TONY STAPLES: This versatile dish is ideal for a starter this Christmas

Cognac mushrooms on crostini with goats cheese fritters
Cognac mushrooms on crostini with goats cheese fritters

Make your recipes work harder this festive season so you don’t have to, says Tony Staples, executive head chef of the Arora Hotel, in Crawley.

If you are chief host this Christmas you are probably already planning what to eat and how to fit cooking in with everything else. Thank goodness then for versatile dishes like this, which can be prepared the day before.

Tony Staples

Tony Staples

The earthy flavour of wild mushrooms, combined with cream, brandy and goat’s cheese fritters, make it ideal for a Christmas Day starter.

It is a versatile recipe as you can cook the mushrooms and serve on toast. Or, once you have flambéed the mushrooms, add hot stock and whiz in a blender with double cream for soup.

The crostini will keep in an airtight tin for two days. Make double quantities and serve with dips, or spread with pâté.

l The Grill in the Arora is Crawley’s only AA-rosette restaurant and has retained this honour for the fourth year running.

Call 01293 530000. Follow us on Twitter or share your festive dishes on Instagram by tagging @aroragatwick.

Cognac mushrooms on crostini with goat’s cheese fritters

Serves 4

2 banana shallots, diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Leaves from a sprig of thyme

Knob of butter

500g wild mushrooms – or a mix of chestnut and oyster – thinly sliced

40ml brandy

50ml double cream

For the crostini:

One small baguette, cut into two-centimetre slices

100g butter, melted

For goat’s cheese fritters:

120g goat’s cheese log

10 tabs panko breadcrumbs

1 egg beaten

1 tab plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

Few drops of truffle oil and parmesan cheese shavings

Method

In a large frying pan, melt the knob of butter and gently fry the shallot and garlic with the thyme until softened.

Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, then add brandy and flambé – if you have a gas hob, tilt the frying pan to allow the brandy to ignite from the stove. For an electric hob, light the brandy with a match at arm’s length. Once the flames have died down, add cream and simmer for a few minutes until thickened. Set aside.

To make the crostini, dip one side of each baguette slice into the melted butter. Place on a baking sheet, butter side up and bake in a preheated oven, 180oC, for 12 minutes until golden. Set aside.

To make the fritters, cut the goat’s cheese into 12 even pieces and roll each one into a ball. Roll each ball in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, then coat in the panko breadcrumbs. Refrigerate.

When you are ready to serve, deep fry the goat’s cheese balls for 30 seconds until golden but the cheese hasn’t begun to melt. Or you can shallow fry in a large frying pan, turning occasionally so they are evenly golden. Gently heat the mushrooms, and pop the crostini into the oven (180oc) to reheat for a few minutes.

To serve, pile the mushrooms onto the warm crostini, add the goat’s cheese fritters and sprinkle with a few drops of truffle oil and some parmesan shavings.

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