRY

500g turkey mince
500g pork mince
2 tbsp garlic salt
2 tbsp olive oil
30 half size dinner rolls
200g brie cheese, at room temperature
275g jar cranberry sauce

  1. Combine turkey mince, pork mince and garlic salt. Shape into 30 mini patties and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and fry patties in batches until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. Keep warm.
  3. Spread each dinner roll with a little brie and cranberry. Top with a meat pattie and serve warm.

Makes 30