Ramona's festive vol-au-vents, blinis two ways and mince pie bites

Our resident culinary expert Ramona has some fab festive recipes for mushroom, cranberry and stilton vol-au-vents, blinis two ways and crumbly mince pie bites...

Dazzle your holiday guests with a trio of recipes that cleverly reinvent classic Christmas flavours. The mushroom, cranberry, and Stilton vol-au-vents boast a delicate balance of earthy mushrooms, tangy Stilton, and sweet, dried cranberries tucked within puff pastry (‘vol au vent’ means ‘windblown’, which feels particularly apt at the moment!). Assemble these bite-sized wonders moments before serving, streamlining your preparation by having all the components ready in advance.

For blinis two ways, you have the option to craft the blinis from scratch or take a shortcut with a store-bought version. They are best straight out of the pan, but if you want to prep them in the weeks before your Christmas do, freeze by laying in a single layer on a greaseproof paper-lined tray. Once frozen through, tip them into a freezer bag. These versatile blinis serve as the perfect canvas for two delectable toppings: honey-roasted pigs in blankets with crisp sage, and smoked salmon paired with ricotta and capers.

Cap off your celebration with crumble mince pie bites, infusing zest into the crumble topping, satsuma-infused mincemeat, and orange-kissed pastry. Sometimes, a whole mince pie can feel like too much, making these mini versions the perfect bite-sized indulgence. Waste not, want not —repurpose pastry off-cuts into butter-brushed, baked biscuits for a cook's perk. Happy Christmas all!

Mushroom, cranberry and Stilton vol-au-vents

Mushroom, cranberry and Stilton vol-au-vents

You can use smaller cutters for a daintier version of this Christmas canapé if you like, but this size makes for a generous portion.

Makes 8

  • 320g ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
  • plain flour, for dusting

For the filling

  • dash olive oil
  • knob butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 30g stilton, crumbled
  • 20g dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C/Gas 7 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Dust a work surface with flour and lay out the puff pastry.

Cut out 16 circles using a 6cm plain cutter and then cut a smaller circle using a 4.5cm cutter out of the centre of eight of the circles. Put the larger circles on the tray and brush the top of the pastry with some beaten egg and then top with the circles that have had the hole cut out. The off-cuts of pastry can be saved for another recipe. Brush the top of the rounds with more beaten egg, then bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and risen. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the filling, heat the oil and butter in a pan, add the onion and fry until soft, but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so more, then add the mixed mushrooms and stir. Add another splash of oil if needed. Sprinkle in the chopped tarragon, stir in the double cream and remove from the heat.

Press down the middle bit of pastry in each of the vol au vents and fill with some of the mushroom mixture, then top with crumbled stilton and dried cranberries. Assemble just before serving - the mushroom mixture can either be hot or cold depending on what you prefer.

Blinis two ways

Blinis two ways

Cheat this dish with bought blinis if you like - half the blinis are topped with honey-roasted pigs in blankets and crisp sage, and the other half with smoked salmon, ricotta and capers.

Makes 24

  • For the blinis
  • 120g self-raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 170ml milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • dash butter

For the pigs in blankets topping

  • 4 rashers streaky bacon
  • 6 cocktail sausages
  • 1 tsp honey
  • oil, for deep-fat frying
  • 12 small sage leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the smoked salmon topping

  • 75g ricotta
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 50g smoked salmon, cut into 12 small pieces
  • 2 tsp nonpareille capers, drained

For the blinis, put the flour and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl.

Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and beat it into the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk and the olive oil to a smooth batter.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add a dash of butter and once the butter has melted, add tablespoons of batter to the pan.

Cook each blini until bubbles form on the surface. Take a peek underneath the blini before turning to make sure it has lightly browned, and only lightly. Cook on the other side for about a minute or two, and set aside while you continue to use up all the batter.

It can be helpful to cook these in two frying pans simultaneously - be sure that the blinis are small and not touching. Set aside and leave to cool. These can be made earlier in the day ahead of your event.

For the pigs in blankets, preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 and line a baking tray with foil.

Cut each bacon rasher into three and each sausage in two, roll each piece of rasher around each cocktail sausage and place in the prepared tray. Drizzle the honey over the sausages and season with salt and pepper. Shake the tray to allow everything to be coated.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven.

Heat the oil in a pan for deep fat frying until it reaches 180C - you can use a cooking thermometer to check this. You only need to fill half the pan with oil and be sure not to leave the hot pan unattended. Prepare a plate lined with kitchen roll.

Using a slotted spoon, add the sage leaves to the hot oil, once they have sizzled and gone crisp, remove with the slotted spoon and transfer to the lined plate. Turn the hot oil off.

For the smoked salmon topping, combine the ricotta in a bowl with most of the dill (retain a little for garnish) and two-thirds of the lemon zest. Stir together.

Top half of the blinis with half a teaspoon of the ricotta mixture, a slice of salmon, the capers and garnish with the capers, remaining dill and lemon zest.

Top the remaining blinis with the pigs in blankets and a crisp sage leaf. Serve.

Crumble mince pie bites

Crumble mince pie bites

Orange zest in the crumble topping, satsuma added to the filling and orange in the pastry makes for a zesty mini-mince pie. You will need 3 mini-muffin tins.

Makes 36

  • For the pastry
  • 170g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 70g cold butter from the fridge, cubed
  • 20g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 orange, zest only (plus an optional splash of orange juice)
  • 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten

For the filling

  • 1 satsuma
  • 225g luxury mincemeat
  • 1 tbsp brandy

For the crumble topping

  • 30g plain flour
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 30g unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • ½ orange, zest only
  • icing sugar, to dust

For the pastry, put the flour and butter in a large bowl and rub together using your fingertips.

Add the icing sugar and orange zest and mix together, then stir in the egg to bring it all together as a dough - add a splash of orange juice if it seems a little dry.

Wrap the dough in cling film or reusable beeswax wrap and leave to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

For the filling, zest the satsuma and tip the zest into a bowl with the mincemeat. Segment the satsuma and finely chop the flesh. Add the satsuma flesh and brandy to the bowl.

For the crumble topping, rub together the flour, mixed spice and sugar, then mix in the butter using your hands to make a crumbly texture. Stir in the orange zest.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6 and brush three mini-muffin tins with butter. If you don't have enough tins, you might have to cook them in batches.

Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 36 rounds using a 5cm pastry cutter and re-roll any trimmings. Press the rounds into the holes of the mini tins.

Add half a teaspoon of mincemeat to each case and top with a little of the crumble. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Dust with icing sugar to serve.

About Ramona

Ramona Andrews is a highly experienced food writer and digital content producer. She worked for the BBC Food website for many years, during which time the site won a BAFTA nomination, World Food Media Award and Guild of Food Writers Award. After studying to be a chef, she went to work for the UKTV Food website (now Good Food Channel) and has also worked as a restaurant reviewer for Time Out and Square Meal. She now lives in Bristol and dedicates much of her time to working on food policy change campaigns, as well as keeping her hand in recipe testing and shooting for bigger food clients and publications in her kitchen studio. The Lazy Susan team are looking forward to giving the delicious recipes she’s creating for our blog a try.

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