THE MELTING POT
Cinnamon Tree Catering Service,
With New Year's Eve coming in a few days, this week's recipes are about finger food. Choosing what kind of food to serve can be a hassle if you leave it for the last minute. For a relaxed party, prepare and plan ahead as much as possible.
Decide which cold dishes can be made a day or two before the party. Prepare and refrigerate them. Look for fast and simple, easy to serve recipes, so you can spend your time enjoying with your guests.
Set the table ahead. One of the worst mistakes a host or hostess can make is planning a menu that requires him/her to be in the kitchen cooking throughout the party. To make sure this does not happen, plan a menu that can mostly be cooked in advance.
Have no more than two recipes that need last minute preparation. Then you can knock-out your guests with your personality and not with your kitchen perspiration.
It is a good idea to have a wide variety of snacks so the food appeals to all your guests. Keep a lot of chips or toasted pita bread along with a few dips so that guests can help themselves.
Here are a few relatively easy appetisers which you can choose from.
Creamy tuna and caper canapés
A canapé may also be referred to as finger food, although not all finger foods are canapés. Crackers or small slices of bread or toast or puff pastry, cut into various shapes, serve as the base for savoury butters or pastes, often topped with savoury foods such as meat, cheese, fish, caviar, purees or relish.
You can use leftovers as a tasty spread for sandwiches and wraps instead of butter.
250g cream cheese
185g can tuna in oil, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
¼ cup drained capers
1 tbsp lemon juice
Place cream cheese, tuna, mayonnaise, parsley, capers and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until just smooth. Trim sliced bread into large squares without crusts. Toast the bread if you like. Cut bread into smaller squares or triangles. Place a layer of the spread on one side, top with coriander sprigs or capers to garnish.
Chicken yakitori skewers
Yakitori is traditional style Japanese kebabs usually served by street vendors. The original recipe calls for sake, which is rice wine but you can leave this out and add 20 ml more of the soya sauce. You will need to soak 12 small bamboo skewers in water for 15 minutes for this recipe. The original recipe sake. If you don't want to us sake, you can omit the ingredient and use 20 ml more soy sauce. However, the extra amount of soy sauce will make the dish more salty.
¼ cup (80ml) light soy sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
6 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2 cm pieces
Ground white pepper, to season
2 tsp vegetable oil
Combine the sake (or soy sauce) and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Combine the chicken and half the sauce in a bowl. Season with ground white pepper. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Thread the chicken.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the skewers to the pan and cook for 6 minutes or until cooked through.
Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with green onion. Serve with the remaining sauce.
Skewered chicken kebabs
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Knob of fresh ginger, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve
1 orange, grated zest and juice
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 small, skinless, boneless chicken breast fillets, cut into cubes
20 button mushrooms
20 cherry tomatoes
2 large red peppers, seeded and each cut into 10
Grind the garlic, ginger, orange zest and spring onions to a paste in a food processor. Add the honey, orange juice, soy sauce and oil; then blend again.
Pour the mixture over the cubed chicken and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour but preferably overnight. Toss in the mushrooms for the last half an hour so they take on some of the flavour, too.
Thread the chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers onto 20 wooden skewers, then cook on a griddle pan for 7-8 minutes each side or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and golden brown.
Turn the kebabs frequently and baste with the marinade from time to time until evenly cooked. Arrange on a platter, scatter with chopped spring onion.
Crostinis are small, thinly sliced piece of toasted or grilled bread. In Italian, the word crostini means “little toasts,” which is an accurate description of this food. Crostinis are made by thinly slicing bread, typically plain white bread, and toasting or grilling it so that it becomes crispy. The slices can be drizzled with olive oil and salt and then served plain, or they can be dressed with an assortment of toppings and used as appetisers or garnishes with foods.
2 cups mushrooms, assorted, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
½ small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp grated mozzarella cheese
8 -10 slices French baguettes, cut ¼ inch thick, lightly toasted
In heavy bottomed frying pan, heat olive oil and butter under medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté, stirring from time to time for 5 to 6 minutes; season with salt and pepper; when mushrooms are cooked, add parsley and cheese; remove from heat, cover and let rest for 4 to 5 minutes.
Spoon warm mixture on to slices of toasted bread. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and put in pre heated oven 220 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes. Take out of oven and rest for five minutes before serving.
Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern dip and is similar to hummus, but is made with eggplant instead of chickpeas.
Yield: 4 cups
2 large eggplants
1 lemon, juiced
2/3 cup tahini
½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pita bread or chips, for dipping
There are 2 ways to cook the eggplants. The first way, on the stovetop, yields a much smokier-flavoured baba ghanoush.
For the stovetop method: Turn 2 burners up full-throttle. Place 1 eggplant on each burner and, using a pair of tongs, turn every 5 minutes or so, until the entire surface of eggplant is charred and crispy, about 15 minutes. Do not worry if the eggplant deflates a little. Remove from the burner and place on a plate to cool.
For the oven method: Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius. Prick the eggplants all over with a fork (this keeps the eggplant from exploding in the oven, so don't skip this step). Place on a baking sheet and roast until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Regardless of the cooking method you choose, once the eggplant is cool enough to touch with your hands, carefully peel the charred skin off the eggplant. Discard the skin. Move the flesh onto your chopping board, slice off the stem and discard. Using your knife, mince the flesh until almost smooth. Scoop into a bowl.
Add the lemon juice, tahini, parsley, and a little salt and pepper. Whisk together and taste for seasoning. Feel free to add more lemon juice, more salt and pepper. It will vary depending on the size of your eggplant, and how you like your dip. Serve with pita chips.
Roast capsicum dip
3 red capsicums, quartered, deseeded
1 garlic clove, crushed
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
1½ tbsp olive oil
Preheat grill on high. Place the capsicums skin-side up under preheated grill and cook for 7-8 minutes or until charred and blistered. Transfer to a sealed plastic bag for 10 minutes. Peel the skins from the capsicums.
Place capsicum flesh, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and 1 tbsp of oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process 2-3 times in short bursts or until a rough puree forms (do not over-process). Transfer to a bowl.
Sprinkle with spring onions and serve.
Tzatziki (cucumber and yoghurt dip)
This is a refreshing and versatile Greek condiment made with yoghurt and cucumber. It goes great with chips or grilled meat. You can make this recipe up to 3 days ahead and place the tzatziki in airtight containers and store in the fridge.
2 (about 600g) cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthways, seeds removed
½ tsp salt
520g (2 cups) natural yoghurt
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
Use the coarse side of a grater to grate the cucumber. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to combine.
Place the yoghurt, garlic, oil and cumin in a medium bowl, and stir to combine.
Transfer the cucumber to a sieve and use your hands to squeeze out any excess moisture. Stir the cucumber pulp through the yoghurt mixture. Taste and season with pepper. Cover and place in the fridge until required.
Serve the tzatziki with the other dips.
Hummus is one of the more popular Middle Eastern dips. Served with fresh or toasted pita bread, hummus makes for a great snack or appetiser. Tahini can be found in big super markets sometimes but it can be omitted if you can't find it. But it will not taste the same. This version of the hummus has a spicy kick to it due to the Jalapeno Peppers.
1 cup garbanzo beans
1/3 cup canned jalapeno pepper slices, juice reserved
3 tbsp tahini
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp curry powder
Crushed red pepper to taste
In a blender or food processor, mix the garbanzo beans, jalapeno peppers and reserved juice, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. Season with cumin, curry powder, and crushed red pepper. Blend until smooth.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Andles have always been an important part of the essence with which we decorate our homes. As an ever-changing source of illumination, candlelight offers an emotional appeal that artificial light cannot.
It can transform a room and our moods much faster than any other decorating tools. For centuries, candles have also played an important role as signifiers of tradition, from symbol of religion to signs of friendship, celebration, and life.
Today, light is not as precious as it once was, and perhaps for that reason we are less sensitive to its properties and its mood. Candles in our homes remind us of the essential qualities of light and of its profound emotional power. This week, we discuss creative ways to use candles and making use of the qualities of candlelight throughout the house for different occasions.
Candles are basically simple objects, composed just as they were centuries ago of wax and a wick. Candle wax is
either beeswax, paraffin, or a combination of the two together with various other waxes. Before the development of paraffin in the mid-19th century, candles were made from natural substances, usually beeswax and fats from animals and plants.
Beeswax, a natural substance secreted by honeybees, remains popular for candle making. There are various types of candles. All are dipped, rolled or poured.
Dipped candles are created by repeatedly dipping wicks into molten wax, and then hanging them to dry and harden. This was the standard method of candle making until the introduction of paraffin. Moulded candles can be found in an infinite variety of shapes, from flowers and animals to figures or buildings. The most familiar moulded candle is the votive.
The soft tones create an atmosphere and mood in home decorating schemes and provide a restful break from our over-lit world. First impression of your home is made in the entrance hall, reserved for welcoming guests and putting strangers at their ease. When you enter from outdoors, candlelight ismuch easier on the eyes than the light from a bright electrical fixture. You can arrange mixed styles for your foyer area. At times traditional hurricanes or lan terns shape candle holder look pretty in the staircase. As a safety precaution, install scones so that the candles cannot be caught in drafts when exterior doors are opened and closed.
After the foyer, the living room is often the first room that guests enter. For a formal living room, antique silver candlesticks or elaborate candelabra arranged on a dark wood side table achieve a harmonious effect.
A cluster of crystal candlesticks, of various sizes and shapes and alight with tapers also creates an accent more suitable to a formal setting. In a casual living room, both candles and candlesticks can afford to be more eclectic. Two or three dark pillars of candles can be placed in a simple red plate, or netted candle holder, or a cluster of small pillars on a shallow sponge- ware bowl.
Candlelight makes an event out of a meal. No dining room or dining table is dressed for guests without the presence of candles. For an eye catching display, mix candle holders in bold colours like red and purple with décor items such as garden stone, dry flowers, dry rose petals and arrange on a red runner on the dining table. For added benefit, a white vase with red roses can be placed in the centre of the runner. Flowers and greenery naturally complement the candles.
Candles in the bathroom are about more than just decoration. Soaking in a tub by candlelight is the perfect way to restore one's balance at the end of a long day. Scented candles are a good choice for the bathroom. Many tubs have wide, flat corners that can hold a candle, or even a rim deep enough to ring with pillars. Or, you can bring in a small bench or low flat- topped stool and call it into service as a candle stand. A windowsill or tile ledge invites group candles, snails and green plants.
Clay lamps have traditionally gained preference in Bangladeshi weddings. And although they continue to remain popular, there are now many other ways to enhance outdoor lighting. Apart from wedding, they are also used for protests and vigils.
Nazneen Haque Mimi
Photo credit: Tamim Sujat