You’ll probably have worked out that the grand feast is essentially a theatrical build-up.Festive drinks are followed by little teasers, a few bites to whet the appetite, but not too much: you need to leave room for the main act.
Cheeseboards are, for me, a thing of the past, if only for the fact that I can’t help but go back for more, so now I replace the cheese with just a few rich snacks (you’ll note butter features everywhere this week) to kick-start the party with just the right degree of plenty. This year, I’m making salty anchovy crostinis and the most indulgent hush puppies, and later, because even dessert needs a pre-dessert, a chocolate salami for the final, dramatic close.
Anchovy, lime and chilli butter crostini (pictured above)
This is a great little festive snack to hand around at a party, together with your favourite sparkling wine. The butter is quite rich, so two soldiers per person are more than enough.
Prep 15 min
Cook 10 min
Makes 12, to serve 6
7 anchovy fillets, drained and roughly chopped
1 small garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
½ green chilli, seeds and pith removed, finely chopped
75g unsalted butter, well-softened to room temperature
1 lime – zest finely grated, to get 1½ tsp, and juiced, to get 1 tsp
3 slices sourdough bread, well toasted or grilled
Olive oil, for drizzling
½ tbsp parsley leaves, finely chopped, to serve
Put the first four ingredients into the small bowl of a food processor with the lime juice and a teaspoon of the zest. Blitz until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times as you go. Refrigerate if not using straight away; you’ll need to bring it back up to room temperature when using.
Cut the toast into 12 6cm-long x 2cm-wide soldiers. Spread each soldier with about 10g of the butter mix, drizzle with a little oil and finish with the parsley, the remaining lime zest and some freshly ground black pepper.
Stilton hush puppies with maple butter
Hush puppies are tasty bites of fried cornbread batter from the American South. They’re made with everything you’d find in cornbread, but they are fried instead of baked so are wonderfully crisp. The maple butter gives these a sweet/salty edge, but if that’s not your thing, serve them with melted salted butter and hot sauce instead.
Prep 10 min
Cook 25 min
Makes 24, to serve 6-8 as a snack
170g coarse polenta (not quick-cook)
65g plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp flaked salt
120g plain yoghurt
2 large eggs
10g fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
120g stilton, roughly crumbled
700ml sunflower oil, for deep-fryingAdvertisement
For the maple butter
80ml maple syrup
120g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 1½cm cubes
Put the first eight ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the yoghurt, eggs and fresh coriander, then stir into the large bowl with the cheese until just combined. Do not over-mix.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, form ping-pong-ball-sized balls of the mixture (each weighing roughly 25g), making about 24 in total. Drop six or seven balls one by one into the hot oil, and fry for two to three minutes, or until golden all over and cooked through. Transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the remaining two or three batches (turn down the heat a little if they brown too quickly).
While you’re frying the hush puppies, make the maple butter. Put the maple syrup and a pinch of flaked salt in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and add a quarter of the cold butter cubes. Whisk to incorporate, then repeat until all the butter is used up. Don’t let the sauce boil at all, or it’s likely to split. Set aside until ready to serve.
Serve the hush puppies warm with the butter alongside, for dipping.