Christmas Party Bites

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  Christmas Party Bites

 If there's any secret to good party food then it's to make sure the food is substantial and as freshly prepared as possible. A combination of around five snacks is more than adequate and you'll find fresh bread a better alternative to crackers. 

Christmas Party Bites

To Cook

Traditional Dry Spiced Beef 

This is the traditional dry spiced beef, but with so much to do and not enough time it may be more convenient to buy it already spiced, then follow the cooking instructions. 

  • 21/2-3kg (5-6 lbs) eye of the round, topside or silverside of beef
  • 75g (3 oz) brown sugar 
  • 25g (1 oz) black peppercorns 
  • 12g (1/2 oz) allspice berries 
  • 25g (1 oz) juniper berries 
  • 12g (1/2 oz) ground cloves 
  • 12g (1/2 oz) salt 
  • 12g (1/2 oz) saltpetre (available from pharmacies)

Serves 10 

To Prepare: Trim the beef. Next rub the beef all over with the sugar and leave it for two days in the fridge. 

Crush the peppercorns, allspice and juniper berries together in a mortar and pestle. Mix the beef thoroughly with the spices and other ingredients. 

Cover and store in the fridge for 6-7 days. Turn the beef daily in the mixture. 

To Cook: Place the beef in a deep casserole dish as near to its size as possible. Add 250ml (1/2 pt) water and cover tightly. Cook in a very low oven, Gas Mark 1, 140°C (275°F) for five hours. Leave it to cool in the liquid for 2-3 hours and then remove and wrap in tin foil. Store in the fridge. Serve with thin slices on brown bread with the Apricot and Almond Chutney.


Cocktail Sausages with Mustard & Honey 

Cook the sausages on the pan, then coat lightly with a mixture of whole-grain mustard and honey. They can be reheated in the oven before serving.


Apricot and Almond Chutney

This is wonderful with Spiced Beef 

  • 450g (1 lb) dried apricots, chopped (no soak are very convenient)
  • 225g (8 oz) brown sugar 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 500ml (1 pt) wine vinegar 
  • 1 cooking apple, chopped 
  • 2 tablesp. fresh root ginger, grated 
  • 1/2 tablesp. coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 75g ( 3 oz) almonds, blanched and roughly chopped 
  • Dash of Tabasco and salt

Makes 1 litre (2 pts) 

To Prepare: Mix all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for about an hour (don't over-cook). Spoon into warmed, sterilised jars. Seal immediately. The chutney will improve with keeping and it makes a great Christmas gift.


Bacon & Prawn Kebabs 

These are guaranteed to make any drinks party special 

Allow three uncooked prawns per person. 

Wrap each one in a small strip of streaky bacon. Grill just before serving for 3-4 minutes. Serve with herb dressing.

Herb Dressing 

  • 1 whole egg 
  • 1/2 teasp. mustard
  • Salt 
  • 250ml (1/2 pt) sunflower oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • 1 tablesp. soured cream 
  • 4 tablesp. basil, finely chopped or a mixture of chives and parsley 

To Prepare: Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Combine the egg, mustard and salt in the food processor. Then slowly pour in the oil. When the dressing is quite thick add the garlic, soured cream and herbs.


Marinated Roast Fillet of Beef with Herb Dressing on Crusty Bread

This is another special treat for a drinks party 

  • 1 kg (2 lbs) beef fillet, trimmed 


  • 2 tablesp. olive oil 
  • 2-3 slices fresh root ginger, chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
  • 2 tablesp. dry sherry 
  • 2 tablesp. soy sauce 

20 approx. open sandwiches

To Prepare: Start a day ahead. Mix the olive oil, ginger, garlic, sherry and soy sauce together. Place the fillet in a shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the meat. Cover and place in the fridge overnight, turn occasionally.

To Cook: Set oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C (400°F). Lift the meat onto a roasting tin. Reserve the marinade. Roast the fillet, allowing eight minutes per pound for rare and 10 minutes per pound for medium, or use a meat thermometer. Brush the fillet during cooking with the marinade. 

When the meat is cooked set aside until you are ready to assemble. The beef is best cooked on the day and still slightly warm. Thirty-40 minutes before serving place the beef on the bread and top with herb dressing.


Rillettes of Pork 

A delicious pâté, great for a drinks party 

  • 2kg (4 lbs) belly of pork, boned, rind removed, cut into slices 
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled 
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme, and 2-3 bay leaves 
  • 1 tablesp. black peppercorns plus 1 tablesp. coriander seeds, crushed 
  • Salt 
  • Water 

Serves 20

To Cook: Set oven to Gas Mark 1, 140°C (275°F). Place the pork in a casserole. Add the garlic, herbs, peppercorns, coriander, salt and enough water just to cover the pork. 

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven for 4-5 hours. When the meat is tender enough to be cut with a fork, turn it into a colander over a bowl and allow it to drain. Remove the herbs. Shred the meat while still warm with two forks to make a coarse pâté. Taste for seasoning. Pack into a serving dish. If you like, pour a little of the fat over the pâté to seal it. 

Leave in the fridge for at least a day before serving. Serve with warm bread. 

Cook's Notes: You can double or reduce this mixture as required. It freezes very well.