Call me a grumpy, musical Philistine if you like but I am heartily sick of Dave Dobbyn! It's not his fault, poor bloke; it's just having to listen to the same song played over and over by certain government departments as their "please hold; your call is important to us" music whenever I phone them. Once was pleasant, twice was bearable but when it comes up time after time it engenders in me the most "dis-Loyal" thoughts. Sorry Dave, love your work… really.
I harbour similar thoughts about cupcakes. If I see one more recipe for the showy and sugary little horrors I shall scream! As with Mr Dobbyn, the fault is not really theirs; today the cupcake seems merely an overdecorated baked bandwagon upon which legions of food writers, bakers and cafetiers have elected to ride. My aversion to the gaudy little confections may also come from my personal preference for a slice of simple fruit cake should a choice need to be made. In fact I would be quite content to forgo patisserie and confectionery altogether, having what I would call a "savoury tooth".
For one reason or another when Donna and I entertain, other than to lunch or dinner, it is usually after work in the evenings, rarely at a time when a pot of tea and a tiered stand of cupcakes would be suitable… or welcome. Usually the drink of choice at this time is wine or beer… and these are served with something savoury, easy to serve and eat; more often than not delights from our fridge and pantry.
We always have croustades to hand; rounds of baguette or ciabatta, brushed with olive oil, baked until crisp in the oven and stored if required in an airtight tin. These can be used as a base for bruschetta or for these simple and delicious spreads. We also have a packet or two of sliced pumpernickel rounds in the cupboard.
1½ cups good black olives – pitted – do this yourself, don't buy ready-pitted ones
¼ cup capers – rinsed and dried
8 anchovy fillets – drained on paper towel
4 cloves of garlic – peeled
1 bay leaf – finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cognac or other brandy – optional but recommended
1 tsp lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp chopped parsley
In a food processor blend all the ingredients except the parsley into a paste. Check for flavour and seasoning, adjusting where needed. Stir in the chopped parsley. Store covered with a thin layer of olive oil, in a jar in the fridge until required. It will last for two weeks.
This next recipe is a version of one that came to me from The Hungry Monk, a restaurant in Jevington, Sussex, England. Now sadly closed after 44 years, The Hungry Monk was the birthplace of the Banoffi Pie… its recipes live on.
30g anchovy fillets – drained on paper towel
2 cloves of garlic
400ml homemade mayonnaise – a good bought one will do if time is short
1tsp curry powder or paste
A generous grinding of black pepper
110g cooked prawns or shrimps – peeled and roughly chopped if large
110g crabmeat – frozen or tinned will do
110g tinned sardines – chopped
2 rollmops – finely chopped
Thin rings of green capsicum and red onion for garnish
In a processor or with a pestle and mortar, blend the garlic and anchovies into a paste. Add this paste to the mayonnaise together with the curry powder and black pepper and mix thoroughly. Stir in the fish and seafood and pile it on buttered pumpernickel with a squeeze of lemon and garnished with capsicum and onion slices. Alternatively serve The Snack in bowls with the bread and garnish on the side for guests to help themselves. If you can't get one or two of the seafood/fish ingredients, don't worry, just make up the amount with more of the others.
A less expensive delight and one that is best on hot toast is this… it doesn't really have a name, we call it
That Cream Cheese Pate with Bacon 'n' Walnuts 'n' Things
400g cream cheese
150g streaky bacon – cooked until crisp then crumbled
1 bunch spring onions – finely chopped
1 red capsicum – seeded and chopped
2 sticks of celery – stringed and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic – peeled and very finely chopped or crushed
30g shelled walnuts – toasted and chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
A generous grind of black pepper
Soften the cream cheese by beating it then mix in the other ingredients and serve piled on hot toast. We often serve it on slices of focaccia grilled on the barbecue while we wait for other things to cook.
There is a wealth of similar dishes for those with a savoury tooth, even those above can be tinkered with to suit one's taste or altered to create something new. Another good thing about these dishes is that all the effort goes into the taste… presentation isn't everything… unless you're a cupcake.