Let’s put party into pie

Ringing in the New Year with a big group? Roz Crowley offers some of her favourite sweet (and sour) recipes for dinner

I’M GOING all retro for this New Year’s Eve, bringing back the great taste of sweet and sour. It can be a strange night and quite a moveable feast. People come and go, bringing extra friends and relatives to ring in the new year.

The key with food is flexibility, so choosing a relaxed menu is essential. This means avoiding a roast or anything that can’t be heated up easily. This is where a pie comes into its own.

One big pie works well, but if you think a few will come in handy at different times, divide the pie mixture into several so you can cook them as needed, using bought puff pastry or making a simple shortcrust, adding a handful of sesame seeds for interest as I have below. You could also not put a pie crust on top at all and serve the sweet and sour pork and chicken with bread or mashed or baked potatoes.

Starters are easy with seasonal bruschetta and my own ginger meringues for dessert cannot go wrong. They can be served with hot chocolate sauce as I have given here, or chocolate ice-cream. I have more party ideas on my blog at rozcrowley.com.

Seasonal bruschetta

Warm toppings for toasted baguettes are ideal to hand around with drinks or have more formally on a plate with a shredded cabbage salad or make substantial bruschetta with the wonderful pulled pork or celeriac remoulade — recipe below.

Some are just about assembling good ingredients, and taste as wonderful as they are simple. You could have a satisfying party just producing some of these every few hours. Top toasted baguette with:

1. Soft goats cheese mashed with olive oil, sprinkled with toasted almond slivers

2. Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms (equal weight of each) and garlic all sliced and cooked in olive oil until tender — 15 mins.

3. Pork belly cooked for two hours at 170c, will be so tender it can be pulled apart. Mix it with chutney and shredded cabbage with mayo or celeriac remoulade (recipe below). This is good burger-style too between bun halves.

4. Smoked fish — mackerel, salmon, herring are all delicious with a blob of mayo mixed with a dash of regular or Japanese horseradish (wasabi).

Celeriac remoulade

Celeriac, the gnarled and unattractive round vegetable, is in season and so large it goes a long way. This recipe makes the best of it. Once cut, it needs to be mixed quickly in lemon juice to stop it discolouring. Made this way, it will keep for a day.

500g celeriac (raw)

Juice 1 lemon

4 heaped tbsp mayonnaise

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp chopped parsley

Grate the celeriac thickly, or cut into matchsticks and mix well with the lemon juice first then all the other ingredients. Serve on bread topped with a slice of ham or pork, or smoked fish.

Sweet and sour pork and chicken pie

Serves 6-8.

Lamb, beef or vegetable chunks are also good in this sauce.

500g pork steak or stewing pork pieces

500g chicken pieces

2 tbsp vegetable oil

5cm fresh ginger, grated

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 chopped chilli, finely sliced

4 tbsp tomato chutney

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp cornflour

350ml water

2 tbsps brown sugar

1. Slice the pork and chicken thinly. Any cut of meat will do. I like a mixture of a pork steak and some stewing pieces and chicken leg and breast meat. Any of them on its own is fine, but the mix makes for an interesting texture. Fry in the oil until browned all over.

2. Add the ginger and garlic and toss around 30 seconds.

3. Mix the cornflour with a few tablespoons of water and add to the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Stir until the mixture comes to the boil and thickens a little. Place over very low heat with a lid on, or in the oven at 150c for an hour.

4. Allow to cool before putting the pastry lid on, or serve with bread, potatoes, rice, noodles or penne pasta.

Seedy shortcrust pastry

200g pain flour

100g ground rice

4 tbsp sesame seeds

Half teasp salt

100g butter

100g vegetable fat (Cookeen)

2 tbsps cold water

The ground rice gives this pastry some crunch, but all plain flour works well too. All butter can also be used, but the vegetable fat makes the pastry crisper. In a blender mix the dry ingredients together first, then add the butter and fat and the water, pulsing gently until the pastry comes together in a ball. Roll onto a floured surface to fit the pie dish. This amount will do about 1.5l size.

To assemble the pie, rub the edge of the pie dish with water, then place the pastry on top of the cooled pie mixture and press to seal, cutting away excess. This can be re-rolled to make fancy shapes for decoration. Make a couple of incisions in the pastry to allow cooking steam to escape. Brush with vegetable oil to help it brown. Bake at 200c for 25 minutes or until browned.

Ginger meringues

Makes 20-25

3 egg whites

150g caster sugar or 200g icing sugar

100g crystallised ginger

1. Preheat the oven to 150c.

2. Line 3 baking trays with silicone paper.

3. Cut the ginger into tiny squares.

4. In a perfectly clean and dry bowl start whisking the egg whites to loosen them up, then add the sugar. Keep whisking until the mixture holds its shape. Add the ginger.

5. Drop small spoonfuls onto the baking trays and place in the oven.

6. Bake for 45 minutes or until nicely crisp. Larger meringues may need up to an hour. To prevent the meringues from cracking, allow to sit in the oven for 10 minutes as it cools down, then remove and peel the silicone paper off the meringues.

7. Serve drizzled with hot chocolate sauce or sandwich with chocolate ice-cream. Another alternative is to leave the sauce on the table so that the meringues can be dipped in.

Chocolate sauce

100g dark chocolate (70%)

1 heaped teaspoon butter

200ml cream

Bring the cream to the boil. Take off the heat and add the chocolate and butter.

Mix until the chocolate has melted fully. Serve hot or cold.

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