The X(mas) Files: Zoom Party Food

As the 2020 Yuletide approaches a lot of us are planning a seriously skimmed Christmas day and it isn’t the cheeriest of prospects in some households. Like, households that love people who live in other households….So, much like the rest of 2020 it’s beginning to look a lot like a Zoom meeting. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing- nicely arranged time slots, the opportunity to not change out of PJ bottoms all day, mute button for Auntie Janet, it could work! But you really don’t have to schlub it out* if you are having a socially distanced Christmas gathering. A mince pie might taste better by a fireside surrounded by a load of kids who hate you for giving them book tokens instead of cash, but being stuck to a screen means you can have all kinds of delights/nutritional horrors at hand with no judgement from the family vegan. So I say embrace the virtual Christmas, dress up to the nines from the waist up and have yourself a merry little feast as you stay in touch with the geographically removed and dearest.
To help you along, here’s some of my favourite festive finger foods that you can easily scoff whilst stuck in another virtual waiting room or shouting the meeting password down the phone to your Grandad. Plus cocktails, obvs.

* you absolutely can just schlub it out all day if you want to, it’s Christmas.

The Food

Mothership Stuffed Eggs: These are a true classic from the Queen of a retro finger buffet AKA My Mum. Nicely filling, easy to eat and a decent fat content to slow your booze absorbtion, a perfect Christmas canape!
Boil 6 hens eggs for 7 minutes then transfer immediately into cold water. When cooled, peel and halve length ways and carefully remove the yolks into a bowl. Add a very finely sliced spring onion, a tablespoon of mayo, teaspoon of dijon mustard and salt and pepper and mash it all together. Spoon the mix back into the egg halves, dust with some paprika and plate. If you’re feeling particularly 80s and/or lazy just whizz up the yolks with some Heinz sandwich spread. It’s filthy but beautiful.

Smoked Salmon Classics: Many a British household will cry that it’s not Christmas without some smoked salmon and it does make one feel mildly classy. For easy and satisfying results buy some blinis (or not too salty crackers) from your supermarket of choice and top with a piece of smoked salmon, a dollop of crème fraiche and a garnish of either fresh dill for the purists or a drizzle of caviar if you’re posh. This also works well with my cucumber pickle. If you have a pet vegetarian in your midst try this fish free version.

Spicy Nuts: This one is from Annie Sands- the day job Home Cook At Work responsible for the general happiness of my entire company via her delectable brownies and lemon drizzle. For a festive snack she recommends you mix 50g softened butter, 25g of sugar and 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper then toss 300g of pecan nuts through this. Spread the nuts out on a lined baking tray and bake for 5 minutes at 180C/160C fan, give them a stir then bake for another 5 minutes until suitably crisp. If you don’t scarf the lot at once they will keep for 3 days in an air tight container.

Ultimate Salsa: It seems that the girls are winning on snack success and that brings me to my step mum’s glorious fresh salsa. Very finely (and precisely and prettily) chop a pack of ripe tomatoes (I’d go baby plum or vine ripened), half a red onion, a bunch of coriander leaves and a deseeded red chilli. Stir together with a splash of lime juice and plenty of salt and pepper. It’s the best with big crisps or on bruschetta or if you could make your own tortilla chips to dip in.

Festive Fruit Plate: If you’re saving your calories for the main event or in need of a light supper after the turkey and trimmings this is an easy and refreshing option that looks festively green and sparkly when served. Wash and lightly dry a bunch of mint leaves then pulse in a food processor. When it has become fine shreds add a tablespoon of caster sugar and the grated zest of half a lime and pulse again only enough to mix- you want a grainy consistency rather than a paste. Spread this over your serving plate then pile it up with bite sized chunks of pineapple, mango, strawberries and pomelo on cocktail sticks to sweep up the mint mix and allow nibbling without sticky fingers. This mint sugar also does well sprinkled into yoghurt or over a fruit salad.

If You Really Can’t Be Bothered: Asda have an amazing range of frozen party food and win my festive filth award for their box of 18 mixed vegan chinese type bits which are AMAZING regardless of how you feel about being plant based and only a couple of quid. Co-op also have a very good range of ready done finger food from chicken on a stick to chorizo pigs in blankets in their fresh section.

The Drink

Classic Champagne Cocktail: This one is from my Pops, served without fail on a Christmas morning at some point before dinner but after the Neil Diamond goes on. Drop a sugar cube into a champagne flute and add 2 drops of angostura bitters. Add enough brandy to just cover the sugar cube then top with properly chilled champagne to serve. Boozy Christmas decadence at it’s finest!
For a fruitier version lose the sugar cube and use a shot of Kir, sloe gin or creme de peche topped up with fizz and a pinch of edible glitter if you’re the sort to have such things around.

Espresso Martini: It looks like the boys have cornered the drinks market for this post as my Mr makes the finest espresso martini you ever dip sip. In my experience it’s best to make a pitcher of these as you will go back for more every time.
Start by making a batch of good, very strong black coffee. We like Grind black blend in this house. Set it aside to cool completely. In a large jug mix 2 parts coffee to one part Vodka and one part coffee liqueur- Mr recommends the best one is Tia Maria Cold Brew with Vanilla. Refrigerate until needed, then to get a crema effect to serve shake it vigorously with some large ice cubes for thirty seconds then strain and serve in a martini saucer with a dusting of cocoa or grated chocolate.

The Snowball: Your nan’s faourite. Fill a highball with ice then add 10ml of lime cordial and 50ml of ‘only at christmas’ liquer Advocaat. Top with lemonade and stir gently to mix. Top with a maraschino cherry for the ultimate sickly festive hit.
I must stress that if you don’t have advocaat, don’t try to sub it with something else thick and creamy, like Baileys. Seriously my own nan did this once, it was like a clotted lava lamp from hell.

If You’re Off The Booze: Blitz some honey and a splash of pineapple juice with a handful of coriander leaves then topthis up with more PJ and lemonade for a grown up soft drink and don’t ever underestimate the hydrating joy of a pint of appletise with plenty of ice!

If You Really Can’t Be Bothered: Edinburgh rhubarb G&T in a tin is wonderful stuff and included in Tesco’s current 3 Tins for £5 promo. I’m also told the ready mixed Captain Morgan and coke is worth a punt. Most supermarkets have a ready mixed bottle of Bucks Fizz with all the other fizz and Lidl have a huge range of pre bottled fruity cocktails or freeze your own margarita mix.
And I say again, Appletise! It’s bloody lovely stuff and there’s no sugar shame this year!

I can’t sensibly express the empathy I have for people who will not be in the company they had hoped for this Christmas, be that through coronoa or bereavement or key worker shifts or actually just anything. We all need a hug and some downtime and no judgement, so go on ahead and eat your feelings this Xmas.

Things will get better.

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