New Year's toast: Mark Hix celebrates Hogmanay with delicious, easy-to-prepare canapés

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Indy Lifestyle Online

It's always a scramble to get everyone fed on New Year's Eve as well as having a good night yourself. I cooked a dinner for friends at their top-floor apartment next to the Tate Modern for the millennium celebrations. Mark Edwards and I created a luxury dinner with several courses, from white truffle risotto to baked sturgeon. We tried to pace ourselves, but our culinary skills deteriorated as the evening progressed. It's far easier to make some substantial snacks beforehand. Canapés don't have to be tricky and most would be happy with sausages dunked into mustard mash or homemade fish fingers and tartare sauce.

Crab thermidor tarts

Serves 10

I've used brown crab meat in this which costs about a quarter the price of white meat and has loads more flavour. I've also used these light, crisp Jus-Rol tartlet cases which you can buy from Waitrose and Sainsbury's.

1 shallot, peeled, halved, finely chopped
A small knob of butter
1tbsp white wine
¼tsp English mustard
60-80g brown crab meat
1tbsp double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10g cheddar, grated

For the topping

tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
A few sprigs of parsley, chopped
A very small knob of butter, melted

Gently cook the shallot in the butter for 20-30 seconds, add the wine and mustard and simmer until the wine has evaporated. Add the crab meat and cream and season, bring to the boil and simmer for a minute. The mixture should be thick; if not, simmer for a little longer. Stir in the cheese, then spoon into the tartlets and place on a baking sheet.

Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley and melted butter together and spoon on top of the tartlets. Lightly colour under a medium grill or in a moderate oven. Serve hot or warm.

Pork crackling with Bramley apple sauce

Serves 6-8

I don't know anyone who doesn't like pork crackling – and most butchers would be happy to sell you pork rind.

1kg pork rind with about cm of fat left on
2-3tbsp Cornish sea salt

For the apple sauce

1 Bramley apple, peeled
1tbsp caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/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 minutes. Drain well, place on a baking tray and scatter with a tablespoon of sea salt. Roast for about an hour, turning every so often, until the rind is crisp.

Meanwhile, chop the apple into chunks and place in a thick-bottomed pan on a medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often until the apple has broken up; you can give it a bit of a whisk to make it smoother if you wish, although I like it quite chunky.

Drain the pork in a colander, saving the fat to use for roast potatoes, and scatter more salt on while hot. Serve the crackling with the apple sauce as a dip on the side (eat on the same day).

Deep-fried salsify

Serves about 10

Salsify is one of those old-fashioned ingredients that you don't see on menus any more. It is not the easiest of veg to prepare – which is one possible reason why it's out of vogue.

4-5 sticks of salsify, washed
Half a lemon
1 egg beaten
2-3tbsp plain flour
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
1tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Top and tail the salsify and peel thoroughly with a swivel peeler, ensuring all of the black skin is removed. Squeeze the lemon juice into a pan of salted water and add the salsify (you may need to cut them in half). Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until just tender, then drain and leave to cool, or run under the cold tap to cool down quicker. Cut the salsify into 2-3cm lengths and halve the pieces lengthways if they are thick.

Have three bowls ready, one with flour, seasoned, one with the egg, and the third with the breadcrumbs mixed with the Parmesan. Flour the salsify, shaking off any excess, then pass them through the egg and then through the breadcrumb mixture.

Deep-fry the salsify a handful or so at a time until nicely coloured and crisp and serve with your choice of sauce.

Smoked mackerel and horseradish on toast

Serves about 10

Good smoked mackerel can be a delicious little snack; I'm talking on the bone here, not vacuum-packed fillets. Just lift the fillets from each side and pull out any bones that run down the centre.

One or two smoked mackerel on the bone
1tbsp horseradish sauce
A couple of slices of good-quality white bread about cm thick

Cut the mackerel fillets into finger-sized pieces, then cut the bread just slightly larger than the mackerel pieces and toast on both sides. Spread with the horseradish and place the mackerel on top. You can lay a small salad leaf under the fish if you wish.

Rabbit brawn on toast

Serves 6-8

You can substitute leftover turkey legs or ham for the rabbit in this recipe if you wish.

1 pig's trotter, chopped into 4-5 pieces
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2tsp sea salt
The carcass and back and front legs from 2 rabbits

For the bouquet garni

1 bay leaf
A sprig of thyme
12 coriander seeds
12 white peppercorns

For the bouquet garni, tie the herbs and spices in a muslin square then make a bag, tying with string. Put into a large saucepan with the pig's trotter, onion, garlic and salt. Pour in enough water to cover the trotter; simmer for one hour, skimming off the scum from the surface. Add the rabbit to the pan and continue to simmer for another hour. The rabbit meat should be coming off the bone and the pig's trotter disintegrating. If not, continue simmering.

Tip into a colander over a bowl to save the liquor, then strain the liquid through a fine sieve back into the cleaned pan. Return to the heat and boil until it has reduced to about 200ml of sticky liquid. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Leave to cool, but not until set. Remove all of the meat from the rabbit bones and pig's trotter, including all the bits of gelatinous skin. Mix the pieces of meat with the liquid and transfer to a terrine mould, bowl or pie dish. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge. Leave to set overnight. Cut the rabbit brawn into thick slices; serve on toast.

Cranberry meringues

Serves about 10

For the meringue

1 egg white
15g caster sugar

For the filling

2-3tbsp whipped double cream
2-3tbsp cranberry sauce – ideally using your leftover sauce from Christmas Day

Pre-heat the oven to 100C/gas mark ¼.

Scald a mixing machine bowl and whisk with boiling water to eliminate any grease, then dry with kitchen paper. Whisk the egg white and sugar on a high speed for 3-4 minutes until really stiff and shiny. You can do this by hand if you are making a small quantity. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spoon on to the tray with a heaped teaspoon of the mixture. Bake the meringue for 3-4 hours until crisp on the outside and slightly gooey inside. To serve, cut the meringues in half and spoon a little of the cream on first then the cranberry sauce.

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