Flora gifted me a horseradish root, for our bloody marys, and a packet of dried reindeer meat from her visit to Norway. A sort of reindeer jerky, if you like.
It's sliced very thinly, almost like a prosciutto and packs quite a lot of flavour, if a little on the salty side.
I decided to use them both up in making a vol au vent filling.
Together with some of the remaining Christmas Stock
(it'll be fine - it's only late February
Just because I'm using up leftovers doesn't mean it can't be presented with style. Hence the green bean parcels and the shaped mashed potato.
But you could serve just the vol au vents as a canapé instead, if you liked.
Make up a strong horseradish sauce
with 6" grated horseradish, 250ml sour cream and the juice of a lemon,
then leave to mature for a day or two.
Push the sauce through a sieve to remove the horseradish bits and create a smooth sauce.
Lightly beat two egg yolks with a little water.
Prepare the vol au vents: Roll the puff pastry to about 4-5mm thick. Using a 8-10 cm fluted pastry cutter cut out twice as many rounds as final vol au vents.
You should be able to get around 16 rounds for 8 casings from the pastry.
Cut the centre out of half of the rounds using a smaller 5-6 cm fluted pastry cutter.
Make a light cut into the centre of the whole rounds with the same cutter but don't cut all the way through - this will help them rise.
Brush the top of the whole rounds with egg wash and lay the cut-out rings on top, then brush both tops again.
Avoid getting egg wash on the sides as it will inhibit their rising.
If you like you can also make shallow, angled cuts along the outside edges of the rings with a small knife to aerate the dough and help it puff.
Chill for 15 minutes or as long as you can arrange. This will help to prevent shrinking during baking.
Heat the oven to 180-200°C/350-400°F/Gas 4-6.
Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and lay on the chilled pastry cases. Brush the tops (and only the tops) a final time with egg wash.
Bake for 10-20 minutes until they have risen and are golden on top.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and then cut the centre of the cases away with a knife and keep for later as a cap.
Dig out any excess pastry from the cavity to make room for the filling.
You can return the cases to the oven for an additional 4-5 minutes to dry out slightly if they need it.
Shred the thinly sliced dried reindeer meat, and simmer, lidded, with just enough stock to cover
for about 15 minutes until it softens. Uncover and reduce until there is no excess liquid.
Slice up one or two small gherkins, then cut across the rounds to make short matchsticks. Set aside.
Cook a couple of tablespoons each of flour and butter in a small saucepan without browning until the mixture smells like pastry,
then gradually add ½ a cup of milk, whisking until it thickens.
Add ½ a cup of cream, whisk and heat through until it thickens.
Add the softened reindeer meat and stock, and as much chopped gherkin as tastes well.
Add milk or cream to adjust the consistency to that of thick custard. Add the chopped parsley.
Remove from the heat.
Blend the egg wash left over from glazing the pastries (there should be more than one yolk worth) with ½ cup of the strained horseradish sauce.
Stir into the filling mixture.
Taste and adjust the proportions and seasoning as necessary.
Fill the vol au vents with the sauce, put the little caps back on and serve still warm.
Peel the potatoes, cut into large even chunks (or not, depending on size) and simmer for 15-20 minutes until easily penetrated with a knife.
Push the potatoes through a sieve or a potato ricer, mix with a generous lump of butter and season.
Use one of the earlier pastry cutters to shape the potato on each plate; fill the cutter, smooth the top, lift off the cutter.
Top and tail the green beans and cut into manageable lengths. Strip the parsley leaves from their stalks and chop them.
Blanche the beans and the parsley stalks; dunking them in a sieve into boiling water, then removing and draining them when the water returns to the boil.
Mince or press one or two garlic cloves. Chop up about a half-dozen anchovies (depending on size).
Heat a little olive oil in a small pan and add the garlic and anchovies, sweat without browning until they melt down.
Add the lime zest, then the par-boiled green beans, the reserved chopped parsley and lime juice.
Cover, shake, and heat through.
Make a loop of each softened parsley stalk by winding the ends around each other, then stuff the loop with green beans until it holds together.
Stand a green bean bundle on each plate and dress with pan juices.
Place two or three vol au vents on each plate and serve.