Sunday, October 24, 2010

Canapés for ducks

Bex and Richard had invited a few people around on Friday night for a barbecue, after which the boys were to go out and do some manly rabbit-shooting, while the girls stayed behind to watch DVDs. The combined barbecue/DVD scenario required both a contribution to the barbie dinner, and some nibbles for eating while watching the movie - a perfect opportunity to knock off a few more recipes.

The first thing I made came under the 'movie nibbles' category. I still had condensed milk left over from the apricot slice and the choc chippie biscuits - enough for a half-recipe of Russian fudge (p221). We all know that sweet-making is not really my forte, but I have to do them all sometime, and this way I wouldn't be eating it all myself!

Russian fudge is made by heating sugar milk in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. I used caster sugar instead of the plain sugar specified in the recipe, in the hope that it would dissolve more quickly. Once it has dissolved, you add the condensed milk, along with butter , salt and golden syrup.

This mixture is then boiled to the 'soft ball' stage, before being beaten until thick and poured into a buttered tin to set. I tested the fudge mixture quite conscientiously, and removed it from the heat when I felt 'soft ball' had been reached, but, on seeing the finished product, felt that I should have boiled it for longer: it was very pale in colour, and didn't have the slight caramelisation I expect in Russian fudge. Still, it was smooth-textured, and tasted quite nice, so I guess it didn't matter.

I should have lined the tin, too - I had huge trouble getting the fudge out of the tin once set - it's so soft it just smears and squashes instead of coming out. Once I had the first few bits out, I was able to slide a fish slice under the rest, and got most of the pieces out whole.

I also wanted to provide some savoury nibbles. Rembering Bex's partiality for blue cheese, I chose blue cheese spread (p191),  a spread designed to be paired with the canape bases on the same page. The recipe stated that the spread should be piped onto the canape bases and garnished with almonds. Since the barbecue was happening on a weeknight, I had no time for fiddly stuff, so I decided just to make the spread and bases separately and provide a knife for people to spread their own.

The blue cheese spread took no time at all to make - just bung all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until reasonably smooth. The main ingredients are blue cheese, cream cheese and onion, but there's a few more bits and pieces for flavour. I personally found the result quite ghastly - it tasted very strongly of blue cheese and raw onion. I usually don't mind blue cheese in small doses, but this was too much for me. I decided to take it anyway - Bex might like it at any rate!

I next turned my attention to the canapé bases - if you like to give them so grand a name; they're really just little bits of toast! The recipe didn't indicate what kind of bread to use. I assume white is the norm, but decided grainy bread would make them more interesting.

I was supposed to either cut the bread into rounds with a 2.5cm cookie cutter (who has a cookie cutter that small?) or cut them into squares. I intended to opt for the squares, but found that when the crusts were cut off, the bread was neither the right shape or size to cut neat squares from. In the end I cut each piece diagonally and left it at that.

I arranged the bread triangles on a tray and put them in the oven at 150 degrees. The recipe said 10 minutes for sandwich bread and 20 for toast. Mine was sandwich, but with the grains in it, it took 20 before I felt they were nicely crisped up. I left them to cool on a tray and packed them in an airtight container.

The last item I'd decided to make was marinated chicken wings (p141) for the barbecue. I hadn't been able to get chicken wings, though, so they wound up being marinated chicken nibbles. I didn't want to put them in the marinade too early, though, so I mixed up the marinade (garlic, soy sauce, honey, tomato sauce and ginger) on Thursday night, and only added it to the chicken before leaving for work on Friday morning.

On Friday afternoon, I headed off to Rakaia straight after work. I was a bit uneasy about the canapé bases, as I'd opened the container at lunchtime and found that they had gone a bit soft. I figured I could crisp them up in Bex's oven when I got there.

As I arrived at Bex and Richard's place, Bex was just driving out the gate, taking a carful of guests down to watch the milking. I chose not to join them, instead making myself at home in Bex's kitchen, and nearly smoking the house out when I used the oven to crisp up the canapé bases - Bex had been baking earlier in the day and a little cake batter had dribbled onto the bottom of the oven.

I'd cleaned up the charcoalish remnants in the bottom of the oven, cleared the smoke by use of the rangehood fan, and was just taking out my canapé bases when Bex and the others arrived back. As they cooled, I stacked them on a platter around the spread. On trying one, however, I nearly broke my teeth: the second baking had made them go REALLY hard. On the upside, Bex and Leah both claimed they actually liked my ghastly blue cheese spread.

After an hour or two of chatting, nibbling, and entertaining the kids, Bex stoked up the barbecue and dealt to my chicken nibbles, along with an array of saussies, meat patties and chicken kebabs. The nibbles came out great - certainly they were they only item I'd brought to the barbecue that I was completely satisfied with. I'd definitely recommend this one.

As for the rest: well, as often happens, there was far more food than we needed, and by the time we got rid of the boys and sat down to watch the DVD, we didn't do much more than pick at the nibbles. It's hardly surprising that I ended up taking most of my offerings home.

I had no interest in keeping the blue cheese spread - it got biffed. The remaining fudge I set aside to take to the concert in Hagley Park on Saturday. As for the canapé bases, well, I collected them all up in a bag with the crusts I'd originally cut off them, and wandered down to the Avon to find some ducks.

Naturally, I couldn't expect the ducks to eat them in their concrete-like state, so I poured a fair bit of water into the bread bag before I left, hoping to soften up the contents before I got to the river. When I arrived on the riverbank, the Avon appeared to be -most unusually - 100% duck-free. Eventually, further along the river, I found three ducks and began throwing bread to them, hoping to attract some more.

I did eventually have a group of half a dozen ducks - there would have been more, but there was one particularly feisty individual who chased off any newcomers. Not many of the canapés had softened up sufficiently, so I had to throw them into the water to let them soak - if the ducks tried to eat them straight away, they couldn't break mouthfuls off them!

So here's the final breakdown:
Marinated chicken wings: very tasty. Works well on a barbecue.
Russian fudge: pretty good, but I think I should've boiled it for longer.
Blue cheese spread: make this only if you are a major blue cheese fan and and don't mind raw onion.
Canapé bases: use white bread or you'll wind up with something even ducks can't eat!


  1. Hi there!
    I was looking for a particular edmonds recipe online and stumbled over your blog. I'm having fun reading about all the weird recipes I've never considered making brought to life here.
    Anyway, i thought i'd comment about this post because you made russian fudge!
    Russian fudge is something my mother has always made and it has cult status as a family favourite. We demand it whenever we visit, and a she usually makes us a batch to take home with us. It's that good.
    She makes it soft or hard (by changing the cooking time) depending on which of us she is making it for - 'soft' being a proper fudgey version, and 'hard' being well, hard and a bit crumbly, but excellent to gnaw upon like a squirrel with a sugar addiction. Her 'soft' version, which i think is how the recipe is supposed to turn out, is quite a lot darker then yours. A similar colour to those little fudge squares you can buy individually at the service station of in the lolly section. So I think you are right in thinking it needs a bit more cooking.
    Er - i'm not sure why your fudge inspired me to comment. I think I felt morally obligated as a russian fudge addict to defend the recipe :P
    Anyways, great blog :)

  2. Isn't it funny how everyone has their own favourite Edmonds recipe? I'm sorry if you think I didn't do yours justice; it wasn't the recipe, just me not judging the boiling time properly. And even then, it was still a success!


Popular posts this week