Nigel Slater’s savoury nibbles recipes | Life and elegance


There’s a piece of pork crackling within the oven, its floor glistening with sea salt, crisping and curling into fats, golden blisters. It will likely be smashed into shards and used to season popcorn for the New Year celebrations tonight.

This is the day I look by way of my diaries to remind myself of what I’ve cooked over the previous yr. The gradual change in direction of consuming much less meat has continued. The yr has seen extra dishes with grains and beans than ever, fewer puddings and extra knife-sharp pickles. I appear to have eaten extra seafood than in dwelling reminiscence: seabass baked with tomatoes and anchovies; ceviche with watermelon and chilli; and a spring dish of tiny mussels and shallots to call simply 3. Not so many muffins, however a shallow, fudgy chocolate torte with sultanas, rosemary and candy sherry stays in my reminiscence. The spine of what I eat, the greens and fruit, didn’t change and I word that greater than 70% of the recipes on this column relied on neither meat nor fish.

The meat I’ve eaten has been an excellent, twice-a-week feast. Porchetta full of blackberries and lemon zest because the autumn leaves fell; meatballs in deep, garlicky gravy with mashed swede; beef ribs with rosemary and garlic for a candlelit winter’s night time. We have as soon as once more chewed each bone, discovered the hidden treasure buried beneath every roast hen after which made soup with the stays.

My suitcase barely closed this yr and my travels, significantly weeks spent in Japan and the Middle East, very a lot affected what I ate. What I prepare dinner adjustments considerably with every passing yr, however what stays steadfast is the spirit of dwelling, the happiness of a meal shared, and at all times, at all times, the easy pleasure of hands-on-cooking. Happy New Year.

Pork-crackling popcorn

The actual time it takes the crackling to crackle will depend upon the standard of the pores and skin.

Enough for six
pork stomach pores and skin 250g
celery salt 1 tbsp
fennel seeds 1 tbsp
olive oil 3 tbsp
butter 50g
popping corn 125g

If your butcher hasn’t scored the pores and skin for you, place it darkish facet up on a chopping board and rating deeply, not fairly by way of to the board, at 1cm intervals with a really sharp knife. A field cutter could also be helpful.

Place a wire rack over a roasting tin and sit the pores and skin on high. Mix collectively the celery salt, fennel seeds and a beneficiant grinding of pepper. Rub the seasoning over the pork pores and skin, pushing it proper down into the cuts. Set apart in a cool place, however not the fridge, for at the least an hour.

Set the oven at 200C/gasoline mark 6. Trickle the olive oil over the pores and skin. Place the pores and skin, nonetheless on its rack and roasting tin, within the oven and bake for 35 minutes or till it’s golden, crisp and hyped up. When the crackling is prepared, take away it and depart it to chill a bit of.

Pour any oil and pork fats which may be within the roasting tin right into a deep, heavy-based saucepan or casserole. Add the butter and place the pan over a medium warmth. When the butter melts, add the popping corn and canopy the pan tightly with a lid. Leave it for 3-5 minutes till the corn has popped open, shaking the pan often to cease it from scorching.

Using a heavy kitchen knife, shatter the crackling into small shards, then add it to the pan, folding it into the corn. Add a bit of extra butter and salt if you want and eat it instantly, whereas the popcorn remains to be heat.

Shortbreads with za’atar and cheese

Doing the rounds: shortbreads with za’atar and cheese.

Doing the rounds: shortbreads with za’atar and cheese. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

Little biscuits, spiced with Middle Eastern za’atar, are good with glowing drinks. We shall move them spherical tonight, heat from the oven.

Makes about 16 small biscuits
hazelnuts 35g, shelled
almonds 40g, skinned
za’atar 4 tsp, floor
sesame seeds 4 tsp
black sesame seeds 2 tsp
smoked paprika ½ tsp
parmesan 70g, grated
butter 150g
plain flour 150g
water 2 tbsp

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry, shallow pan over a average warmth, usually shaking the pan so the nuts don’t burn. When the pores and skin is darkish brown and beginning to flake, take away the nuts from the warmth and tip them right into a clear tea towel. Rub the nuts collectively within the towel till most of their skins have flaked off. Repeat the toasting and rubbing with any whose skins stubbornly refuse to return off.

Toast the almonds within the shallow pan till pale gold. Move them around the pan usually to encourage even colouring. Tip them out, then toast the skinned hazelnuts.

Reduce the nuts to coarse powder in a meals processor and put aside. Fold within the za’atar, sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, paprika and parmesan. I additionally add a bit of salt.

Rub the butter into the flour then introduce three-quarters of the seeds and parmesan combination. Reserve the rest. Sprinkle over sufficient of the water to can help you convey the dough collectively right into a gentle ball.

Set the oven at 200C/gasoline mark 6. Lightly flour the work floor or a pastry board, then halve the combination and roll every 1/2 right into a thick cylinder, about 4-5cm in diameter. Cut every into 8-10 thick discs.

Tip the reserved seed combination right into a bowl or plate then roll the little shortbread discs in it, urgent down firmly so the seeds follow the skin. Place the seeded shortbreads on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes till calmly crisp to the contact. Remove from the oven, and switch to a cooling rack.

Email Nigel at [email protected] or comply with him on Twitter @NigelSlater

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