Recipe: bruschetta bar!

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On several occasions over the last month I have trialled a great new concept for entertaining, *drum roll* –  the bruschetta bar!

I can’t take any credit though, as What’s Gaby Cooking was the one who cleverly coined the term!

As you readers already know, I’m an avid fan of everything crostini and bruschetta and this blog is evidence of that (you’ll find the classic bruschetta; one with burrata; crostini with a mushroom spread to die for; with ricotta, ham and peaches; smoked salmon spread etc etc) but instead of serving already topped crostini of one or two varieties, the bruschetta bar is more of a DIY job. It’s so much easier for the organiser; just fill a big platter with heaps of crostini and a nice spread of toppings, and more fun for the guests who can create their own flavour combinations and partake more. It feels more relaxed and the toppings can be varied after season, inspiration or whatever you can find in your fridge and larders. I can even see this becoming the ultimate fridge forage dinner with lots of fun bits!

I must say I’m a little peeved I didn’t come up with the idea myself (especially as I for one party organised a blini bar and the concepts are pretty similar AND for dinner parties in the past I have served crostini this way too ), but I’m also so grateful for other bloggers inspiring me and sharing great ideas!

As I said, I have trialled this concept a few times already and all the different occasions had slightly different spreads, so to give you a few ideas I’ve listed them all below.

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The all-in birthday celebration. This was my first, AND it was for my birthday, so of course I went all out. I did focus on pasteurised cheeses and less charcuterie though as one of the guests was pregnant, but if that wasn’t the case all I would have done differently would be to add more charcuterie and choose different cheeses!

Serrano ham
Saucisson
Sliced cheddar
Classic bruschetta topping
Ricotta
Boursin cheese
Creamy chantarelles
Philadelphia with sunblush tomatoes
Large white beans with olive oil, garlic and smoked paprika 
Pea pesto
Fresh figs
Acacia honey 
Vanilla jelly
Truffle mayo
Grilled peppers in oil

Extra: two types of crisps, small carrots and cucumber to sticks, two dips, nocellara olives, prosecco, rosé and sparkling elderflower.

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The last minute spread with caprese salad. This was super last minute so we threw together what we found in the supermarket we passed on our way home.

Caprese salad (mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil and olive oil)
Thinly sliced truffle salami 
Creamy girolles
Grilled peppers in oil
Serrano ham
Creamy gorgonzola

On the side: fig jam, honey

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The greatest hits. When you have time to think about the spread and the supermarket has it all in stock (I’m looking at you burrata!). Perfect as a starter for four people.

Burrata, sliced red and yellow tomatoes, basil and olive oil 
Thinly sliced truffle salami 
Prosciutto
Philadelphia with sunblush tomatoes
Homemade pesto (just swap wild garlic for basil)
Grilled peppers in oil

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The pot luck spread. When the book club girls come over and you organise the spread together.

Burrata, sliced red and yellow tomatoes, basil and olive oil 
Philadelphia with sunblush tomatoes
Store-bought fresh pesto
Brie
Cranberry cheese 
Mild goat’s cheese log
Grilled peppers in oil
Chorizo
Saucisson
Salami
Prosciutto
Spansk soft rind cheese
Large Spanish beans in oil

Extra: two types of crips and dip 

Recipe: pea pesto for crostini

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For my little rooftop birthday party I made platters with crostini and topping, inspired by What’s Gaby Cooking, and I also made her pea pesto as I thought it was a nice addition to the spread.

It’s delicious on a crostini on it’s own, but also with ricotta or burrata and cured ham. I like that it’s fresh and filling (for a spread) and has a hint of spice to it!

Pea pesto spread, serves 6

Adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking’s recipe.

150 g frozen petit poi, thawed

a handful fresh basil (or mint)

1/2 garlic clove

3 tbsp grated parmesan

1/2 lemon, the juice

1/4 tsp chilli flakes 

salt and pepper

Mix together all of the ingredients in a food processor or using a stick blender, but not too fine as you want a little texture. Season to taste. Serve with crostini. 

Recipe: nachos with chicken and chorizo

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Sometimes I can really crave nachos. And most of the time I long for the ones I had at Yankee Stadium a few years ago. Although probably really processed the tasted divine!

But the next best thing are definitely homemade ones, and these with chicken and chorizo are absolutely delicious! Also, the secret is in the cheese sauce so although it takes a bit of labour it’s SO worth it!

Nachos with chicken and chorizo, serves 2

ca 150 g salted tortilla chips

75 g chorizo, cut small

1-2 fried chicken thigh fillets, cut small

oil for frying

2-3 handfuls grated cheese

Toppings:

1 batch cheese sauce

1 batch proper guacamole

1 jar creme fraiche

Garnish:

Chopped tomato

Sliced spring onions

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Fry the chorizo in oil on medium heat until they’re crispy. Add the chicken and let it absorb the chorizo flavoured oil.

Cover the base of an oven-proof dish with a thin layer of tortilla chips, top with cheese, chorizo and chicken. Repeat with another layer. Place in the oven for the cheese to melt, approx 5-10 minutes. 

Pour the cheese sauce on top (make this while the nachos are in the oven), guacamole, creme fraîche and the chopped vegetables.

Recipe: Queso fundido!

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Mexican cheese dip. With chorizo and peppers. Melting, bubbly and comforting. I simply cannot think of a better way to start a mid-week cold January supper with some of my closest friends. It was like a warming cheesy hug, telling us if we persevered we would get through the month. Et voila!, it’s February!

We also had prosecco, tacos and lots of fun, which helped.

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But back to the dip. It’s very easy to make and so satisfying to eat. But have plenty of napkins to hand as it is a little messy. Also, be patient and wait for the dip to be completely melted when you serve it. I would suggest putting it in the oven 30 minutes or so before the guests are due to arrive. You can always cover it with tin foil and lower the temperature to keep it hot and bubbling.

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The chorizo and peppers add a lot of flavour to the otherwise unexciting grated mozzarella (I was a little worried it wouldn’t be cheesy enough but it was). But I can’t help but thinking it could be made even better with the addition of jalapenos next time. Stay tuned…

Queso fundido, serves 4

75 g cooking chorizo, finely chopped

1/2 pepper, finely chopped

500 g grated mozzarella

oil for frying

a pinch of cayenne or other chilli powder

To serve: tortilla chips

Fry the chorizo in oil until crispy. Set aside and fry the pepper in the chorizo oil. Drain on kitchen roll. 

In an oven-proof dish, put a layer of cheese, then scatter chorizo and peppers on top and repeat the process until all ingredients are used up. Sprinkle with cayenne and put in a 200C oven until melted and bubbly (approx 40 mins). Serve immediately with tortilla chips.  

Recipe: crostini with mushroom spread

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This Finnish-Russian mushroom salad or spread is absolutely delicious. When it was first introduced to me by fellow food blogger Anna, I couldn’t believe it was made from only a few ingredients (fried mushrooms, smetana, dill and salt). It truly is one of those dishes where the sum if far far greater than its parts.

The fabulous recipe is courtesy or Swedish food writer Jens Linder and was published in one of the leading Swedish newspapers as a dish for Julbordet, i.e. the Christmas smorgasbord, but I prefer it like this, served on crostini as a pre-dinner snack, all year round.

Please note the recipe calls for smetana; the Russian version of creme fraiche/soured cream. If you can’t find it creme fraiche is a good substitute, but smetana works so well here it’s worth going out of your way to find it. Personally, I will place an order for some here next time I get a craving.

I also mixed fresh and dried mushrooms as I prefer the texture of the fresh ones but as it’s not mushroom season, they taste less than the dried porcini and black trumpets I have in my cupboard.

Mushroom salad, makes 1 batch (enough for 12 crostini which serves 3-4 people)

Translated from and adapted after Jens Linder’s recipe.

This salad is so delicious I would urge you to make a double batch straight away. That’s what I did, and it was the perfect amount for five hungry people as a pre-dinner snack.

600 ml fresh or frozen mushrooms, or 50 ml dried mushrooms

2-3 tbsp butter

plenty of sea salt flakes

4 tbsp finely chopped dill

300 ml smetana (or creme fraiche)

12 crostini

Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for ten minutes. Drain and discard the liquid. If using fresh or frozen mushrooms, finely chop these.

Fry the mushrooms in butter on medium heat until golden. Stir occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. 

Mix the now cool mushrooms with whole sea salt flakes, dill and smetana. The mixture should be plenty salty. Leave for a few hours in the fridge before serving. 

Divide between the crostini and serve. 

 

Dill-y hummus and pitta chips

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Dill works really well in hummus, I discovered this summer when I thought of trying it for a dinner party. It went down really well with my friends and especially with my best friend Emma who liked it so much she urged me to make it again a few days later when cooking at her house.

Dill-y hummus, serves 4-6

1 can (400 g) good quality chickpeas

100-150 ml nice olive oil

1 1/2 – 2 tbsp tahini

1/2 -1 lemon, the juice only

1 medium garlic clove

1 pot or a large bunch dill

plenty of salt and black pepper

Rinse the chickpeas and pour into a food processor bowl. Add 100 ml olive oil, 1 1/2 tbsp tahini, the garlic and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Mix for a good while until you have a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper and taste. Add more oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper – whatever you think is needed. Add the dill and mix again. Season to taste and adjust the flavours once more if needed. Place in fridge until serving. Keeps for 5 days in the fridge.  

Pitta chips, serves 4

5 pitta bread

olive oil

salt, black pepper

Cut the pitta breads into smaller pieces using a pair of scissors. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper (and any other seasoning you might like) and place in 200C oven for approx 10 minutes (until golden and crispy). Serve immediately.

Confit garlic bread

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I found a recipe for confit garlic in an issue of Bon Appetit and I liked the idea, but thought using butter as the recipe suggested seemed a bit risky so I did it my own way, with oil.

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It still amazes me how different garlic can taste depending on how it’s prepared. I love the sweetness from caramelised garlic and the punch of frying fresh chopped garlic with mushrooms for example. The confit garlic is somewhere in between the two; it’s less sweet than caramelised garlic but a lot softer in flavour than raw. I used the confit garlic to make garlic bread and it was, as I suspected, absolutely delicious!

Why not try wild garlic bread or cheesy garlic bread next?

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Confit garlic

1 whole garlic

approx 100 ml neutral oil

Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Peel the garlic and place the cloves in a ramekin. Cover with oil. Place in the oven until the garlic is soft, approx 30 minutes. Leave to cool. Remove the garlic. Save the oil for roasting potatoes and vegetables in the oven. Keeps in the fridge. 

Confit garlic bread

the confit garlic above

100 g salted butter, softened 

a bunch of parsley, finely chopped 

1 baguette or other preferred bread

Remove the garlic from the oil and mush into the butter. Add parsley and mix well.

Make slits in the bread and spread with the butter. Wrap in tin foil and bake for 10 minutes in 180C until the butter has melted. 

Place the remaining butter on a sheet of cling. Shape into a roll and place in the fridge or freezer. Use for garlic breads or as a flavoured butter for fish or meat.