Offer me a selection of interesting finger foods at five o'clock and I'm in heaven. At this time of the year, these delicious little morsels sometimes replace my traditional dinner.
Tapas — the fashionable small plates of delicacies — were first created to suit the Spanish lifestyle. The trend towards enjoying nibbles while sipping a drink with friends after work is civilised socialising. Tapas are intended to whet the appetite not gratify it fully. However, the idea of serving small bites has been adopted and adapted by cafés and bars worldwide to create complete meals.
To complement my own creations, I often serve dumplings bought from the supermarket or my favourite Asian food store and they’re relatively cheap. Steamed or boiled they’re delicious dipped into sauces such as Thai chilli with a dash of lemon; or a verde sauce (finely chopped mint, basil, coriander and green chilli combined with lemon juice).
Foods on skewers are always popular. They can be dunked into sauces and held easily in one hand while still clasping a drink and serviette in the other. Try: cubed green, red and yellow capsicums and chorizo brushed with olive oil and grilled; green and black olives and cheese cubes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic glaze; or cubed chicken brushed with an aromatic chutney then grilled.
Seed the chilli for a milder taste.
1 small (raw) beetroot, peeled and chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
1/2 cup each: packed coriander, parsley leaves, chopped
400g can chickpeas, well drained
finely grated rind 1 lemon
1 tablespoon each: lemon juice, ground cumin
1 teaspoon each: ground coriander, turmeric, salt
2 tablespoons chickpea flour or plain flour
rice bran oil for frying
Place the beetroot, onion, garlic and chilli in a food processor and whizz until well chopped. Add the herbs. Process until finely chopped. Add the drained chickpeas then pulse until finely ground. Add the remaining ingredients — except the oil— and mix well.
Take tablespoons of the falafel mixture and form into balls. Flatten slightly.
Pour the oil into a deep frying pan — about 1cm deep. Fry the falafel in batches for about 4 minutes, until brown. Drain on paper towels.
Great served hot quartered toasted pita breads together with equal amounts of tahini and yoghurt combined. Serves 4-6.
MINI KASHMIR SAUSAGE ROLLS
Can be prepared in advance to the baking stage and frozen.
2 tablespoon each: oil, butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup shredded carrot
2 teaspoons each: garam masala, cumin seeds
500g lean minced beef
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup each: finely chopped coriander, mint leaves
salt to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 sheets frozen flaky pastry
Garnish: 1 small egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Heat the oil and butter in a non-stick frying pan on low heat. Sauté the onion, garlic and carrot until softened. Add the spices. Cook for 1 minute. Cool.
Place the mince in a bowl and add the onion mixture, breadcrumbs, herbs, salt and egg. Mix well.
Cut the 2 sheets of flaky pastry in half. Divide the mince mixture into 5 equal portions, about 140g each. Roll into logs the same length as the pastry. Place the logs along the centre of each pastry sheet and roll up. Cut each log into 8 equal pieces.
Place on 1 or 2 baking paper-lined baking trays. Brush with the egg. Chill for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Brush the rolls again with egg and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden and cooked through.
Great served with plain yoghurt combined with chopped mint, crushed garlic and a dash of lemon juice. Makes 40.
SALMON & CUCUMBER CLUB SANDWICHES
350g salmon filet
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons each: finely chopped (green) spring onion, lemon juice, sour cream
1/2 small telegraph cucumber
60g alfalfa sprouts
butter or table spread
15 slices white sandwich bread
Place the salmon in a frying pan. Cover with cold water or fish stock. Season and add some fresh herbs, if preferred. Slowly bring to boiling point. Poach for 3-4 minutes, until cooked. Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to drain and cool.
Remove the skin and any bones. Flake the salmon. Place in a bowl and mix with the spring onion, lemon juice, sour cream, salt and pepper.
Peel the cucumber. Using a vegetable peeler, cut into long thin slices. Turn the cucumber constantly. Discard the centre with the seeds.
Butter 1 slice of bread. Arrange a single layer of cucumber on it, then top with some of the sprouts. Butter another bread slice and place it on top. Top with the salmon, spreading well, but no more than 1cm thick. Butter a final slice of bread and place it over the salmon, pressing gently. Repeat to make 5 stacks.
Using a serrated knife, remove the crusts and slice into squares. Makes 20 mini club sandwiches.