It must be time for some fun. I am truly a little bored of this dreary, cold weather. Whenever I think I spot a sign of spring, boof, hopes are dashed and winter smirks and says he is hanging around a bit longer. Still, there is no reason to let the weather get the better of us. I have been thinking for some time of getting back into entertaining mode and out of my cosy winter hibernation. Somehow it feels time to get friends over, crack open a few bottles alongside some good food and sit around the kitchen table chatting about this and that.
I have always loved those little bits to eat with drinks before lunch or dinner, but what to call them? Canapes sound a bit smart, like those goodies that appear at weddings and grown up drinks parties, little rows of beauty, identical and perfectly crafted on slate or mirrored plates. Not, in all honesty what you should expect at my house. Snacks sounds like something you might have when you get in from school and hors d’oeuvres seems old fashioned and I think is actually a starter rather than what you might have before. Amuse bouche are those treats you get unexpectedly in restaurants and not what I mean here so, bits to eat with drinks it will have to be.
I adore being offered something before supper, not only from the greedy point of view but because it is a good idea when drinking. Lunch always seems a distant memory and I’m not keen on the first glass of wine splashing down onto an empty stomach – I know how it will make me feel tomorrow… More than this though, it starts the feast before you even get to sit down. Perfect.
Onion tart is a regular offering from me, slow cooked melting sweet onions, criss crossed with salty savoury anchovies is superb pre-lunch and I have a tip top recipe I will post soon. Cheese biscuits whilst simple in the extreme provide the necessary crisp bite – a recipe for these too will follow. The crostini here are a current favourite, the irresistible taste of artichoke combined with zingy lemon and chilli work very well on a bit of crunchy toast. A gentle garlic hum in the background and lots of verdant parsley add to the picture.
Sometimes I put this on the table in a bowl with a pile of toasted sliced ciabatta or ficelle – alternatively I might pile up the artichoke onto the little croutes and hand them around on a plate, as ever, it’s up to you.
1 jar chargrilled artichokes (around 280g)
1 small clove garlic
1/2 red chilli
1 small bunch of parsley
Zest of one lemon and the juice of half
Baguette/ficelle/ciabatta sliced and toasted
Put the drained artichokes, garlic, chilli, parsley, lemon zest and juice in a bowl or jug and blitz with a hand held blender (or chop it by hand and mix). Now taste it, you may need more chilli or lemon juice as it is important to have both heat and sharpness. Season with salt and pepper. When you are happy with the taste, spread the mixture onto toasts or decant into a nice bowl. Either way pour a little good olive oil over just before serving. Depending on the size of your toasts, this will probably make about 12.