Bruschetta – lovely crunchy bread slices – are easy to do and make a great snack, starter or canapé. The bread bases can be made in advance – wrapped in foil, or in an airtight container, they will keep for a week – and topped just before serving, so that they stay crisp. There are many possible toppings: here are three suggestions.There will probably be some of the caramelised onion and beetroot mixture over, but it’s hardly worthwhile making a smaller quantity and it’s delectable served as a relish with fried potatoes or bread and cheese. The Aubergine Caviar also makes a great dip – and the Chestnut Paté can be served hot with roast potatoes, gravy and vegetables for a quick main course, so these are versatile recipes. To save time you could also equally well use cream cheese (vegetarian or vegan), or hummus, with your choice of colourful, delicious things to decorate: roasted red or yellow peppers, or chargrilled artichoke hearts (from the deli counter), fresh herbs, olives, pieces of sundried tomato, caperberries…
Time to prepare: 40 mins
Time to cook: 30 mins
Dietary requirements: Egg-free, Vegan (with substitutions)
For the bruschetta bases
A little dried rosemary
1–2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
extra olive oil to garnish and black olives
Goats’ cheese with caramelized onion and beetroot
450 g (141/2 oz) red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
450 g (141/2 oz) cooked beetroot, diced
200 g (7 oz) soft smooth goats’ cheese
fresh dill leaves
For the toppings
290 g packet cooked and peeled whole chestnuts
15 g (1/2 oz) butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
paprika pepper and fresh thyme to decorate
Start by making the bruschette. Slice the bread then brush each on both sides with olive oil, place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven, 150° C (300° F) Gas Mark 2, for about 20 minutes until crisp. They can be made up to a week in advance and kept in an airtight container.
Next make the fillings. For the aubergine caviar, prick the aubergines in several places then put them under a very hot grill until soft and well-charred – 25–30 minutes. Cool slightly, then peel off the charred skin and whiz the aubergine to a pale cream with the garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Chill until required.
For the red onion and beetroot, cook the onions in the oil in a large saucepan, covered, for about 15 minutes until they’re very tender, stirring them every 5 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar and beetroot, then simmer gently, without a lid, for 10–15 minutes. Remove from the heat, season and cool.
For the chestnut pâté, put the chestnuts into a food-processor with the butter, garlic and lemon juice. Whiz to a fairly smooth purée and season with salt and pepper.
To prepare the bruschette, spread one third of the bases with goats’ cheese, top with caramelised onion and beetroot and a piece of dill; spread another third of them with aubergine caviar and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and one or two black olives; spread the remaining bruschette with chestnut pâté and garnish with a dusting of paprika pepper and fresh thyme sprigs.