Quick party fixes


TASTE:Well chosen freezer finds are just what you need to make instantly appealing party food

WHILST FLICKING through some food magazines recently, still searching for inspiration for the ultimate turkey recipe, I came across a suggestion by an English cookery writer that if you have a spare few hours between now and Christmas, then why not make your own gingerbread house?

If you saw the accompanying picture, you too would have been incredulous at the suggestion. As sweet a notion as it is, I can barely even find a sharp knife in this household, let alone stencils, pencils, scissors or sticky tape. Suffice to say that as per every Christmas, I think that anything over and beyond the bare minimum in celebratory food is where I will draw the line.

I know I say it every Christmas, but smoked salmon and brown bread is always a winner. Sorry, but it is.

Mix some cream cheese with a bunch of chopped chives or spring onions, or just marinate some very thinly sliced red onions with a good squeeze of lemon juice and black pepper and dot them onto some smoked salmon on buttered brown bread. Serve with a few caper berries on top and you have something that always tastes fantastic, especially with a glass of bubbles.

It may be dull, but it’s a classic and takes only minutes to prepare. And any salmon you don’t use up over Christmas makes an excellent addition to some scrambled eggs on toast.

The Artisan brand of pizza bases sold in supermarkets and delis have become a bit of a store cupboard ingredient for me, although they’re usually stored in my freezer. The pack contains three bases that are ready to top, so all you need to do is prep the topping recipe on this page, for a really delicious slice of something savoury, which tastes great served at room temperature.

Frozen tiger prawns are another good freezer item. Raw ones are great, but sometimes they need to be de-veined, which is a bit of a chore when you’re stuck for time. They do well if marinated and then grilled and will quickly disappear. All you need are some napkins for sticky fingers and a cup of this delicious warm cider.

Maybe next Christmas I’ll get that stencil out.

Sweet potato pizzas

3 pizza bases

4 sweet potatoes

2 tbsp pine nuts

300 g crème fraîche

Pinch of chilli flakes

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

300 g goats’ cheese

3 tbsp runny honey

Few sprigs of thyme or rosemary

Black pepper

Glug of olive oil

Preheat an oven to 200 degrees/gas six. Wash the sweet potatoes and bake them whole for 35-40 minutes. They should be softish, but not fully cooked. Allow them to cool so that their skin will shrink away and you can peel and squeeze the potato, away from the skin. When they’re cool enough to handle, cut into medium thick slices. Set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, toast the pine nuts in the oven for a minute or two, on a baking tray until just golden brown. Beware! They will burn quickly, so stay on duty. Mix the creme fraiche with the chilli flakes and garlic. Spread a thin layer of this onto each pizza base, then top with the slices of sweet potato and dot with clumps of goats’ cheese. Drizzle each pizza with a tablespoon of honey, along with some thyme or rosemary, and black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or so, until the bases are crispy and the cheese is just starting to go golden brown. Take the pizzas out of the oven and drizzle them with some olive oil. Allow to cool slightly (or fully) before serving.

Lime, chilli and ginger prawns

20 tiger prawns, cooked and peeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Big knob ginger, peeled and grated

1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Juice of 4 limes

Marinate the prawns in all the ingredients and then grill them on a baking tray on a high heat until they are sizzling hot and sticky. Cook for a bit longer if they are raw to start with, but they won’t take long, either way. Decant onto a large serving platter and serve while they are hot.

Cider cup

Serves 6

1.5 litres cider

Juice and zest of 2 oranges

4 cinnamon sticks

Few scrapes of freshly grated nutmeg

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

50 ml rum

Heat all the ingredients except the rum, on a low heat for 10 minutes. Taste and add more sugar or orange zest or juice, if you like it stronger. Ladle into glasses and serve with a splash of rum. dkemp@irishtimes.com

See also itsa.ie