Fancy pants canapes

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Last summer I landed myself a preeetty sweet position as recipe tester for my lovely mother’s next cook book, The Busy Mum’s Vegetarian Cookbook (which I will be shamelessly plugging on this blog).
Kate Towers and I, following Mary Gwynn’s (aka my mum) recipe, embarked upon a canape extravaganza, and produced some incredibly tasty little morsels.

Minted Pea and Polenta Pieces 

  • For the polenta
  • 175g (6oz) instant polenta
  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 25g (1oz) freshly grated Parmesan
  • large pinch dried chillies
  • 1-2 large free-range egg, beaten
  • 100g (4oz) dried white breadcrumbs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the topping
  • 200g (4oz) frozen peas
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • sunflower oil for deep frying
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • mint leaves and pecorino shavings to finish
  1. To make the polenta bring 750ml (1 ¼ pint) water to the boil, add a generous pinch of salt and the chillies then pour in the polenta, whisking continuously to prevent lumps forming. Lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the polenta is thick and leaves the sides of the pan.
  2. Off the heat, beat in the butter and grated parmesan to give a glossy thick paste. Season to taste. Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled shallow baking tin and spread to a thickness of about 1.5cm ( ½ in). Allow to cool and set. Cut out rounds using a 2.5cm (1in) plain round cutter and dip into the egg and breadcrumbs to coat. Cover and chill until needed.
  3. For the pea puree cook the frozen peas into boiling water with four peeled cloves of garlic for 2 -3 minutes. Drain well and run under cold water to cool. Drain again. Pulse quickly in a blender with seasoning form a coarse puree.
  4. When ready to serve, heat the oil in a deep heavy based pan or fryer to 190C and fry the polenta in batches for 2 -3 minutes each until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Use a teaspoon or piping bag to pipe on the puree. Top with a mint leaf, squeeze of lemon juice and shaving of pecorino.

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Caponata Filo Cups

  • 3 large aubergines, cut into 1.5cm ( ½ in) cubes
  • 4 – 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • small handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tarragon vinegar
  • 400g can Italian tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 jar stoned green olives, roughly chopped
  • 100g (4oz) pine nuts
  • 4 sheets filo pastry
  • 50g (2oz) butter, melted
  • 100g (4oz) dolcelate or similar soft blue cheese (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped chives to finish

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  1.  Sprinkle the aubergine with a little salt and leave to stand in a colander for 10 minutes. Rinse under running water then pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the aubergine in batches till golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
  2. Clean the pan, add a tablespoon of oil and cook the onion and garlic over a lowe heat for 3 -4 minutes until softened. Return the aubergine to the pan and add the tarragon vinegar. Stir in the tinned tomatoes and add 1 tbsp brown sugar. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until the aubergine is cooked through and the sauce thickened. Stir in the remaining sugar, balsamic vinegar, capers, olives, oregano, parsley and seasoning and simmer for a further minute or two. Add the pine nuts right at the end then cool, cover and store in the fridge. The flavours will develop and the pine nuts will soak up the excess oil and give a good extra texture to the caponata.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170C/fan oven 160C/gas mark 3. Lay out a sheet of filo pastry on a chopping board and brush liberally with melted butter then gently lay another piece of filo over the top. Brush again and then use a large knife or cutter to cut the sheet into squares roughly 4cm (1 ½ in) square. Do the same once more. Push the squares into mini muffin tins and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until golden. Turn out onto a baking sheet to cool. Store in airtight containers.
  4. To assemble, use a teaspoon to fill each case with a little of the caponata mixture then top with a teaspoon of dolcelate if using. Sprinkle chives over the top. Arrange on a plate, slate or tray.
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