This is a canapé recipe. I'm not sure how canapés are considered, these days - and I suspect (and fear) from their increasingly rare appearance as a pre-prandial offering at dinner parties that they're in danger of being written off as too mannered for today's informal dining style. This would be a shame, I think. Partly because canapés occupy a place in my heart, and I recall with fondness the days - and nights - professionally spent churning out regiments of the things, serried ranks of them, for corporate events, and wedding receptions and birthday parties ........it might sound like madness, but in fact it was a deeply satisfying process.
More importantly, though, canapés, if they're good, are very good! They have to be, given how hard they have to work. Only one mouthful each, and that's their single chance to make any impression at all. In one bite they have to stop you in your tracks.......flavour-bomb, sensation on the tongue, combination of textures and tastes....the best ones should stop the flow of small talk and have you reaching hurriedly for another before the tray is wafted away and out of reach.
These miniature kebabs were always one of my favourites, and I think they score highly against all of the criteria listed above: the combination of fresh grape along with cooked Bacon, Sage and Juniper is both surprising and delicious! Definitely worth the effort.....
Makes 24 canapés.
Ingredients: 275g Chicken Livers; 400g streaky Bacon, rindless (either 12 wide rashers, which can be cut in half lengthwise to make 24 strips, or else 24 very narrow rashers which are sometimes available these days) ; 24 medium sized Sage Leaves; 10 Juniper Berries, ground small in a cleaned coffee grinder; Black Pepper; 24 seedless Black Grapes.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C.
2. Lay out all of the 24 Bacon Rashers in rows on the worktop. If they are uneven in thickness, lay them with the wide end pointing towards you (this is the end on which you'll place the stuffing, and which will end up at the centre of the rolled Bacon).
3. On the end nearest to you of each rasher place a Sage Leaf, and top this with a teaspoon-sized piece of Chicken Liver. Over the top of the Chicken Liver sprinkle a little crushed Juniper and a grinding of Black Pepper. Then, roll each rasher up to make a neat roll, and secure each one with a small wooden cocktail stick.
4. Put all of the Bacon rolls on a baking sheet, and place in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Half way through this time, turn them over to ensure that they cook evenly.
5. After 15 minutes, take the Bacon Rolls out of the oven, and let them cool slightly before you replace the short wooden sticks with longer wooden skewers for serving (about 4" long is best); push the skewer right through the roll, with about an inch of skewer exposed on the far side. On this exposed bit of skewer, spear a seedless Grape.
Serve either hot or cold. Amazingly good, either way.....
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Amazing ... yesterday, I made a chicken liver pate, and, for the first time, flavoured it with juniper.
And isn't it wonderful stuff! I would ask how it turned out, but presumably you won't broach it for another week or so...?(I have now definitely put a two-week minimum lead time on chicken liver terrines .....if you cut into them any sooner, they don't do themselves justice).
The smell of Juniper is splendidly complicated and earthy, and in fact is rather under-used I suspect. Apart from the quantities of it which get consumed from within the gin bottle, of course....
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