Mark Hix's Perfect Christmas: Canapes and cocktails to get your festive celebrations off to a flying start

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Over the next few weeks I'll be giving you lots of tips and ideas for Christmas food and drink – and this week's theme is the festive drinks party. Preparing for a Christmas drinks party can seem an intimidating prospect, but with a bit of forward planning and organisation, you can make light work of the whole thing. So to kick things off, here are a few ideas for delicious cocktails and canapés which you can knock up with the minimum fuss and effort.

On the drinks front, I've teamed up with Nick Strangeway, the cocktail maestro at my new restaurant, Hix, to create some combinations that are sure to make your party go with a swing. You can't go wrong with a punch bowl of cocktail at hand, mixed well in advance, so that all you have to do when your guests arrive is pour some ice into their glasses.

Mini venison burgers

Makes 10

Mini hamburgers tend to go down a treat, but I thought I would make these ones with venison to add an extra-special touch. Venison is quite a lean meat, so it's a good idea to ask your butcher to add 20 per cent minced beef fat to your venison.

You can buy small burger buns these days for kids' parties – or you could ask your local baker to make you some.

350-400g coarsely minced venison, including 20 per cent beef fat
10 mini burger buns
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10tsp redcurrant jelly
A little vegetable or corn oil for brushing

Mould the coarsely minced venison into patties which are slightly larger than the buns; you can do this by hand or alternatively by pressing the meat into a pastry cutter.

Lightly oil a ribbed griddle or heavy frying pan, season the burgers and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, keeping them medium rare.

Halve the buns and sandwich together with the burgers with a little redcurrant jelly on each.

'Hix Fix' shots

Makes about 10

This is a jellified version of our house cocktail which is inspired by the delicious brandy of Julian Temperley (, who recently won the Special Judges Award at the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards. Cheers, Julian!

800ml champagne
20 Julian Temperley morello cherries in eau de vie (including about 10-15tsp of the eau de vie they are soaked in)
3 sheets of leaf gelatine
100ml very lightly whipped cream

Bring about 100ml of the champagne to the boil, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a shallow bowl of cold water for a minute or so until soft. Squeeze out the water, add to the hot champagne and stir until dissolved; then stir into the rest of the cold champagne. Add the liquid from the cherries, then pour into shot glasses with one cherry in each. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours or so until the jelly is set. To serve, spoon a little of the whipped cream on top of each jelly and place another jelly on top.

Honey-roast salmon on toast

Makes 10

This is a version of a roast salmon dish I found in a Russian cookbook.

200g salmon fillet, boned and skinned
1tbsp clear honey
tbsp Dijon mustard
1tbsp chopped fennel tops or dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
10 slices from a small baguette
A few small salad leaves or herbs

Season the salmon, spread with mustard and press the dill on to the fillet. Heat a grill to the maximum temperature, place the salmon on a tray and pour over the honey. Cook for 4-5 minutes under the grill, keeping it pink. Toast the baguette, break the salmon into chunks and put on the bread. Scatter the leaves over; serve.

The original sin

Serves 8-10 (depending!)

250ml Somerset cider brandy
The juice of 1 large lemon (approx 50ml)
400ml pomegranate juice
600ml dry cider
Pomegranate seeds, to garnish
4-6 kumquats, halved

For the lemon sherbet

The grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
50g caster sugar

For the spiced syrup

1 stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces
6 cloves
6 allspice
4 green cardamom pods
1 star anise
250ml water
tbsp freshly grated root ginger
500g caster sugar

First, make the spiced syrup. Place the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamom and star anise in a dry pan and heat gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often, then add the water and root ginger and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Simmer very gently for about 8-10 minutes, topping up with a little water if the liquid evaporates; you should be left with about 100ml of liquid. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and leave to cool until required.

Next, make the lemon sherbet: grind the lemon zest and sugar in a mortar and pestle, then transfer to a pan, add the lemon juice and heat up gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve and leave to cool.

To serve, mix all of the ingredients together and serve in a punch bowl.

Parsnip and hazelnut croquettes

Makes 8-10

Remember croquette potatoes? I used to love them when I was a kid and my dad used to fish them out of the freezer once a week to go with a steak. They felt like a bit of a treat and then, when I started working in a pub kitchen during school

holidays, I realised potato croquettes were a bog-standard frozen item that was on every pub and restaurant menu in the country. During the late Seventies, croquettes finally became fashionable – though I always wondered: why were they covered in orange breadcrumbs? Made well (and without colouring), they can be delicious, and I think they deserve another revival. Spanish croquetas look similar but are made with a thick béchamel sauce instead of mashed potato, with ham and cheese folded in.

Classic croquettes are made from simple mashed potato, but I thought I would dabble a bit and create a parsnip-flavoured version for the festive celebrations.

Make sure your mashed potato and parsnip are really dry; you can do this by returning them to the heat in a pan, once you have drained them, to evaporate the excess water.

300g floury potatoes, cooked and mashed
300g cooked and mashed parsnips
2-3tbsp flour
2 small eggs, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g hazelnuts, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Mix the parsnip and potato together and season. Mould the mix into cylinder shapes about 4-5cm long and a little fatter than a wine cork.

Mix the hazelnuts and breadcrumbs together. Have the flour ready in a dish and carefully roll them in it, holding them lightly with your fingers and shaking off any excess. Next, roll them in the beaten egg, and finally roll them in the breadcrumb mixture.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep fryer.

Fry the croquettes a few pieces at a time for 3-4 minutes until golden and drain on some kitchen paper.

Serve immediately.

The King's Jewels

Serves 4

200ml Beefeater gin
20ml King's Ginger Liqueur (from
The rind from 1 clementine, cut into strips

For the pineapple syrup

200ml sweet vermouth
The flesh of a small pineapple, chopped into small pieces

A couple of days in advance, place the pineapple in a non-reactive bowl and pour over the vermouth and cover with clingfilm. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. To serve, chill 4 martini glasses. Rub the clementine rind around the inside of the glasses and leave the strip of rind in. Stir all of the ingredients over ice and strain into the martini glasses.

Parsnip crisps with sea salt

Serves 4-6

3 large parsnips, scrubbed clean
Vegetable or corn oil for deep-frying
2 teaspoons sea salt

Top and tail the parsnips, leaving the skin on, unless it's very brown. Using a sharp mandolin, slice the parsnips lengthways as thinly as possible, then dry the strips with a tea towel. If you don't have a mandolin, use a swivel vegetable peeler.

Heat about an 8cm depth of vegetable oil in a deep-fat fryer or heavy-based saucepan to 180C. Deep-fry the parsnip slices in the hot fat, a handful at a time, stirring occasionally to ensure that they don't stick together, for about 2-3 minutes until they colour. As soon as they are ready, remove the parsnip crisps with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Immediately season generously with the sea salt, crushing it in your fingers as you sprinkle it on. The parsnips may appear soft as you remove them from the oil, but once drained they will crisp up.

Suggested Topics
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone