Valentine Warner's Christmas Nibbles

Valentine Warner's Curried Chicken Wings

Christmas exuberance demands fine nibbles to steady the enthusiasm. Hepple's co-founder, Valentine Warner, recommends a few to accompany the Hepple Martini.

Grilled Curried Chicken Wings

  • To make the marinade, grind toasted fennel, coriander, cumin, and cardamom seeds with a few cloves
  • Smash the ground spices into a paste with a dollop of good curry powder, 3 cloves of garlic (finely grated) the juice of a lemon, a tsp of Dijon mustard and a generous tsp of flaked sea salt. 
  • Rub this all over some heavily scored chicken wings and leave them to marinade for a few hours.
  • Toss in melted butter.
  • Grill until crispy and coloured.
  • Serve scattered with toasted almonds and little napkins to daintily wipe the lips before secretingthe tiny bones within.

Stuffed Mussels 

  • Steam open some very large mussels with a splash of water. Take care not to over cook them as they will go under the grill to be cooked again.
  • Keep them in the half shell discarding the other.
  • Reduce the sauce to a punchy tasting two tablespoons.
  • Mix together bread crumbs, ground walnuts (roughly bashed), lots of tarragon dill and parsley, garlic and finely grated lemon zest and juice.
  • Beat in a good amount of butter (half and half to the mix) adding the mussel stock and season with salty parmesan cheese.
  • Spoon this over the mussels in the half shell.
  • Arrange on crumpled tinfoil in a tray to stop the shells rocking and grill until browned and bubbling 

Smoked Eel Horseradish and Cucumber

  • Grate the zest of half a small unwaxed lemon with a tremendous amount of very finely grated horseradish into some whipping cream, adding a tiny splash of vinegar to sharpen the cream only faintly. 
  • Carefully beat the cream until stiff but not split. Fold through a little salt. 
  • Slice a peeled cucumber paper thin, put it in a sieve and toss with 1.5 tsp of flaked sea salt. Let them drip for an hour over a bowl before wringing them out like a flannel (over the bowl).
  • Pour into this salty water some white wine vinegar (until mellowed) adding enough sugar to sweeten.
  • Drop the cucumbers into this for 10 minutes.
  • Dry toast half a tablespoon of fennel seeds.
  • Squeeze the cucumbers dry and mix in the fennel seeds.
  • Warm some smoked eel in the oven and then portion.
  • While the eel warms toast and butter some black rye bread and while hot quickly cut into squares.
  • Pop on the warmed smoked eeland crown with the cucumber and cream 

Cheese Balls Stichleton

  • Stichelton (an unpasteurised stilton) and Roquefort make for great molten cheese balls. make a very smooth white sauce. Don't make it too thin or too thick.
  • Melt in enough blue cheese and parmesan (3-1) to make the sauce undeniably cheesy.
  • Finish with double cream and a spot of mustard. season with a salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg) put in the fridge and allow to stiffen.
  • Roll into quails egg sized balls and panne carefully with seasoned flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs.
  • Deep fry untilgolden. Drain on kitchen paper and season.
  • Serve with anchovy brined green olives 

Celeriac Tarts

  • Boil half a peeled a celeriac with 2 peeled cloves of garlic until totally softened.
  • 10 minutes before being ready add 2 peeled chopped upBraeburn apples.
  • Drain and blitz with a serious amount of butter and cream and a dash of truffle oil. It should be velvety smooth and not mash like but more of an an oozing puree. Season with plenty of salt
  • Fill buttery crispy fine tart cases and warm these tarts in the over. Crown each with a piece of very crispy streaky bacon or crispy onions. (onions thinly sliced floured and deep fried )