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Parsnip blinis with Cropwell Bishop, walnuts and honey

makes 12

This is a strong contender to challenge the king of festive finger-food, blinis and smoked salmon.

This is inspired by a salad of honeyed parsnips, blue cheese and walnuts that often appears on the Riverford Field Kitchen menu during the colder and darker months. It is a classic blini recipe, replacing one root vegetable with another.

Ingredients

3 large parsnips

2 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites

Dessert spoon of rice flour

30ml crème fraiche

30ml milk

Butter and olive oil

100g Cropwell Bishop or another good quality blue cheese

handful of toasted walnut halves.

1 tablespoon of honey

salt and pepper

Method

Chop the parsnips into ½ inch chunks, removing any bits of core that feel woody. Sauté gently in a pan of butter and olive oil until nice and soft.

Purée in a food processor, season with salt and pepper, leave to cool in the fridge.

Mix the egg yolks, rice flour, cream and milk with the parsnip purée. Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites gently into the parsnip mix trying, to preserve a much air as you can.

Heat a frying pan of olive oil and butter until the butter starts to foam.

Drop a few spoonfuls of the mix into the pan, smoothing each in to a 2-3 inch disc.

Cook until golden brown on one side and flip over to finish the other. Cook in batches.

To serve, top with some crumbled blue cheese, mix the walnuts into the honey and pop one on top.

These blinds can be cooked and frozen well ahead of time. Defrost and warm through in a low pan or oven to refresh.

Tea-soaked prunes, crispy bacon and toasted almonds

makes 24

The prunes and their syrup also make a great accompaniment to your muesli or porridge for breakfast, or with rice pudding or warm custard for dessert, without the bacon of course.

Ingredients

24 good quality prunes

4 rashers of dry cured smoked bacon

24 whole almonds

1 earl grey tea bag

¼ of a cinnamon stick

1 clove

1 star anise

A thick strip of orange zest

100g brown sugar

Method

To tea-soak the prunes, stir the sugar into 500ml of boiling water, add the prunes, spices and tea bag, and leave overnight. Cook the bacon, in a pan or in the oven, until crispy. Toast the almonds in the oven until golden brown. To serve, snap the bacon into six pieces. Cut a slit in the side of each prune, push a whole almond inside and jam in a shard of bacon. Slide a cocktail stick through the middle so your guests don’t get sticky fingers.

Stuffing bombs

makes 20

Think of this as a cross between a scotch egg and arancini. If you’re making stuffing anyway just make a little extra for these nibbles. I recommend making 2-3 times the amount you think you’ll need; I’ve seen people push their loved ones aside to get to the last few.

Ingredients

500g of herby sausage-meat stuffing

(we add 100g of coarse breadcrumbs soaked in milk, squeezed and added to 350g of sausage meat, the zest of one orange, 1 large red onion diced and cooked till soft, a couple of finely chopped dried apricots and some sage, thyme and parsley finely chopped.)

100g fresh mozzarella or other good melting cheese

1 cup of flour

2 eggs, beaten

200g Panko breadcrumbs

Sunflower oil for frying

salt and pepper

Method

To make each one, take about 40g of the stuffing and press it in to a disc in the palm of your hand, break off a baked-bean-sized piece of mozzarella and push it into the middle and form the edges round in your hand so you end up with a ball of stuffing with the cheese in the middle. Roll into an even ball and repeat until it is all used up. To breadcrumb the balls, lay out three shallow bowls, put the flour in the first, the eggs in the second and the breadcrumbs in the third. One at a time dredge the ball in the flour, shake off the excess, dip and roll it in the eggs and drop into the breadcrumbs rolling and pressing until totally coated. Set to one side. Heat enough oil in a deep pan to deep fry with, bring slowly up to 180˚C. Deep-fry until golden brown and piping hot in the middle. Keep warm in an oven and serve on cocktail sticks.

Purple Mary

makes 12 mini, 4 grown-up

This is basically a Bloody Mary with beetroot purée in place of the tomato. We add a bit of acid in the form of orange and vinegar to replace the acidity of the tomatoes. Make sure your guests aren’t too oiled before serving these; beetroot won’t come out of a cocktail dress. I’d advise making the mix the day before at least, as it allows the flavours to marry.

Ingredients

300ml vodka

5cm piece of horseradish

3 tennis ball sized beetroot, boiled or roasted till soft, and skinned

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 orange, juiced

Balsamic vinegar

Tabasco

1 tsp celery salt

Shot of sherry

3 ribs of celery

Method

The first step is to get a loose beetroot purée, not too thick and not too watery. You want to be able to drink it, not have to attack it with a spoon. The reason a Bloody Mary is a divisive drink is that it sits somewhere between a beverage and a meal, and that is down to the body of the tomato juice.

Put the beetroot in a food processor or blender and run until smooth, add cold water until you get the texture of thick tomato juice, but don’t forget the vodka will thin it down further. Now grate in the horseradish, add the vodka, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, and a shake of Tabasco.

Next, season it with a dash of orange juice and balsamic vinegar until you feel happy with the acidity levels. A pinch more salt may be needed to bring everything alive.

Pop in the fridge overnight, give it another stir, a taste and pass through a fine sieve into a jug. Serve in shot glasses with a small celery stick stirrer in each, or in a high-ball glass with a bacon sandwich for some “hair of the dog” the next morning.

Rob Andrew is head chef of the Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant. www.riverford.co.uk.