I had a small family supper here last night and we ended up with a rather eclectic mix of some of my favourite things rather than my usual themed – i.e. all Italian, French or maybe Moroccan – food.
I was talking canapes with my son the day before and rather inevitably our discussion went via talk of Abdul Yaseen, head chef at The Cinnamon Kitchen and also King of Canapes, as I recalled my wonderful special canape tasting meal there recently; then – almost as inevitably – Delia and the chapter on canapes in her trusty Delia Smith’s Christmas, which must have made an appearance in our family Christmas every year since its publication in 1990 (her Whisky Dundee Cake is our Christmas cake of preference). Then I talked about my friend Liz’s canapes: she always produces wonderful plates of canapes for parties – and I borrowed some of her ideas, like buying mini croustades from Waitrose to fill with quails eggs. I wanted some nice nibbles with champagne, but I didn’t want to spend loads of time cooking complicated canapes from scratch, so this was a case of buy well and put together well. In the end we had (from left to right in photo above): mini blinis with soured cream and lumpfish caviar; mini blinis with smoked salmon and thin slice of lemon; olives; mini croustades filled with parma ham, buffalo mozzarella, sun-blushed tomato and sprinkled with fresh chopped basil; and finally mini croustades with mayonnaise, half a soft-boiled quail’s egg and sprinkled with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. No cooking; just a little last-minute preparation and ideal to whet the appetite without filling us up. And wonderful with champagne.
For our main course I did one of my very favourite recipes: from Skye Gyngell’s A Year in my Kitchen (and one of my own Top Ten Cookery Books) – Lamb with prunes, chilli, coriander and spice mix. I often cook this when entertaining as it’s even better made a little in advance and then heated through just before serving, so is ideal when cooking for others – especially for a Single Gourmet with no help in the kitchen. It’s like a tagine and I use Ras el Hanout (a kind of Moroccan garam masala that I talked of in my Beef Tagine post) in it for the ‘Roasted Spice Mix’ ingredient. I served it last night as Skye suggests, with a sweet potato puree and green salad. It’s really one of the most wonderful dishes I know.
My mum was with us and loves puddings so a pudding was in order, and what better than a Nigel Slater fruit crumble – a recipe I’ve been using since it appeared in the Observer in September 1999 (the torn-out page is stored in a file in my kitchen). Crumbles are really about the proportion of flour to butter you use (never, I might add, use margarine, but nice healthy butter – apart from being natural, rather than a mix of loads of disgusting sounding ingredients, butter tastes good and has that special flavour essential for a good crumble). Nigel also adds some ground almonds to this one, which adds to the flavour. It’s a nice light topping to sprinkle over fruit rather than a stodgy, deep mix that weighs heavily on the fruit and one’s stomach – so, I’m always sure, healthy as well as delicious. I’ve occasionally strayed to other crumble recipes but always come back to this one.
You can use the crumble topping on any fruit but yesterday I chose some organic Cox’s apples – which needed hardly any sugar to sweeten them – and some blueberries. Fabulous – and a lovely way to end a meal full of favourite things!