You might remember reading one of my latest Christmas blog posts, where I talked all about entertaining at Christmas time. If not, don’t worry, I can narrow this down. The best way to please your guests, friends of family, is to feed them as soon as they walk through the front door. My aim is to get everyone going on some food, a few swigs of Prosecco and they will all be relatively content until he food is underway. This is usually always because I am running behind with the meal! My favourite thing to make, serve and eat as an arrival snack is party vol-au-vents. They are relatively easy to make, can be made before and just thrown in the oven when you need them and are always such a crowd pleaser. I think the main attraction with them is the size and temperature. They are big enough to make anyone feel happy before eating, however not big enough by any means to make someone feel full and ruin their appetite. I also think it is really nice to serve something warm and comforting upon arrival, purely because at this time of year most people will have been in the cold before arrival and will want something that makes them feel warm and happy again!
The best thing about this recipe is that they can be prepared hours before and thrown in the oven when you need them. They are an all round crowd pleaser and just something to make everyone feel comforted after battling the cold weather before arrival.
For my vol-au-vents I usually prepare three different flavours. This may sound like a lot of work, but all in all they are very simple to make and it just takes an extra few minutes for a each. It is so worth it in the end, as you can present an option for your guests and obviously it also means that you have three different types of leftovers for you to devour once everyone has left. The three flavours I choose are based on a variation, trying to get a mixture of everything, as well as the things that I enjoy eating myself. They are by no means extra adventurous or crazy in their flavourings, but they are all equally delicious and there is definitely something for everybody. There was a little bit of a mix up when I made these to shoot, so I landed up making them twice, hence why their might be a slight variation between the images! The second time I also tried to make them a little more festive so I hope you don’t get thrown! Trust me they are really easy!
Christmas Party Vol-Au-Vents
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes
Makes: 6 vol-au-vent
75g Ready Made Puff Pastry & Extra Butter (this means that for each filling you will have about 25g of pastry for each)
*I choose to use shop bought pastry as I have always found that it is much easier and tastes just as good. The few times that I have made my own it has been so much more work than it is worth and no one seemed to notice at all!
Then for the fillings:
3 Chestnut Mushrooms sliced // 2tbsp Double Cream // ½ Handful finely chopped Tarragon // 1tsp fresh Lemon Juice
Bacon & Smoked Cheese
80g Smoked Bacon Lardons // 1tbsp White Wine // ½ Onion finely chopped // 1tbsp Double Cream // 50g Smoked Applewood Cheese, grated
Prawn & Spiced Tomatoes
100g Raw King Prawns // 90g Cherry Tomatoes chopped in half // ¼ Fresh Red Chilli finely chopped // ½ tsp Mild Chilli Powder // 1tsp ground Cumin
I always start by preparing the pastry. Heat the oven to 200 degrees (180 fan), ready for the vol-au-vents to be baked. Obviously, if you are choosing to bake them later, pre-heat the oven when needed. Start by rolling out your pastry, using plenty of flour to avoid it sticking, and flatten it until it is about the width of a pound coin. This is a comparison I learnt from the famous and fabulous Mary Berry. On a baking tray, grease and line with greaseproof paper so the vol-au-vents can cook on it.
Depending on how you would like to present your vol-au-vents, this is when they need to be shaped. I chose to do Christmas tree shaped ones, which is very easy to achieve, as long as you have a fair sized tree stencil. If you want to opt for something more simple, you can simply cut them into square, circles or set them in a cupcake mould. Split the pastry you have rolled out into 6 equal pieces. With my recipe, I then cut the pastry, using the stencil, and just put the excess back in the fridge. Place the pastry on the lined baking tray ready for the fillings.
Start making the fillings. You can easily make one at a time, as they will re-heat in the oven. I would always suggest making the mushrooms first, followed by the bacon, as ideally you don’t want prawns hanging around for too long.
In a small saucepan, heat a little olive oil and a small knob of butter. Once bubbling, add the mushrooms, followed by the tarragon, lemon juice and a little salt and pepper. On a low heat, gently cook the mushrooms for five minutes. Once soft, add the cream and keep on the heat for a further two minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside in a cool bowl.
*Feel free to add your own variation of herbs and spices depending on your taste palette. I always choose lemon and tarragon as I really do think it is a match made in heaven. I am not the biggest fan of mushrooms, however do enjoy eating them when they are partnered with quite strong flavours.
Bacon & Smoked Cheese
In a small frying pan, heat a little oil and small knob of butter. Once bubbling, on a medium heat, add the onion followed by salt and pepper. Gently fry for about five minutes until the onions are soft a bit more golden in colour. Then, add the bacon and fry again until they have changed to a lighter pink colour. Add the wine and cook again until they start to crisp a little. Add the cream, keep on the heat for about two minutes, then remove and place in a cool bowl. The grated cheese will be added later.
Prawn & Spiced Tomato
In a small frying pan, heat a little oil and butter. On a medium to low heat, add the cherry tomatoes with some salt and pepper. Fry for a minute or so, then add the chilli and dried spices. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes are softer. Add the delicious prawns to the tomatoes and cook until the prawns have changed in colour and have shrunk in size. Be careful not to overcook them as they will be chewy. Set aside in a cool bowl.
Now that all the fillings are made, get ready to get everything together. The vol-au-vents really don’t need that much filling inside as you want them to be bite size and the pastry to rise around the edge. Place about a teaspoon amount of each filling in the centre of the pastry, which is more of a line formation with the Christmas trees. The only one that needs an extra addition is the bacon one. Simple top with the grated cheese. If you have extra filling available, which is very likely, feel free to make a few more, or simply indulge in them all on their own!
Place the vol-au-vents in the oven to bake for around 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them as you just want the pastry to rise and have a beautiful golden colour. I would generally serve them straight away, however if you don’t’ feel free to heat them under the grill for five minutes or so. I would be careful with the prawn ones however, as I don’t really like re-heating fish.
*If you would like to add a little gloss to the pastries, beat one egg in a bowl and paint around the edges of the pastry so that the glow comes out whilst they bake.