Christmas is a food holiday, but New Year’s Eve is all about the drinking. Still reeling from the stacks of leftovers from Christmas stashed in the refrigerator, the last thing I want to do is really busy myself in the kitchen and make more food, so the kind of nibbles that friends are going to get when they come over must be low-effort, but should deliver quite high on taste.
Prepping in advance is key when it comes to appetiser-planning. I certainly don’t want to be caught in the kitchen rather than with my guests, so anything that requires me to be in there too long will have to be done in advance. There’s already cleaning, laying the table, prepping the glasses, bringing out the bubbly; it has to be Chandon, and making sure that there’s enough of The Party Starter to go around for the entire night.
For vegetarian friends coming over, I have malfatti pasta, which is loosely translated as “poorly made” pasta. It’s reminiscent of gnocchi or gnudi, only made with ricotta, or in my case malai paneer, which is quickly pan-roasted before the guests arrive and turned into bite-sized nibbles, toothpicks and all, with sun-dried tomato paste and a basil leaf on top. Creamy, tangy and bright from the basil, this appetiser is going to fly faster than you think. The sun-dried tomato spread can come from a brand like The Gourmet Jar, or you could blitz shop-bought sun-dried tomatoes with dried toasted chillies, parmesan, fresh herbs and a good glug of oil to make a homemade version. If making oven-dried tomatoes at home, bake a tray of chopped tomatoes for 3-4 hours low and slow at 90 degrees Celsius. These hors d’oeuvres also look really elegant in platters with flute glasses filed with Chandon Brut Rose.
Since you can’t throw a party without a dip on the table, this one’s made especially for New Year’s Eve. Since this year was all about making black things cool again, my black garlic and charred onion dip is perfect. It’s not a creamy mayo/yoghurt/cheese dip with herbs, though feel free to make some of that too, but it’s a kicker of a dip where the mellowness of black garlic marries so well with the sweetness of alliums and bitterness of fruity, extra virgin olive oil. Serve with seeded lavash which I’m sure you can find easily.
Good quality dates are the most common gifting option nowadays and post-Diwali I’m always knee deep in those boxes trying to segregate the good stuff from the bad. When you have good dates on-hand though, you’ve got to put out these dates stuffed with paneer and chaat masala. Heating the dates slightly on a flat tawa or griddle pan softens the dates, which turn cold, hard candy dates into the most velvety smooth bite. The chaat masala and paneer are there for the punch and that added oomph. I’ve also tried this with a mixture of amchoor and anardana powder and it’s just as great. Pair these with the Chandon Brut Rose.
Boiled eggs might be great by themselves, sure, but fry em up coated in a spicy batter of besan (roasted chickpea flour) and spices, and they taste infinitely better. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. Serve with some green chutney on the side. If you need a recipe for this, click here. The eggs will always pair well with a Chandon Brut, which really brings out the creamy, fruity elements of the foods that it’s paired with. If you have any shop bought tart cases on hand, chop up a few strawberries and layer it with some salty feta. Pour over a simple sugar syrup on top with just a touch of something like Cointreau and serve these with the Chandon Brut as a little sweet treat between snacks.
Finally, the only slightly tougher appetiser to make that would require a bit of prep, are these doughnuts with fried chicken and kewpie mayo. They’re quite indulgent, but also if you have young people over who can’t say no to doughnuts or fried chicken, this unusual pairing will keep them coming back to the table to fetch seconds. The doughnuts are dusted with blitzed brown sugar once they are out of the oil, then sandwiched, or toothpick-ed with a piece of fried chicken and smeared with a bit of kewpie mayo which is packed with umami. They’re just the best and I’d eat them all by myself if I could, but I shouldn’t.
Malai Paneer Malfatti With Sun-dried Tomato and Basil
Yield 20 pieces
These bite-sized pastas are similar to gnocchi, and super simple to make by hand. I make them with malai paneer, parmesan and semolina, boil, then toss them in brown butter and toothpick it with sundried tomato paste and basil leaves.
Malai paneer 500g
All-purpose flour 80g
Egg yolks 4
Coriander 30g, chopped
Parmesan 60g, grated
Fine semolina for dusting
Garam masala 1/4 tsp
Zest from 1 lemon
Garlic 2 cloves
Sun-dried tomato paste 1 jar, from a brand like The Gourmet Jar to read above for instructions on how to make your own
Basil 1 packet, leaves picked and refreshed in ice-cold water
Mix together the malai paneer, all-purpose flour, egg yolks, coriander, parmesan, garam masala and lemon zest in a bowl. Divide the Malfatti into 20 pieces or more if you divide them into smaller pieces.
Dust a tray with the fine semolina and roll each of the malfatti pieces over the semolina and set aside. Once you are done doing this for the all apportioned malfatti, keep them in a plate, dust some more semolina on top and transfer to the refrigerator and let it chill for a good hour.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and once it is boiling, salt the water. Transfer the malfatti carefully into the salted water. When the malfatti float after a minute or two, use a slotted spoon to drain them.
Right before serving, in a frying pan, heat the butter until it is frothing and slowly but surely starting to smell nutty and toffee-like. Add the garlic and the malfatti to the pan and toss to cook in the brown butter briefly before taking it off the flame.
Spread 1/2 tsp full of sun-dried tomato spread over each of the malfatti and toothpick with the basil leaf on top. Serve with glasses of Chandon Brut Rose.
The black garlic and charred onion dip requires black garlic, which is a special ingredient available via Mo’s Superfoods by Moina Oberoi, which also sell products like Kefir. To make the dip, blitz together 2 heads of black garlic, 2 small-sized red onions that have been charred on the stovetop or in an oven till black, then peeled. Add 4 fresh cloves of garlic, the juice of a whole lime, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Thin this dip out with a bit of water if it’s too thick. Serve with seeded lavash or crackers.
For the dates, de-seed about 15 of them. Crumble 200g of paneer by hand and sprinkle over chaat masala, a bit of rock salt and black pepper. Taste the paneer to adjust the filling and stuff into the cavities left behind by the date’s seeds. Heat the dates over low heat over a tawa till heated all the way through right before serving.
Batter Fried Boiled Eggs
Yield 12 halves
Batter-fry plain ol boiled eggs dipped in a chilli and besan (roasted chickpea flour) slurry to make a fiery outer coating for the eggs, then wash it all down with a sip of Chandon Brut.
Besan or roasted chickpea flour 3 tablespoons
Rice flour 1 tbsp
Dry red chillies 4
Ginger 1/2 inch piece
Garlic 5 cloves
Salt and pepper
Water as needed
Green chutney to serve
Chopped rings of onion to serve
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and once the water is at a rolling boil, add the eggs slowly one at a time and boil the eggs for 9 minutes exactly.
At the end of 9 minutes, drain the eggs from the water and immediately flash them in an ice water bath to stop it from cooking any further.
While the eggs cool, in a mixer grinder, blitz the dry red chillies, ginger, garlic and a bit of water to grind everything together to a paste.
Transfer the paste to a bowl and add the roasted chickpea flour and rice flour, salt and pepper, then add just a wee bit of water to the bowl to make a slurry thick enough to coat the egg.
In a kadai or a wok, heat a few generous glugs of vegetable oil and once the oil is hot enough and shimmering, dip each egg into the batter to coat the egg and lower it in the oil to fry till golden. Take the eggs out of the oil and slice them before serving, with rings of chopped onions and green chutney on the side.
Doughnuts with Sriracha fried chicken
Yield 12-15 pieces depending on how big or small you cut your doughnuts
The sweet-savoury and spicy combo of this unusually delicious snack will really turn heads at the party, not to mention that it's such a guilty pleasure that kids and adults alike will love them.
Instant dried yeast 7g
All-purpose flour 250g
Caster sugar 30g
Salt 3/4 tsp
Eggs 2 small
Butter 50g, room temperature
Brown sugar 100g, blitzed
Vegetable oil 1 litre
For the fried chicken
Boneless chicken breasts 4, salted and refrigerated overnight
All-purpose flour 1 1/2 cups
Corn flour 1/3 cup
Chilli powder 1 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Pepper 1 tsp
Homemade curd 1 cup
Sriracha 3 tbsp
Kewpie mayo a few tablespoons (available at gourmet food stores)
Heat the milk in a microwave for 15-20 seconds till it is warm to the touch but not hot. Dissolve the yeast in the milk and set this aside to proof.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar and salt together. Mix on medium speed until the dough starts to come together as a rough and shaggy dough. Add the eggs one by one and continue combining until each of them is well incorporated. Let the stand mixer continue running on medium speed for 5 whole minutes.
After 5 minutes are up, start adding the butter to this mixture piece by piece until all the butter has been added. Turn up the stand mixer’s speed to a medium-high and continue kneading for another 6 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smoother than before. Tip the dough into a well-greased bowl and leave it in a warm place for an hour to double in size. Punch down the dough after an hour is up and then you can continue the proofing process in the refrigerator overnight or proceed to make the doughnuts right away.
If working with the overnight proofing, you want to salt and refrigerate your chicken now.
The next day, begin by turning the dough out on a surface that has been well-floured and roll out the doughnut dough. Cut out circles using a round cookie cutter or form into little balls if you’re going to serve them as mini doughnut balls with fried chicken and transfer to a plate covered with a muslin cloth for another 20-30 minutes to rise in a warm place.
For the chicken’s flour batter, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornflour, chilli powder, salt and pepper in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, curd and Sriracha. Chop up the chicken into pieces and working a few pieces at a time, lightly roll the pieces in the dry mixture and set on a wire rack. Do this for all the pieces.
Next up, transfer 3 tablespoons of the liquid egg mixture into the dry mixture and loosely bear-claw your way into the mixture allowing for the formation of clumps and shaggy bits. Now pick up few pieces of the chicken, dip them in the egg mixture and add to the crumbly dough, pressing bits of the dough onto the chicken’s surface, then transferring it back to the wire rack. Once you’ve done this, chill the chicken pieces for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, your doughnuts should be ready to be fried, so place two kadais side-by-side filled with a few glugs of vegetable oil for deep-frying. Once the oil is hot for the doughnuts, slide it in one circle at a time, allowing the doughnut to puff up and start browning on one side, before flipping it using a slotted spoon so the other side can brown too, about 1 minute on each side. Drain the donuts on paper towels, using another set of hands to dust the doughnuts with blitzed brown sugar.
For the chicken, slide a few pieces into the hot oil for the chicken letting the pieces turn a light golden before draining these on paper towels as well. To sandwich, either fold the doughnut into half like a bao with a piece of chicken inside or skewer the doughnut balls and the chicken and add a smidgen of mayo on top encouraging guests to pour over some more to serve.