Prawn and Avocado Vol-au-vents

Return of the Prawn vol au vent

prawn plate

The family Christmas party.  My earliest memories are of family Christmas parties – one on Christmas Eve and one on New Year’s day.  This consisted of my parents, maternal grandparents and aunts and uncles taking it in turns to hold the party.  The New Year’s day party sadly got discontinued (something to do with people feeling delicate and not in the mood), but the Christmas Eve one still goes on to this day.

My beloved grandmother who left us several years ago now, was famous, or rather infamous, for her 70s style prawn vol au vents.  Frozen cases filled with defrosted prawns and smothered with a lethal dose of Thousand Island dressing that came out of a bottle. Every year she made them and every year they were left on the buffet table. I used to feel sad for those sad rejects of Christmas.

Long after my grandparents stopped holding the annual parties, I used to wonder why no one ever ate them. She didn’t eat them herself as she suffered from Coeliac disease and couldn’t tolerate gluten.  I decided it was high time to reinvent the prawn vol au vent and make one that people would eat.  What’s not to like – crisp puff pastry, juicy prawns and maybe a bit less of the bottled thousand-island dressing.

When I thought about what to put in the pastry case, my thoughts turned to fresh prawn salads I have enjoyed and I don’t mind a nice 70s prawn cocktail either.  I was thinking dill, lemon and avocado.  These are more summery ingredients, but could still hold their own on a Christmas buffet table I think.

I’ve made my own cases here with store bought puff pastry, but you could easily do this with ready made cases, found in the depths of the freezers in the supermarket.  Another option is to make a larger one would be perfect served as an appetiser or lunch dish served with salad leaves.

Other optional extras could be to add skinned and de-seeded tomatoes, cut into tiny dice, but for my small bite sized ones here, I have kept it simple with prawns and avocados.

prawn closeup

Ingredients:
2 packs of ready rolled, all butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen, but kept fully chilled
450g/15oz cold water prawns/shrimp
2 ripe avocados
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg yolk and a little milk to make an egg wash
6 king prawns with tails left on to adorn the top (optional)

Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
1 tbs prepared horseradish
Juice and zest of the other half of the lemon
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
A few drops of hot sauce (Optional)
Small bunch of dill, reserving some for garnish
Paprika (Optional)

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F

Place one sheet of the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and egg wash the top.

Place the other one directly over the top and cut out your pastry cases, they can be round, square, heart shaped, whatever you like.  Then with a slightly smaller cutter, press into the top layer of the pastry, taking care not to cut into the base layer.

Brush the cases with egg wash

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown and leave on a cooling rack to completely cool.

Whisk the dressing ingredients, except for the paprika together in a small bowl.

Scoop the flesh from the avocados and cut into dice, toss with the lemon juice in a bowl. Then add the prawns.

Spoon on enough dressing to moisten, but not swamp the prawns and gently turn to coat.  Fill the cases with the mixture and garnish with sprinkle of paprika and a little dill.  If you are making the larger version and really want to go all out, then top with a king prawn as well and be proud to bring back the prawn vol au vent!

Prawn closeup2

Goats Cheese Ball

Totally retro, but still delicious and a great addition to any party or buffet table.  A cheese ball is really easy to make and the variations are endless.  This one is made with goats cheese and served with green olive and roasted red pepper crackers – recipe below.

Cheeseball

Ingredients:
8oz/227g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
8oz/227g soft goats cheese at room temperature
1 tbs chopped dill
2tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup/175g finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup/50g finely chopped dried cranberries
Crackers for serving – see below for recipe

Method:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the room temperature cheeses, dill and 1 tsp of black pepper and mix on low speed until well mixed.  Using a spatula, scrape out the cheese mixture, pile onto cling film and form into a ball.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours so it can firm up.

On a plate, spread out the chopped pecans, 1 tsp black pepper and cranberries and roll the ball until fully coated.  This is ready to use immediately, otherwise refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Serve with a good chutney, crackers and chilled white wine.

Cracker

Olive & Roasted Pepper Crackers

Green olives and roasted red peppers make these crackers the perfect accompaniment to the cheese ball

Ingredients:
2 cups/280g plain/all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
2 oz/57g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 tbs green olives, finely chopped
4 tbsp roasted red peppers, finely chopped – I like to roast my own, but you can buy ready roasted peppers in a jar
1/2 cup/112ml milk
olive oil
sea salt

Method:
Preheat oven to 190ºC/375°F

Line 2 baking sheets with a non stick liner or parchment paper.

Mix the flour, salt and oregano until well combined.

Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.

Stir in the chopped olives, roasted red peppers and milk until evenly mixed.

Divide the dough in half.  Turn out one half of the dough straight onto the non stick liner and roll out to about ¼” thickness.  The thinner they are, the crispier they become and rolling out straight onto the liner means you can roll out the dough very thin.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2”x2” squares and remove any excess dough to re-roll.  They shrink a little as they bake, so you don’t need to worry about them sticking together or having to separate them.

Prick the top of each cracker one or twice and lightly brush tops of crackers with olive oil, finishing with a light sprinkle of sea salt.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Bake at 190ºC/375°F for up to 25 minutes or until crackers are golden brown.  Be careful not to let them burn.

Let the crackers cool completely before serving.

Crackers