Pump Up the Vol-au-Vent: How to Prepare Party Food at the Supermarket | cooks

How do I mix store-bought stuff for an easy party food?
Alison, Canterbury
“We all lack time, and who has the patience to make 50 quail eggs?” “But ready-made appetizers and dips can be a little lackluster,” says Amy Poon, who runs Poon’s London. Fortunately, she adds, “it’s greatly enhanced by a homemade dressing or a handful of herbs.” This doesn’t mean you have to get all fancy: The dip, for example, is much better with just a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of flavored oil (pepper or garlic, for example) and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro or parsley.

Marinated soy sauce is just the ticket to “liven up cooked store-bought prawns for a marinade.” Bun gets into a heatproof bowl and adds 100ml of light soy, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 minced red pepper, 1 clove of garlic finely chopped, 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro, some seasoning and sesame oil. Combine with 2 tablespoons of heated neutral oil and you’re good to go.

Peanut butter also has a method with jars: Simply mix two tablespoons of peanut butter with one tablespoon each of light soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, one teaspoon of sugar, and finally, four drops of toasted sesame oil. “I usually use this sauce to top noodles,” says Boone, “but it can elevate almost anything, from cooked chicken nuggets to summer rolls and scrambled bread dishes.”

If you’ve had canned fish, you’re on your way to the party plate; Devon-based chef Mitch Tonks says small fish with big flavor are perfect for garnishing things like biscuits. “Try some cream cheese, some canned mackerel, chopped shallots, capers, parsley, and maybe some red onion,” says the founder of the Rockfish Restaurant Group. “A good dollop of unsalted butter with baby shallot slices and really nice salted anchovies is really nice. And mixing canned tuna with a little Olivier salad is always fun.”

Nobody wants to deal with cutlery at gatherings, so take a stab at Stevie Barley’s sweet and salty demons on horseback. “My grandfather always made them at Christmas,” says the chef, owner of Pastayo Restaurant in London. “I was dealing with as many as I could.” Soak 18 plums (“large, soft plums”) in a saucepan of Earl Gray for 1 hour (slightly longer for “dried” fruit), remove the stones, and replace them with a quarter of chestnuts. Roll the plums in a bacon pie or striped bacon and lay them flat Convenient in a tray.” Pour 75ml red wine vinegar, sprinkle with chili flakes and bake for 10 minutes, until bacon is crisp. (The remaining peaches can be steeped in brandy and eaten on porridge—”you’ll thank me.”)

If you’d like a little more cooking, Ollie Templeton suggests turning the pita into Brides (The pockets are stuffed with meat, which is famous in the Levant). “Mix the minced lamb, harissa and grated tomato,” says the executive chef and co-founder of Carousel in London, “then put it in the pita. Grill and brush with butter as it cooks until golden.” Cut into slices and serve with spiced yogurt. Now they are surely to entertain you.

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