Appetisers for Easy Entertaining Part 1

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Entertaining, no matter how involved or for which occasion it may be, need not be complicated and the recipes in this blog are easy to prepare and loaded with flavour. The star in this post is puff-pastry, the very same that we discovered while making chicken pot pie and it makes life simple because it can be purchased pre-made and loaded with virtually any fillings. What’s important to remember when working with puff-pastry is to allow it to come to room temperature before manipulating it. It’s also important to remember that a beaten egg, brushed over the outside of the puff-pastry before baking it will ensure a shiny, crisp and golden-brown crust.

First up on the list of easy things to make are shrimp and smoked salmon vol-au-vents. It’s important that when baking in the your Fornetto, that you control your heat, around 190C (375F). This will ensure that your pastry cooks and rises properly without burning. The same applies whether you are cooking in a Fornetto Oven, kamado, smoker, or conventional oven!

The top rack of the oven here is holding one of the Fornetto pizza stones. What’s great about pizza stones for baking anything, not only pizzas but any kind of bread or pastry, is that they are a porous surface that allows for the bottom of the baked good to crisp up. If the pastry you are using is a greasy type of pastry, I suggest baking on a piece of parchment paper, which itself is porous as well and does not affect the baking at all. Avoid using foil or wax paper however, as this will create a barrier that will lock in moisture and create a wet and soggy pastry or bread. (Click here to see our current list of accessories to find out more about pizza stones).

Puff pastry’s ancestry is often linked back to somewhere in the 17th century and is at times attributed to Claude Lorraine, a famous French Baroque painter. He’s been attributed with making the buttery layered dough, similar to that of a croissant when baked, for his sick father. History does suggest however, that the dough is much more similar to the Middle Eastern phyllo dough, a similar, crispier, layered pastry using olive oil, that is famous for Baklava and Greek Spanikopita. Documentation of phyllo is found dating as far back as the Muslim occupation of Spain and it’s far more likely to have been converted from the original thin layers of pastry laced with olive to a laminated pastry spread with butter. This change either took place in Germany or Italy, centuries ago.

When using puff-pastry, it’s very important not to overwork the dough or pierce it as this will stop the flaking process during baking. The way in which puff pastry puffs and flakes is by steam inside the dough pushing its way outwards, forcing each thin layer to separate from the next and to puff-up.

Next up is a classic, the sausage roll. Though these are classic they leave plenty of room for personal inspiration. You can buy sausages, of course, but you can also make your own sausage meat using your favourite ground meat or poultry, herbs and spices. Try turkey or chicken breast for a more lean take on the classic. As the meat looses its juices while the rolls cook, I suggest the use of parchment paper once again to ensure that the paper absorbs most of the liquids and allows the bottoms to crisp-up.

Serve all of the appetizers seen here with fresh fruit and a good wine. They all make for a nice starter to a meal or can be served at a casual social gathering. Click the links below for the recipes.

Try serving the sausage rolls with your own homemade spicy tomato chutney or click here for my recipe.

I did two bries covered in pastry for this shoot, one plain and one with wild-cherry compote. Use any type of jam, jelly, or compote of your choice and serve it with the same fresh fruit as the compote, jam or jelly you used. Click here for the recipe!

Finally click here for the recipe for shimp and smoked salmon vol-au-vonts!

You’re in for a treat. Enjoy!

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