Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Budget Buffet

Wait a minute! Are you just heading out to the supermarket to buy 'party food'? Well, stop right there and ask yourself- 'Could I make it at home for nothing?'

Well, within reason, you could.

Not that I object to supermarket party food- in fact, I think it's brilliant. Some of the ideas created by their chefs are inspirational, and deserve to be copied. I wouldn't even object to Peter Andre delivering party food to my door.

But the point is - it's expensive for what it is, and could be rustled up at least in part by what you already have in the fridge.

So, with a mixture of judicious purchases (like this caramelized onion hummus for 16p in the reduced cabinet!)

and a bit of home cookery, I reckon you can lay on party food for 12 for well under a tenner.

Here's how.

I'm following the trend for 'mini' meals as canapes by making mini lamb burgers with hummus
( thanks to the above bargain!), mini fish and chip cones with salt and vinegar, mini croques-messieurs, a centre piece quiche or lattice, home made pitta crisps and dips, blinis with toppings, home made vegetarian sausage rolls, cocktail bites and home made Twiglet grissini.

Sound good? Here are the recipes.

Mini lamb burgers 

I made lamb burgers as a meal this week and kept back a portion to make mini versions for the freezer. These will be served with hummus to dip, or possibly in mini buns (made from garlic dough balls).
To 200g of lamb mince, add 70g fresh breadcrumbs, 1 egg blitzed together in the food processor with 1small chopped onion , 1 tablespoon Worcester sauce, 1 crumbled stock cube and  1 each tsp salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands until thoroughly incorporated.
Take a small piece and fry in hot oil in a frying pan until cooked through- taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.
If you're happy with the mix, make four burgers and 12 mini burgers from it and fry in batches.
We ate the burgers for dinner, and I froze the cooked mini burgers in preparation for the buffet.
And mini lamb burgers for the buffet

Lamb burgers for dinner

Fish and Chip Cones

My gym very generously provides paper cones at the water cooler (although they may be less keen to do so if they ever get to see this blog) as I use these for holding little parcels of fish and chips. (You can easily make your own of course from circles of stiff paper).

Cook oven chips and scampi pieces in the oven as you would normally, pop them into the cones and serve on a platter with little jugs of vinegar and fleur de sel for seasoning.
Very chic!
Mini fish and chip cones

Mini Croques-Messieurs

I buy little toasts (sold for foie gras) in French supermarkets when I am on holiday and freeze them to use for mini-toast meals- but you can easily make these by cutting circles or squares of bread using a scone cutter.
Whenever I have leftover ends of cheese, I make some little croques (cheese and ham sandwiches ) and freeeze them uncooked ready for a buffet.
Frozen mini sandwiches
Toast them in a sandwich maker, or fry gently in butter and serve warm.

Toasted mini croques-messieurs


Here's a selection with a link to the blogpost containing the recipes

Tarte a l'indienne

Pissaladiere Tart
Spinach and Bacon Quiche

Sausagemeat lattice

For this recipe- which does look impressive as a centrepiece- you need to make your own flaky pastry.(Don't be scared- it's remarkably easy.) You then use half for this dish and half for the vegetarian sausage rolls. At a push you can use ready-made puff pastry but it won't be the same.

You need 300g plain flour, 200g block butter or baking marge, a pinch of salt and some cold water.

Keep the marge rock hard in the fridge and only take it out once you have weighed out your flour and salt. Holding the foil wrapper, grate the marge quickly straight into the flour using a cheese grater.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and marge mix and pour in about 2 tablespoons of cold water.

Using a palette knife, mix together and add a dribble of water at a time until the mixture starts to come together. Just at the end, squish it together with your hands until the bowl is clean and then cut it in half (one for the lattice and one for the veggie rolls), wrap it in clingfilm and put into the fridge until ready to use.

When you are ready, divide one of the halves again into two thirds/one third.
Roll out the larger piece into a big rectangle and brush the edges with water. Lay it on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees.
Mix up 400g of sausagemeat with a good teaspoon of salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped chives and parsley and a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs.

Form this into a rectangle slightly smaller than the pastry and lay it on top.

Now roll out the smaller pastry piece and either cut it with a lattice cutter or cut patterns in it with pastry cutters, or cut strips and lay them criss-cross across the sausagemeat to make a lattice.
Crimp the edges well together, brush with milk or beaten egg and dust with a really good grating of nutmeg.
Bake until golden and crispy. For the party, I suggest trimming the edges with a sharp knife to make it neater!
Sausagemeat lattice

Home made Crisps for Dipping

What have you got in your cupboards, bread bin or freezer? If you have tortillas, pitta bread or naan bread lurking, then you have the basis of home made dipping chips. Just snip them into triangles with kitchen scissors, put them in a bowl with a glug of oil, loads of salt and pepper and any seasoning you like (eg chilli flakes, curry powder, herbs etc) and then spread them out on a baking sheet and bake at 190 degrees for about 10 minutes- but watch them closely as they should come out just as they are turning golden and must not get too brown or they will be bitter.
Naan Bread crisps
Tortilla Chips


A carton of natural yoghurt is all you need this time for a trio of dips.
Mix up one bowl with a tablespoon of coarse grain mustard and drizzle it with runny honey.(Honey and Mustard dip)
Mix another with a tablespoon of korma paste for a mild Curry Dip.
Mix the third with chopped chives, mint and cucumber for a Raita-style dip.


Now that I've gone all Russian, it's time for blinis. The recipe is easy-s ift together 50g of buckwheat flour, 100g of plain flour, a pinch of salt and a a tsp of baking powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add 1 beaten egg, 80g of melted butter or margarine and 185ml of milk. Mix well until you have a creamy batter. 
Fry in batches- you should get about 30 from this mix. They freeze well, so can be made well in advance.

Top with a spoonful of creme fraiche and some little fish eggs (small jar costs under £2 at this time of year), or smoked salmon trimmings (same sort of price).

30 blinis or more
Blinis with toppings

Cocktail Bites

Whilst we are looking at this lovely photo of blinis (courtesy of laBarbe), her idea of wrapping dried apricots in some Italian deli meat and securing with a cocktail stick is very pretty and tasty too. You can do the same with whatever you have in the cupboard and fridge eg. dates or prunes perhaps wrapped in ham, smoked cheese etc

Home Made Twiglet Grissini

I used some bread mix I had in my larder for this, but it is simple enough to make using flour and fresh yeast.
 You need 250g plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 75g butter or marge, 1 x 7g fast acting yeast, 75g grated cheese, 150ml warm milk (or water if using a bread mix) and 1 tablespoon of yeast extract (Marmite).
Put either the bread mix or the flour, salt and yeast into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips, mix in the cheese and then add either the warm milk or water (if using bread mix).
Bring together with first a palette knife then your hands. Knead for 5 minutes until pliable, then put back in the bowl, cover with a plastic bag and put somewhere warm to rise for an hour.
When doubled in size, take out of the bag, knead again for another 5 minutes, put back for a second prove for 30 minutes.
This time, when you take it out, roll it out into a large rectangle, spread with the Marmite, fold over and roll again.
Cut out short strips, then roll these strips between your hands like you used to do with plasticine when you were little, to make long thin sausages. Lay these on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or so until lovely and golden.
You will find it hard to resist eating them then and there- but they do freeze well.

Twiglet grissini

Non-Sausage Rolls (makes 20)

Lastly, take the remaining pastry from the fridge, roll it into another large rectangle and cut it into two strips.
Now make your veggie filling from 200g fresh breadcrumbs, 200g grated strong cheddar cheese, 1 small onion chopped and softened in some olive oil with 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tablespoon creme fraiche or natural yoghurt, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs eg. chives, parsley, thyme or sage, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, lots of salt and pepper.
Mix it all together and squish it with your hands to make two long sausages, which you lay on each of the pastry strips. Brush the edges with water and then roll up the strips and press well to seal.

Slice each sausage into ten, and either freeze the uncooked pastries until you need them or bake at 190 degrees, brushed with milk or beaten egg, until golden.

Cut on the diagonal to look pretty!

Phew! That was quite a cookathon, but all simple and cheap. Let's not forget of course, that the main reason we enjoy a good party is the company and the conversation, so if you're spending too much time cooking and not enough chatting, you're not doing anyone any favours.

After Christmas, the blog is going to take on a different (possibly garlic scented) flavour as I am relocating to France for a while.

Expect recipes with a different accent, as Lizsleftovers takes French leave!

Got to go now- I just heard the doorbell. Could it be Peter Andre with my delivery?

Ding dong!