Iis there anything better than a movie night? Feet up, movie chosen, food on tray. Ordering something is often the way to go on such occasions, but it doesn’t have to be. Cooking up a dish or two for a canape session takes a bit of planning, yes, but a take-out meal isn’t the only way to spend an evening. Here are some of my favorites from movie night, dialed in right away.
Sticky wings and pickled things (top photo)
One of the joys of dining on the couch while watching a movie with the lights dim is that no one can see how messy you are, but make sure you have plenty of napkins handy for this one- this. This will make more pickles than you’ll need here, but they keep for a week in a sealed jar in the fridge and are great in sandwiches.
Preparation 15 minutes
Marinade 1 hour+
To cook 75 minutes
800g chicken wings
1 tbsp lime juice
For the sticky marinade
1 tablespoon gochujangor red harissa
1½ teaspoon tomato paste
170ml apple juice
100ml dark soy sauce
2½ tablespoons demerara sugar
2 teaspoons of paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seedscoarsely ground in a mortar
¼ teaspoon Sichuan peppercornsfinely ground in a mortar or spice grinder (optional)
2 star anise
¾ teaspoon fennel seedscoarsely ground in a mortar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
For the pickled cucumbers
2 Lebanese cucumbersor 1 regular cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, flesh cut into thin slices (150g net)
Fine sea salt
2 fresh jalapeno peppersthinly sliced (if you prefer less heat, discard marrow and seeds)
10 g caster sugar
65 ml apple cider or white wine vinegar
20g dill leaves
1 tbsp lime juice
First prepare the pickle. Put the sliced cucumber in a large colander with a quarter teaspoon of salt, toss to combine, then place over a large bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the jalapeños, sugar, vinegar and 40 ml of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Pour out any liquid from the cucumber bowl, then put the cucumbers and dill in the bowl, pour the marinade liquid over the top and let cool completely. Once cooled, stir in half a tablespoon of lime juice.
Meanwhile, whisk together all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wings, toss with your hands until well coated, then place in a single layer in a 33cm x 26cm high-sided roasting pan and marinate for at least an hour ( and up to one night).
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/Gas 6. Cover the tray of wings tightly with foil, then bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and, using tongs, flip the wings over and roast uncovered for another 20 minutes. Pour the remaining marinade in the pan over all the wings and cook for another 20 minutes, until sticky and charred in spots. Remove from the oven, let sit for five minutes, then stir in the remaining half tablespoon of lime juice.
Arrange the sticky wings and any remaining marinade on a platter, scatter half the pickles over the top and serve with the rest on the side.
Peanut Butter and Tart Cherry Rice Squares
These addictive treats bring peanut butter jelly vibes to any movie night or lunch box. They can be made ahead, if desired – they will keep in an airtight container for up to two days.
Preparation 15 minutes
To cook 15 minutes
175 ml golden syrup
75g unsalted butter
100 g natural smooth peanut butter – I like Mani Life Deep Roast
100g rice jumped up
75 g roasted and salted peanutscoarsely chopped
75g dried cherriesor dried cranberries, soaked for 10 minutes in a little lemon juice, then roughly chopped
40g good quality milk chocolateroughly broken
¼ teaspoon flaked sea salt
Line a 20cm x 20cm square tin with parchment paper, making sure there is enough overlap.
Place the golden syrup and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, for three to four minutes, until bubbling furiously. Add the peanut butter, stir for another minute, until smooth, then remove from the heat and, working quickly, mix in the rice pops and 60g peanuts and sour cherries.
Transfer the mixture to the lined pan and use the excess paper to press down on top until it is as flat as possible. Refrigerate for one hour, until hardened.
Meanwhile, fill a small saucepan one quarter full with water and set over medium-high heat. Put the chocolate in a small bowl and place it over the pan to melt, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water. Remove from the heat and, using a spoon, pour the melted chocolate all over the frozen rice cake. Sprinkle the remaining 15g of peanuts and sour cherries and the quarter teaspoon of salt, then return to the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, to set.
Take the mold out of the fridge, lift the cake using the cantilever, then cut it into 3 cm squares. Arrange them on a platter and serve at room temperature.
Mushroom Quesadillas with Plum Salsa
The plum salsa makes these quesadillas extra special, but if you’re pressed for time, a hot sauce would work as an alternative condiment. If you want to make ahead, prepare the mushroom filling the day before.
Preparation 20 mins
To cook 40 minutes
1½ tsp vegetable oil
350g mixed mushroomscut into ½ cm thick pieces
Fine sea salt and black pepper
3 cloves of garlicpeeled and crushed
½ teaspoon rosemary leavesfinely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 medium flour tortillas
100 g low-moisture mozzarellagrated
140 g Leicester red or aged cheddargrated
100g sour creamto serve
For the plum salsa
2 slightly unripe plums (210g), pitted and coarsely grated
1 shallot (40g), peeled and thinly sliced
10g coriander leavescoarsely chopped, plus an additional 10g for serving
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1½ tsp lime juice
1 red pepperstem removed, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced (if you prefer less heat, discard pith and seeds)
Put half a teaspoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, add the mushrooms and a quarter of a teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, for 12 minutes, until thickened. until they are golden.
Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the garlic, rosemary, remaining vegetable oil and a good ground pepper, and cook, stirring, for another two minutes. Add the tomato puree and 100ml water, cook, stirring frequently, for three minutes, until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine all salsa ingredients and one-eighth teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl.
Wipe out the mushroom pan and put it on medium-high heat. Place in a tortilla and sprinkle with half the mozzarella, half the mushroom mixture and 40g red leicester. Lay another tortilla on top, sandwiching the filling inside, then cook for three minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
Remove the quesadilla from the pan, sprinkle an additional 30g red leicester into the pan – it should sizzle and melt almost instantly – then lay the quesadilla over the cheese and press down. Bake for 90 seconds, then use a spatula to remove the cheese-covered quesadilla from the pan and invert it onto a wire rack. Prepare the second quesadilla the same way.
To serve, cut each quesadilla into eight pieces and arrange on a large plate. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with salsa and sour cream in bowls on the side.