I have a weakness for savoury nibbles. You can keep sweet desserts, indulgent cakes and fancy chocolates…; salty, spicy or tangy snacks are my downfall. There’s generally a jar of olives or cornichons in the fridge to deal with savoury cravings but I’m always on the look out for easy recipes.
One of the quickest solutions is to whizz up a tin of white or cannellini beans with several cloves of garlic, a few sundried tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil and use it as a dip for crudités. The dense paste keeps for several days if stored in the fridge and doubles up as a sandwich spread. Mr M’s tzatziki – with a generous helping of garlic and plenty of lemon juice – also ticks the box.
For extra crunch, I might make herb grissini as part of my weekly bread bake. Reinvigorated homemade flatbread is another easy option. Flatbreads go stale pretty quickly but I always make more than I need as I can revive them for nibbles. Just slice them into strips or triangles, brush them with olive oil, pop them in a very hot dry frying pan, add sea salt and/or a pinch of paprika, and heat through on both sides.
Recently I added two new recipes to my armoury that are easy, tasty and will definitely become firm favourites.
Encouraged by Anne Marie – aka the enthusiastic ZeroWasteChef – I tried my hand at aioli last week. I’ve always loved the taste of it but was put off by concerns about it being difficult to make or not being able to finish it before it went off. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I used Anne Marie’s recipe but halved the amount of olive oil when I did the cup to ml conversion. This was partly due to instinct – Mr M uses Mediterranean quantities of olive oil; I treat it a lot more sparingly – and partly due to stirring and storing practicalities.
As I don’t have a food processor, I made aioli by hand. I used a pestle and mortar to crush the salt and garlic and added the egg yokes and lemon juice. Using a balloon whisk I whipped the mixture vigorously whilst slowly adding the oil. This may sound like hard work but it didn’t take too long and worked fine, even with a shoulder injury. What’s more, working by hand allows you to feel the change in consistency, which is oddly satisfying. The whole process took less than ten minutes, including the washing up. In fact, the hardest thing was not devouring the luscious yellow mix before Mr M got home!
I served the aioli as part of a meze style meal of homemade falafel, crudités, salads and savoury biscuits, presenting it in a small jar so I could pop any remaining dip in the fridge. As it contains raw egg yolks I would not recommend storing it for more than a day or two but as it is so glorious, I doubt it would hang around that long anyway. The next day Mr M and I polished it off with some sautéed potatoes!
These tomato & thyme shortbreads (flagged by the lovely Jackie of Life During Wartime Challenge) make the most moorish savoury biscuits. Once again, I played around with the proportions. I only made half a batch but added more flour to reduce the overall fat content (to about 5-6 oz flour to 2 oz butter). I knew the result would be a little drier but made up for this by increasing the amount of tomato paste. I also used more thyme than recommended as I had picked too much.
The finished biscuits were a revelation! Piquant with a lovely lingering tangy flavour and not nearly as greasy as cheese savouries. Best of all, they keep for almost a week in an airtight container and the flavour gets better as they mature. I was so impressed with this recipe, I think I shall try some variations, using garlic paste instead of tomato and any number of herbs or seeds.
Making my own savoury snacks obviously involves more effort than popping to the shop for a bag of crisps or salsa, but not that much more. And because the resulting flavours are so interesting, a cheeky snack becomes a proper sit-down meal to be savoured with company and maybe a drop of wine.