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Croquetas, spicy nuts and cheese straws: Ravinder Bhogal’s recipes for party snacks

·4 min read

There’s nothing worse than cocktails without nibbles, and nothing messier, either, so be kind, stock up and get cooking. Party snacks don’t have to be overly fussy, but good ones should involve a little more effort than a bowl of crisps, a few cubes of cheese or shrivelled sausages on sticks. Buy in great charcuterie, bread and cheese, by all means, but there’s definitely a charm to making some universally popular party stalwarts from scratch. From moreish spiced nuts to cheese straws with a fruity, chutney twist, these easy-peasy pleasers will keep your guests’ tongues wagging (and mouths watering).

Lime leaf and togarashi spiced nuts

Your family shouldn’t be the only mixed nuts at the Christmas table. These nuts, fragrant with lime leaves, make an excellent edible gift, too.

Related: How to make the perfect Basque cheesecake – recipe

Prep 15 min
Cook 15 min
Makes 500g

Rapeseed oil, for deep-frying
40 makrut lime leaves, stalks removed (I buy them frozen from my local Asian supermarket, and much prefer them to the dried variety)
3 tsp sea salt
3 tsp togarashi
The zest of
2 limes
1 egg white
15g caster sugar
500g mixed nuts
– I use a mix of cashews, pecans, walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts

Heat the oil in a pan, then fry the lime leaves for 20 seconds, until crisp. Drain and dry on kitchen paper, then put in a mortar and crush with sea salt. Mix in the togarashi and lime zest.

Heat the oven to 150C (130C fan)/300F/gas 2. Whisk the egg white in a large bowl until you have firm peaks, then gradually whisk in the sugar to combine. Stir in the lime leaf mix and nuts, spread on an oven tray and roast, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool, then break into pieces and serve. The spiced nuts will keep in an airtight container for a week.

Goat’s cheese and beetroot croquetas

Crisp, deep-fried bechamel is always a good idea. These croquetas, oozing with goat’s cheese and dyed jewel-purple with beetroot, are the perfect festive party bite.

Prep 20 min, plus chilling
Freeze 1 hr
Cook 10 min
Makes About 15

For the filling
75g unsalted butter
100g plain flour
400ml hot milk
150g soft goat’s cheese
1 large cooked beetroot
, peeled and grated
Sea salt and pepper
Nutmeg

For the coating
125g panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
, beaten
3 tbsp flour
Groundnut oil, for deep-frying

In a medium pan, melt the butter, then add the flour and cook, stirring, for three minutes. Gradually pour in the milk, and cook until you have a thick, white sauce. Bubble for a minute, stirring constantly, then take off the heat and fold through the goat’s cheese and beetroot. Season with sea salt, pepper and a good grating of nutmeg, then cover and chill until firm.

Once the mix is firm, shape into 3cm balls with wet hands and put on a lined baking sheet. Freeze for an hour.

Lay the panko, eggs and flour in three separate shallow dishes. Carefully roll each ball in flour, then in beaten egg and then roll in panko.

Heat the oil until it browns a cube of bread in 30 seconds, then fry the croquetas in batches for two minutes, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.

Mango chutney cheese straws

There are few things more pleasing at a party than a cheese straw accompanied by a cocktail. If you fancy something a little zingier, switch the mango chutney for lime pickle.

Prep 25 min
Chill 10 min
Cook 15 min
Makes About 20

Plain flour, to dust
1 x 320g sheet all-butter puff pastry
2 tbsp mango chutney – I love the one made by Tracklements (or lime pickle, if you prefer)
75g extra-mature cheddar, finely grated
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tsp nigella seeds

Line two large baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Generously flour a work surface and unroll the pastry on to it so one of the short edges is nearest you. Spread the chutney over the top half of the pastry, then sprinkle two-thirds of the cheddar over the chutney. Fold up the lower half of the pastry to enclose the filling.

Roll the filled pastry to a roughly 18cm x 35cm rectangle about 3mm thick. Brush with egg yolk, then sprinkle over the remaining cheese and the nigella seeds. Slice across the width into 2cm strips and gently twist each one into a spiral. Arrange on the lined sheets and chill for 10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C)/390F/gas 6. Cook the straws for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature.

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