It’s that time of year again, which means you’ll probably have plenty of waifs and strays turning up on your doorstep, expecting to be fed and watered. The swine. Thing is, you’ve got a reputation to uphold, and the last things you want to serve are plates of greasy salted peanuts and bowls of chalky cheese straws.
It’s always good to make an extra effort and avoid the pre-made canapés and snacks on supermarket shelves. Though some aren’t too bad, you don’t want to find yourself handing out the same party nibbles as your neighbours come Christmas Eve.
To be honest, I do cheat a little. Most years, I’ll buy pre-made dumplings from London’s Chinatown and store them in my freezer. They’re great with soy or chilli dipping sauce. Equally, mini cooking chorizos tend to go down well; just store in the freezer and defrost in lukewarm water. So, for this year’s Christmas entertaining, I’ve come up with alternative, easy-to-make snacks, which will knock the stockings off your guests.
Pork Crackling with Spiced Bramley Apple Sauce (above)
Most of us love pork crackling but it’s rare that you get enough from a joint of pork to make a plate of these delicious snacks. Pork rind often gets binned by butchers, so ask yours to save you some, then make this mouth-watering recipe.
800g–1kg pork rind with about 1cm of fat left on
2–3tbsps Cornish sea salt
For the Bramley apple sauce:
1 Bramley apple, peeled
1/2tsp mixed spice
1tbsp caster sugar
1 | Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6. Cut the pork rind into rough strips about 12cm x 3cm. Place them in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 mins. Drain well, place on a baking tray and scatter a tablespoon of sea salt over them.
2 | Roast for about 1 hour, turning every so often until crisp. Drain excess fat from the tray into a bowl to use for roast potatoes another time.
3 | Chop the apple into chunks and place with the mixed spice and sugar in a thick-bottomed pan on a medium heat. Cook for 10 mins, stirring frequently until the apple has broken up. Whisk it to make it smoother, although I prefer it chunky.
4 | Drain the pork in a colander and scatter on more salt while hot. Transfer the crackling onto kitchen paper. Serve with the apple sauce dip (eat the same day).
For more Christmas nibbles by Mark Hix, check out Esquire's January issue, on newsstands now.
Photography by Jason Lowe