BREAKROOM Robust Nibbles


Easy to make, healthier, great for the holidays

Put down the chips and dip. Forget about the crudités and take a look at these far more interesting melt-in-the-mouth winter canapes, perfect for Christmas Eve cocktail parties or the ideal accompaniment to beating the January blues.

Cuttlefish Croquettes

Makes 10

500g cuttlefish, cleaned weight
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g butter
2 large shallots, peeled, halved, and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
125ml white wine
300ml fish stock
150g plain flour
2 sachets of squid ink (about 25g)
Juice of 1 lemon
Flour, egg, and fresh white breadcrumbs for coating

Melt a little vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan, season the cuttlefish, and lightly color on both sides, then remove from the pan and put to one side. Meanwhile melt 25g of butter in a heavy saucepan and gently cook the shallots and garlic for a couple minutes until soft. Then add the white wine, fish stock, and cuttlefish, bring to a boil and simmer very gently for about 1-1.5 hours or until the cuttlefish is tender. Check the cuttlefish at regular intervals as it may well take less time than this. Remove the pieces of fish and put to one side to cool.

In a clean, thick bottomed pan, melt the butter, add the flour, and stir on low heat for a minute or so then gradually whisk in the hot cooking liquor to avoid lumps forming. Then add the ink, squeezing out as much as you can from the packets (you can swish them out in the stock first). Bring to a simmer and continue simmering very gently for about 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. The sauce should be really thick and gluey, almost with a mashed potato consistency. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Meanwhile, finely chop the cuttlefish and mix in with the sauce, re-season if necessary and add lemon juice to taste. Place the mix in the fridge for a few hours then transfer to a piping bag with a 2cm nozzle and pipe in long lines on a tray lined with greaseproof paper.

Place the tray in the freezer for an hour to firm the croquettes and cut into 3cm lengths.

Using three bowls, one with the flour, the second with the beaten egg, and the third with the breadcrumbs, carefully flour the croquettes, then put them through the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs, re-shaping them with a palette knife if necessary. Leave in the fridge until required.

Heat about 2-3cm of vegetable oil in a deep-sided frying pan and carefully fry the croquettes for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden.

French Bean and Salmon Canapes

Serves 20

A lovely way to serve fresh salmon is in canapes. I find three French beans in each wrap are just right. Malaysian kecap manis is a type of soy sauce, but if you can’t find any then use ordinary soy sauce, it will work fine.

200-250g skinned and boned salmon center fillet
150-200g French beans, trimmed
2tsp kecap manis (or soy sauce)
1 tsp Nigella seeds (onion seeds)

Cook the French beans in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes, so that they still have a bit of crunch, then drain and refresh under a cold tap. With a very sharp knife, cut thin slices of salmon vertically down the fish. Take three French beans and wrap a slice of salmon around the middle twice, then grim the beans about 1cm either side of the salmon. Arrange the salmon on serving dish, place a drop of the soy sauce on each, and sprinkle with the Nigella seeds.

Fried Broad Bean Pods

Serves 6-8

Two batches
First batch
Dump the pods in flour, milk, and flour again, then deep fry them and give them a sprinkle of Cornish sea salt
Second batch
Spice the flour up a bit with cumin, paprika, and black pepper, and place pods within them.

The pods from 8-10 medium sized broad beans
120-150g self-rising flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150ml of milk
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
Cornish sea salt for sprinkling

Cut or tear the beans in half lengthwise on the natural seam and remove any stringy bits and discolored ends, then cut the pods into 3-4cm lengths. Season the flour well and add the suggested spices above if you wish. Preheat about 8cm of oil to the 160-180°C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. 

Have three bowls ready, one for the seasoned flour, one for the milk, and the third for the finished bean pods. Coat the pods in the flour, shaking off any excess, then pass them through the milk and again through the flour.

Deep fry in batches, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes until lightly colored and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper and sprinkle with Cornish sea salt. Serve immediately.