I’m on my third round of showers now. As a young girl I celebrated with my friends as they married and had babies. Not enough years later there were the divorce parties and remarriages.
Now the children are getting married and having kids of their own.
Not sure where the time went, and the cost of a gift has certainly changed, but figuring out what to bring to a shower is exactly as aggravating as it was 35 years ago.
Today I’ve got two updated ancient recipes for you — older even than I — that will make April showers more pleasurable.
Curried Egg Salad Finger Sandwiches
It’s so easy to go to the store and buy party food that making an elegant sandwich is becoming a lost art. That’s a shame, because everyone loves a bit of bread and savoury filling. These are regular old egg sandwiches elevated to party status with a couple of extra ingredients and a tiny bit of effort. A loaf of bread makes enough small sandwiches for about 20 people.
12 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup bottled mango chutney, minced
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup currants
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced, optional
1/4 cup softened butter or margarine, divided
1 tbsp. hot or mild curry powder
1 loaf white sandwich bread, sliced, crusts removed
Let’s talk about boiling eggs first. Nothing is less appetizing than that green ring around a hardboiled egg yolk, and it’s easy to avoid. Put the eggs in a large pot and cover generously with cold water. Put them onto the highest possible heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to sit in the water for 10 minutes. Cool under cold running water.
Peel them and mash coarsely or finely, as you prefer, with a fork or potato masher.
Stir in mayonnaise, chutney, red onion, currants, cilantro and jalapeño. Take about one tbsp. of the butter and combine with curry powder. Microwave for 30 seconds then stir into the egg mixture.
Spread remaining butter sparingly on the bread and divide the egg filling among the slices. Top with their pairs.
Cut the sandwiches into fingers or small triangles, cover tightly and refrigerate until party time.
Make a ton of these and throw them in the freezer for quick suppers — just reheat from frozen at 350 F about 20 minutes or until hot through.
I do realize pastry is a bit of work, but if you enjoy the compliments you get for your home cooking these are the ticket for any party. They leave the store-bought boxed ones in the dust.
If you just can’t imagine making your own pastry then feel free to buy the ready-made variety available now in most grocery stores — the filling alone will make you a hero.
Speaking of the filling, yes, it’s a bit of fussing, but the result is fantastically tasty not only in these empanadas, but also on top of a spoonful of rice or wrapped in a tortilla.
This much dough makes about 20 small empanadas but doubles well. I have to admit the filling will be more than you need but seriously, just try not to eat it as you make these — you won’t be able to resist nibbling.
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp. cold lard or vegetable shortening
1/3 cup ice cold water
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. each hot chili powder, dried thyme, dried oregano and ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup green olives, finely chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 tsp. cold water
For the pastry, whisk or sift together flour and salt. Cut or rub in the butter and lard with a pastry cutter or your fingers — go for fairly large pieces of fat. Whisk together egg, cold water and vinegar and add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir with a fork just to combine then gather the shaggy dough as best you can to form a disk. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate an hour or so.
Now make the filling.
Heat oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Add onion and fry until soft and just starting to turn golden brown. Add garlic and cook one minute. Add beef and cook, stirring, until no longer pink.
Stir in cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, thyme, oregano, allspice and cinnamon. Cook together a few minutes, until fragrant. Make an open spot in the pan and add the tomato paste. Stir it around until it starts to turn dark.
Add boiling water and stir everything to combine. Simmer together until just about all the liquid has evaporated and mixture is fairly dry. Stir in olives, raisins and cheese.
Remove pastry from fridge and allow to rest a few minutes at room temperature.
Roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into two-inch rounds with a floured biscuit cutter or small glass. For the final assembly, whisk together egg and cold water and with your finger coat the edges of the circles.
Put a spoonful of filling in the middle of each piece of pastry. Fold in half to make half-moons and pinch the edges to seal as tightly as you can. Press the floured tines of a fork all around the edges to make a pretty finish.
Brush the tops with remaining egg wash and place on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 F about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her
c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s,
NL, A1E 4N1.