Tuesday 7 December 2010

party time

Mia's playgroup are having their annual Christmas party tomorrow, and I was asked to bring savoury finger foods for the adults. Having completely forgotten to buy anything specifically for the party (because that's how I roll these days), I was at a loss. I had a look through the fridge and freezer and had a bit of a "Ready, Steady, Cook" moment. Bacon and...erm...cucumber and...uhh...ranch dressing on...on...crumpets? Pea and cottage cheese fritters? Carrot sticks poked into Babybels? Tell the kids they're "porcupines"! Yeah, that's it. In a moment of inspiration/desperation, I came up with an idea based on a half pack of puff pastry lurking in the back of my freezer. Who has half a pack of pastry? Seriously? What did I do with only half a slab of puff pastry? At any rate, it gave me an idea, and this is the result.

The edges aren't burnt, they're "caramelised".
Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Tartlets

(Makes 12 tartlets)

1/2 pack of all butter puff pastry
3 plum tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp garlic oil*
Fresh mozzarella, chopped into 12 1" cubes
Freshly grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

*I'm lazy and sometimes resort to garlic oil (I have a jar of extra virgin olive oil with several whole cloves of garlic in it) rather than chop up garlic for a recipe. 

Preheat the oven to 220C (non-fan assist, 200C fan assist).

Divide the pastry into 12 equal portions and place each portion into a muffin tin. Squish the dough down until it covers the bottom of the tin and comes up the sides a little. You're not aiming for perfection, just tart bottom coverage. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic oil, and season to taste. Place about a teaspoon of the mixture on top of each pastry bottom, and top with a cube of mozzarella. Grate some parmesan over all the tarts, just to cover. Bake for around 15-20 minutes (depending on how thin you smush your pastry), and leave to cool on a wire rack.

These are bigger than a canape (i.e. it's more than a mouthful, unless you're like me and have a really big mouth and no sense of decorum), but are easily nibbled with a glass in one hand. You can make these a day ahead and serve them at room temperature.

Witness the uneven cooking of my oven. Bad Neff! Bad!
I wanted to make something else to help feed a hungry crowd of parents while their children run around, fuelled by chocolate Santas. My friend Helen pointed me to a recipe the other day for cheese straws on the fabulous Smitten Kitchen site, and having all the ingredients, I decided to give them a go. They are light, buttery, and absolutely delicious. As Helen said to me, these would be perfect with a glass of wine.

I left out the chilli only because children might be eating these, but I would definitely include it if I was serving these to adults. The other thing I would like to add is that Smitten Kitchen's cheese straws look a little more appealing, because American cheddar tends to be orange while ours is usually white. In future, I will use a strong orange cheese to give it that extra colour, and add a little cayenne to the dough.

Now before anyone accuses me of being all Martha Stewart-like and wondering how anyone could find the time to make stuff like this, I promise you, both recipes were simple and quick. From start to finish, the tarts and cheese straws took me an hour to complete both recipes. 10 minutes of that was preparation, the rest was sitting on my arse having a cup of tea. Well okay, that's not entirely true. The 10 minutes also included wrestling Christmas baubles out of the clutches of my baby's hands, rescuing her from falling off the sofa headfirst, and attempting to roll out dough while she held on to my legs like a rugby player.

Simples. Promise.
i iz not lettin u cook.


laputain said...

yum-o. I made some instant little pesto and sundried tom puff pastry tartlets (i had a teeny bit pesto left over/going spare and as we were having a party that night we weren't going to be eating it!) topped with some dods of goats cheese. People were *very* impressed cos they do look awfully good, don't they?

I wouldn't have thought of using a muffin tin and will try that next time.

mmm cheese sticks.

Mrs Dee said...

Yes! I was really disappointed that I didn't have any pesto - that's exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of. I dunno if the muffin tin really made a difference in how they looked. I think that if you just sat the toppings on discs of puff pastry you would get the same result. I'll have to experiment!