Category Archives: Appetizers & Nibbles

Food Monday ~ Caramelised Onion and Fennel

Caramelised Onion and Fennel

3 tbsp Olive oil
3 large onion, thinly sliced
2-3 bulbs of fennel, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan to a moderate heat. Add the sliced onion and fennel, salt and pepper and coat with the oil. Cover with a layer of greaseproof and replace the lid on the saucepan and reduce the heat a little. Allow the onion/fennel mix to sweat and soften for about 15 minutes. Remove the lid and paper, stir in the honey. Continue to cook the onions and stir occasionally as the onions begin to brown and have a sticky consistency. (about 15-20 minutes.)
At this stage, add a dash of Balsamic vinegar, cook for another 5 minutes.

While the onions are working their magic, wash the jars and lids and place them on their sides in a preheated oven 150°C for at least 10 mins.

Carefully remove the jars and fill with the onion mixture while still hot, cover & seal.

This recipe is very versatile, it can be used with salads, cold meats or as a topping for pizza.  It also works well on crackers with pre dinner drinks.


Food Monday ~ Duck Pâté

Duck Pâté
Preheat the oven to 180°C

1 duck breast, skinned and finely chopped
2ozs streaky bacon, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1oz butter
1 tsp lemon juice
1tblsp chicken stock
season to taste
1tblsp sherry

Melt the butter and fry the duck, bacon and onion, shallot & garlic until tender.  Put in food processor with the liquids and season to taste and blend until smooth.  Grease an ovenproof dish and pour in the pâté mixture. Stand the dish in a container with an inch of water.  Bake in a per-heated oven for about 1 hour.

Food Monday ~ A Strawberry Starter

Strawberry Starter
Serves 6

8 ozs fresh strawberries, cleaned and quartered
½ a medium cucumber, diced
1 small onion finely chopped
8 ozs Chorizo sausage finely sliced
½ teaspoon chopped mint
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
5 fluid ounces soured cream

To garnish: sprigs of mint

Mix all the ingredients except mint and cream. Chill.
Just before serving add the cream and chopped mint and toss to mix through.
Garnish with sprigs of mint and serve with melba toast.

Food Monday ~ Quick and easy Hummus

Quick and easy Hummus

4 cloves of garlic peeled and blanched in boiling water for 3 minutes
Can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1½ tablespoons water
½ teaspoon white wine
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro

Place the chick peas in a food processor. Add tahini & blanched garlic and pulse.
Add remaining ingredients and purée until smooth, then chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
Garnish with more paprika and Cilantro.

Food Monday ~ Kidney Bean Dip

Kidney Bean Dip

This is a very quick dish to make using a food processor with a metal chopping blade.

1 x 425g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 slices of pancetta

Place the first four ingredients in the processor bowl and whizz until smooth, then transfer to a serving dish.
Grill the pancetta until crisp and golden, then cool and crumble over the top of the dip.

To serve: Crusty bread or julienne strips of carrots, cucumber and sweet peppers.

Food Monday ~ Caramelised Red Onion Hummus

Elly shared this recipe with me a few weeks ago and I loved it.  There is only one problem….
One taste and I keep coming back for more!

Caramelised Red Onion Hummus

2 medium red onions
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar (or any dark brown sugar)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 x 220g can of chickpeas
1 garlic clove
3tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tsp olive oil

Peel and thinly slice the red onions.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat and gently soften the onions for 10 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and add in the balsamic vinegar and muscovado sugar, stir well and cook for 3 to 4 minutes and set aside.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in a mini chopper or food processor.
Add the crushed garlic and 3 tablespoons Greek yoghurt with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Add the red onion mixture in on top and blitz well until smooth.

Food Monday ~ Dips

One of the pleasures that Elly brought home from her year in France was the tradition to sit with an aperitif and appetizers before beginning or sometimes during the preparation of the evening meal. The variety of nibbles are endless: Saucisson, olives, roasted peppers, hummus, tapenades or dipping oils with chunks of French sticks, triangles of pitta bread, melba toasts or crisps.

Today I have two very different Dips for you.  With a blender or food processor they are ready in seconds.

Baba Ghanoush

1 large aubergine
4 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons tahina (sesame seed paste)
1 lemon
Parsley sprigs to garnish

Prick the aubergine all over and grill, turning frequently, until the skin is charred all over.  Remove the skin, rinsing in cold water.
Place the aubergine and all the other ingredients in a food processor and season to taste.  Process until smooth, then transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with parsley.


Banana Boat

225g cream cheese
2 x 15ml spoons natural yoghurt
2 bananas, mashed
2 x 15ml spoons sweet brown chutney
1 x 5ml spoon lemon juice
twist of lemon to garnish

Place the cheese and yoghurt in a food processor and blend for 30 seconds.  Add the mashed bananas, chutney and lemon juice and process until smooth.  Spoon into a serving dish.
Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Food Monday ~ Cream Cheese Penguins

Cream Cheese Penguins

This is a recipe that I have been holding for some time.  It came from Nancy.
She even sent a picture.

Don’t they look adorable?

18 jumbo black olives, pitted
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
18 small black olives
1 carrot

Cut a slit from top to bottom, lengthwise, into the side of each jumbo olive. Carefully insert about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese into each olive. Slice the carrot into eighteen ¼ inch thick rounds; cut a small notch out of each carrot slice to form feet. Save the cut out piece and press into centre of small olive to form the beak. If necessary cut a small slit into each olive before inserting the beak.

Set a big olive, large hole side down, onto a carrot slice. Then, set a small olive onto the large olive, adjusting so that the beak, cream cheese chest and notch in the carrot slice line up. Secure with a toothpick.

You can add scarves and hats by using fresh red pepper strips, or canned pimentos cut into different shapes. Frilly toothpicks really finish them off.

Food Monday ~ Colourful Crisps

Apple Chips

Preheat the oven to 130°C

To ensure crispness, slice the apples as thinly as possible all around the apple.  I like to use a potato peeler for this. Slice one side and then turn the apple 1⁄4 of the way and slice then keep going. The slices don’t have to be uniform. When did you last buy a bag of crisps to find they were all a uniform size?

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 Granny Smith or other tart apples, thinly sliced

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place the sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix well. Add the apple slices and toss until most of both sides of the apples are well coated.  Place the apples, in a single layer, on to the baking sheets, transfer to the oven and bake until lightly browned and just crisp, about 2 hours. Set aside to cool and then transfer to a jar or plastic bag.


Beetroot Crisps

Preheat the oven to 200°C

For a really simple treat, slice it really thinly, brush with oil and roast in the hot oven until you get sweet beetroot crisps,

NB: Note the difference in the oven temperatures here Apples go in a cool oven and the beetroot needs a hot oven, so no chance of baking them at the same time.

Food Monday ~ Cheese Balls

Two for the price of one today.

Parsley Applewood Cheese Balls

100g Smoked Applewood cheese, grated
2 x 5ml spoons any relish
4-5 x 15ml spoons freshly chopped parsley

Mix the grated cheese and relish to make a thick paste.  Spread the chopped parsley on a flat plate.  Form the cheese mixture into 10-12 small balls.  Roll in the chopped parsley, making sure that they are well coated.  Place on a serving dish and spear with cocktail sticks.


Prawn Balls

100g peeled prawns
50g cream cheese
1 x 5ml spoon lemon juice
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
50g walnuts, very finely chopped

Chop the prawns finely, then mix in the cream cheese and lemon juice.  Season to taste.  Place the chopped nuts on a flat plate.  Shape the prawn mixture into 16 small balls, then roll in the chopped nuts, making sure that they are well coated.  Place on the serving dish and spear with cocktail sticks.