Is it wrong that I love retro food quite as much as I do? I’ll happily feed friends my beef stroganoff and without a side of irony, or talk Hubby into picking up an M&S prawn cocktail on his way home (if Heston can eat them, so can I!). If there’s a Black Forest Gateau option for dessert then I can be usually persuaded to indulge my rare sweet tooth. And I’ve got my eye out for steak diane on a menu because it’s been forever since I’ve had one of those.
So it will come as no surprise that I have an irrational fondness for vol-au-vents. If there’s a plate of them on a buffet table I will make a beeline for them. And Christmas isn’t Christmas if I haven’t had at least one pack of M&S’s party food vol-au-vents.
I finally made them myself over Jubilee weekend, having scoured the interwebs for an appealing filling recipe I found this on Gourmet Traveller’s site, and thought the celebratory tone the champagne gives it would be perfect for a family get together. And they went down a treat! So much so that I didn’t eat nearly enough of them and promised Hubby I’d make them again “just for us”, which I finally did this weekend 🙂 I also seem to be having a love affair with tarragon at the moment so this killed two cravings with one dish!
The original recipe seems to be for small canape sized vol-au-vents, however, life is too short to make my own so I cheated and bought some ready to bake ones from Jus-Rol. They’re quite a bit bigger than bite sized, at least two-bite sized, so I’ve adapted my recipe accordingly.
Champagne Chicken Vol-Au-Vents
More retro indulgence! Puff pastry nibbles for parties or seriously posh TV snackage.
1/2 small leek (40gm), white part only, thinly sliced
1 lemon, finely grated rind and juice
2 tbsp double cream
1 small chicken breast (about 250gm)
250 ml Champagne or sparkling white wine
125 ml water
In a small saucepan, small enough to fit the chicken snugly and cover with the poaching liquor, combine the champagne, water, leek, lemon rind and tarrogon sprigs. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then add the chicken and return to the boil for 10 minutes (keep an eye on the pot as it will try to bubble over).
After the 10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and leave to cool completely while the chicken poaches through.
Once the poaching liquor has cooled down, remove the chicken and finely shred it (fingers or two small forks are perfect) and refrigerate it until needed.
Strain the poaching liquor only into a clean sauccepan (you can throw away the tarrogon sprigs and leeks) and bring to the boil again over a medium heat. Cook the poaching liquor down until it’s reduced to 50ml which should take 15 to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it can cook down quickly – I kept pouring it into a measuring jug to check how much was left, then pouring it back into the pan and then back into the measuring jug, until I had my 50ml. Leave to cool completely.
While the liquor is cooling, preheat the oven to 200C. Brush the vol-au-vent cases with a little milk or egg and cook per the package instructions.
While the cases are cooking, combine the chicken, reduced cooking liquor, cream and sliced tarrogon in a bowl. Season to taste with lemon juice and sea salt.
When the pastry cases are ready, divide the chicken filling among them and then return to the overn for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is warmed through. Scatter with something green and decorative, and serve immediately with the remainder of your bottle of champagne!
I couldn’t let the Jubilee go by without making a comment, especially given how much of an emphasis there was on celebrating with food – or maybe that’s just a reflection of the media channels I focus on 😉 And I’m quite unashamed to admit that this weekend has left me feeling surprisingly patriotic, and waving my wee plastic flag that was hidden in a bouquet I bought last week to brighten up the mantlepiece…
But well as celebrating, and thanking, Her Maj for all the hard work she’s done, the extra day off was a lovely excuse to get together with family. Hubby and I put together a cheeky finger buffet (mostly during the 3 hour Jubilee concert which made for a great soundtrack to cook to!) and carried it all up to my parents’ place today, where we were joined by my brother, his wife, and their beautiful 3 week old son.
Hubby’s EPIC sausage rolls and my Champagne chicken and tarragon vol au vents deserve a blog post of their own, but for now, I managed to snap a quick pic of the whole spread before my family of locusts descended on everything (I really should have taken an “after” picture… LOL!)
I love me some marmalade on toast, so finding out that this week was National Marmalade Week (25 Feburary to 3 March) just gave me excuses I didn’t need to attack the sticky orange stuff! My favourite by far is Tiptree’s Tawny Thick Cut by Wilkin & Sons, which has a delicious abundance of shreds. For the record, shredless is an abomination and will never be tolerated under my roof!
But marmalade is not just for toast! Somewhere, somehow, I found out that marmalade goes insanely well with cocktail sausages… Really! So in honour of Marmalade week may I present to you my exceedingly moreish Sticky Marmaladey Sausages – they’re great for handing round at parties, and even went down really well cold at an office charity buffet lunch type thing.
The recipe below (if you can call it a recipe!) is for party sized quantities, but it’s totally scalable if you happen to have cocktail sausages lying around and fancy a cheeky hot snack 🙂
I used to buy cheap and cheerful marmalade for this, but I do think the better the marmalade the better the glaze, so don’t be afraid to use whatever you have on hand for toast. Your tastebuds will thank you for it!
Sticky Marmaladey Sausages
Gooey, sweet-tart marmalade goes perfectly with the sausages, perfect for parties or a cheeky weekend snack.
While the oven is warming up, melt the marmalade in a saucepan and then pour the gooey loveliness over the sausages in the roasting tin and mix until coated.
Place the lot in the pre-warmed oven for 15/20 minutes, and then take the tin out and give the sausages a good shoogle about. Don’t worry if the marmalade looks a little runny, it will eventually thicken back up again.
Put it all back in the oven for another 15/20 minutes, at which point the marmalade should have become a magical sticky delicious glaze all over the sausages. The sausages will be cooked through after 30/40 minutes so you can take them out at this point, but if you like your sausages a little browner then put them back in the oven until they have reached your preferred shade.
Once out, give them a few minutes to cool down, and then tuck right in!