That’s right – vol au vents. We’ve done some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff and landed squarely in the ’70s.
Maybe it’s because I wasn’t around for their orange-tinted heyday that I have a soft spot for a bite-size foods. Or it could be that they leave your other hand free for a drink. The actual reason I like canapés? There’s a lot of scope for using cheese, in more ways than you could with one of those cheese boards that only feature as many varieties as cheese knives in that long-abandoned box (four).
It’s the tooth-squeak of a grilled halloumi skewer. The tongue-tingle of a good quality cheddar paired with pineapple. The nutty quality of an aged Comté. The soft ooze of burrata. If it came to it, I could give up steak, or bread, or pasta. Just don’t torture me, alone(y) without torta mascarpone.*
The cheese of the hour is goats cheese. To some people, it tastes “like a farm”. (When and why and where have all these people been licking barnyards?) But truly, it delivers an unbeatable tang that sits so wonderfully alongside sweet fruits and honey. Here, a soft goats cheese nestles with lightly honeyed caramelised onions and jammy fig to make a vol au vent that’s very much for the modern age.
*sorrynotsorry. Side note: if you ever see torta mascarpone, grab it while you can, for it is a rare and beautiful thing.
Yields 32 vol au vents
500g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
2 large white onions, sliced
4 figs, cubed
125g soft goats cheese, cubed
- Preheat the oven to 170C and liberally flour your worktop. Roll out the pastry to around 6mm thick. Cut out circles with a 6cm cutter, then use a 4cm cutter (or the top end of a piping nozzle!) to mark out an inner circle, without going through the pastry. Prick the inside of the inner circle through with a fork a few times.
- Blow any excess flour of the tops, and egg wash the outer circle of each vol au vent, and bake for around 15 minutes, until risen and golden.* Cool on a wire rack.
- While the cases bake and cool, caramelise the onions in a large pan, in a knob of butter over a low-medium heat. Stir every 5 minutes or so, until a deep golden brown, which will take around 30-40 minutes.** Mix in 1/2 – 1 tsp of honey, to taste, and set aside to cool.
- When the cases and onions are cool, use a small sharp knife to cut the inner circle of each vol au vent out, digging out a little of the pastry inside to make some room for the fillings.
- Use a small spoon to half-fill each vol au vent with caramelised onion, and top with a cube of fig and goats cheese, so they’re having a little cuddle. Serve the same day – if preparing in advance and refrigerating, allow them to return to room temperature before serving.
Notes: *Some might lean to the side like the Tower of Pisa. These ones are good for nibbling on while you work. **There’s a great slideshow of the colours to expect when caramelising onions here.