Tuesday, 15 April 2008

To Begin With

It doesn’t seem terribly 'cool' anymore, but I like having a proper first course; after all, I enjoy the ritual of dinner (almost) as much as the food itself. I’m not talking about fancy individual soufflés and restaurant-style ‘starters’, but just simple, tasty things to take the edge off the appetite while the main course finishes off in the oven, or to stave off the tantrums of hungry children whose Mummy is having trouble browning the pasta bake.

I can always get away with a few bits of ham, salami or chorizo and some ripe tomatoes, if I'm really pushed. Last night, in fact, I knocked up a quick, chopped tomato and mozzarella salad and served it with some of my fail-safe tiny toasts. I make a batch (one baguette's-worth) of these once every couple of weeks and store them in a box for this and that.

My Favourite Tiny Toasts

Cut a baguette into thin slices; spread both sides sparingly with soft butter, or brush with a little olive oil, then place on baking sheets and bake at 200°c for about 8 minutes, turning them over halfway through, until golden and crisp. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

As well as last night's salad, these toasts came out this evening to go with a bowl of Smoked Mackerel Pâté that I knocked up while our main course, a Courgette and Goat's Cheese Tart, was in the oven. I had hoped to have some leftovers for my lunch tomorrow, but it was all too swiftly vacuumed up. Oh well...

Smoked Mackerel Pâté

Use peppered mackerel fillets instead, if you like.

200g soft cheese
1 tsp hot horseradish sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
150g 'natural' smoked mackerel fillets
chopped fresh chives

Beat the soft cheese, horseradish sauce and lemon juice together with a little black pepper. Flake the fish into the bowl, then add some chopped chives and mix well. Scrape it into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. As well as the aforementioned toasts, it is particularly good with chicory leaves and celery sticks.

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