Donal Skehan’s New Year cocktail party menu — filo prawn cups, cheat’s fondue, festive chicken tagine and a pink Negroni Sbagliato
For many of us, there is a lot to get through around the festive season: work parties, family gatherings, outings with the kiddos and, of course, tackling the leftovers after the big day. All great reasons to blow it all away with one big last hurrah to ring in the New Year.
hether it’s just for you and your loved ones or a larger get-together, I have the recipes that will make your New Year’s cocktail party a cinch to prepare.
First up, a bit of a showstopper in the form of a ‘cheat’s fondue feast’. No faffing around with fancy fondue kits — instead, wheels of melting Irish cheese baked in a low-sided casserole. Serve it with lots of little accompaniments like crusty bread, charcuterie and cornichons, and you have a truly impressive starter that can be served as guests mingle, or else served straight to the table.
Speaking of mingling, the ubiquitous party canapé gets a retro makeover in the form of these little prawn cocktail bites. The filo cases and the prawn filling can be made in advance and prepped last-minute without too much fuss. The perfect nostalgic bite!
If you do need something more substantial to feed your crowd, choose a dish that can be made ahead and served warm in a bowl. I like to serve this festive chicken tagine with jewelled herby couscous, not only because it can be made at least three days in advance but also because I like to believe that in a couple of days, the rich, spiced sauce permeates the meat, making it all the more flavourful!
Set it up buffet-style and let your guests help themselves.
Lastly, a little something to get the party started. I swear I wrote this recipe for a pink version of the classic before Negroni Sbagliato had a moment on TikTok with the viral voiceover from House of the Dragon star Emma D’Arcy.
Anyway, despite it seemingly being the drink of 2022, I give you the pink Negroni Sbagliato, which replaces regular Prosecco with the pink variety, though of course you could use a sparkling rosé here also.
Either way, it will put a little pep in the step of any partygoer this festive season!
Cheat’s Fondue Feast
Cook time: 20 minutes. Serves: 8-10
5 x 200g soft washed-rind cheese in boxes (or any leftover Christmas cheese)
3 sprigs of rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
A small glass of white wine
2 tbsp kirsch (or apple brandy)
200g tomato relish
1 large baguette, sliced
Cured meats, to serve
Cornichons, to serve
Green salad, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/375F/Gas Mark 5.
2. Put the cheeses in a shallow casserole or ovenproof dish. Pierce each one with a sharp knife a couple of times and push some sprigs of rosemary and sliced garlic into the slits.
3. Pour over the wine and kirsch. Cover with a lid or foil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. If the cheese still isn’t really gooey and melted, then bake for a few more minutes.
4. You can swirl the relish into the cheese or serve it on the side. Dip slices of baguette into the cheese and relish, and serve with cured meats, cornichons and a green salad.
Festive Chicken Tagine with Jewelled Herby Couscous
Cook time 90 minutes. Serves 6-8
3 tbsp olive oil
1kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, grated
2½ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tbsp honey
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
300ml chicken stock
150g dried prunes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the couscous
400ml boiling-hot chicken stock
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
½ red onion, finely sliced
A large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
A large bunch of coriander, chopped
150g flaked almonds, toasted
2 pomegranates, seeds only
1. Heat the oil in a large casserole pot and, over a high heat, fry the chicken pieces in batches, seasoning with sea salt and black pepper as you go.
2. Remove the chicken and set aside. No need to wash your pot; keep all the flavour from your cooked chicken in it.
3. Add the red onion to the casserole pot and sprinkle with salt to help release the liquid from the onions. Fry gently for 5 minutes over the same high heat and, as the onions start to sweat, use a wooden spatula to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add a splash of water to prevent them from burning.
4. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a minute more, then add the honey, tomatoes, stock and plenty of seasoning.
5. Return the chicken to the casserole pot.
6. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook very gently, for 45 minutes, until reduced and the chicken is very tender. Add the prunes and cook for 15 minutes more.
7. Meanwhile, add the couscous to a large, wide bowl. Pour over the boiling-hot stock and cover with a tea towel. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before fluffing up the grains with a fork.
8. Whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl and season well, before combining with the couscous.
9. When ready to serve, stir in your chopped cucumber, red onion, parsley, coriander, flaked almonds and pomegranate seeds. Alternatively, set up lots of little bowls of the garnish, serve the couscous with the tagine and allow guests to help themselves to all the trimmings.
Filo Prawn Cocktails
Cook time: 25 minutes. Serves: 24
2-3 sheets of filo pastry
30g unsalted butter, melted
175g shelled, cooked Atlantic prawns
2 tbsp mayo
1 tbsp ketchup
A dash of hot sauce
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of baby gem lettuce, outer leaves removed, very finely shredded
Finely chopped chives, to garnish
Cayenne pepper, to dust
1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/Gas Mark 6.
2. Brush 2 x 12-hole mini tartlet/muffin trays and the sheets of filo pastry with melted butter. Cut the sheets into 2.5cm squares.
3. Layer 3 squares on top of each other, each at a slight angle so the corners begin to form a star shape and push into each hole of the tartlet/muffin tray.
4. Transfer to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove from the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire tray.
5. Roughly chop the prawns, reserving enough whole prawns to garnish each of the tartlets.
6. In a bowl, mix the chopped prawns with the mayo, ketchup, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper. Stir through the shredded lettuce.
7. Fill the crispy pastry cups with the prawn mixture, top with a whole prawn, sprinkle with chives and dust with cayenne pepper before serving.
Pink Negroni Sbagliato
Prep time: 10 minutes + chilling. Serves: 8
8 x 25ml shots of Campari
8 x 25ml shots of red vermouth
1 x 750ml bottle chilled sparkling rosé/pink Prosecco
4 slices of orange, halved
1. Fill 8 tumblers or short-stemmed glasses with a few ice cubes.
2. Pour a shot of Campari and a shot of vermouth into each glass. Top with the sparkling rosé/pink Prosecco.
3. Stir gently, add a half moon of orange, and serve.
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