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Blinis With Bling

When it comes to New Year’s party nibbles it’s high time to forget the soggy vol-au-vents and deliver a few batches of fluffy blinis, still warm from the pan and loaded with everyone’s favourite toppings.
Blini’s, the classic Russian pancakes traditionally made with buckwheat flower, provide a perfect foil for any kind of mouth-watering morsel that springs to mind, from classic combos of smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese or caviar and sour cream, to equally tasty veggie options including roast peppers and aubergine. 

Below are a brace of blini recipes, guaranteed to create cocktail accompaniments that’ll do an awful lot more than merely soaking up the fizz…

This recipe from award-winning French baker Richard Bertinet's produces by far the lightest, most delicate blinis, with a gorgeously rich, buttery flavour. They’re well worth the proving time, but do remember to make them well in advance. 

Makes about 35 
150ml milk 
70g buckwheat flour 
70g strong white flour 
1 tsp salt 
2 tsp caraway seeds 
2 free-range eggs, separated 
4g dried yeast 
100g sour cream 
25g butter 
1. Heat the milk in a small pan until it just boils. While it heats, put the flours, the salt and the caraway seeds in a large bowl and separate the eggs.
2. When the milk begins to boil, take it off the heat and stir in the yeast, followed by the egg yolks and the sour cream – you'll need to stir vigorously with each addition. 

3. Pour the contents of the pan slowly into the bowl of flour, stirring as you do so. When you have a smooth paste, cover and leave in a warm place for an hour, or until spongy – it won't rise dramatically, but it should have expanded slightly, and have developed a few bubbles on the surface. 

4. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and then very gently fold them into the mixture using a rubber spatula or metal spoon. Once thoroughly mixed, cover, and leave for another 2 hours. 

5. When ready to cook, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium high heat, then add the batter in tea-spoons to the pan and cook until bubbles rise to the top, then flip them over and cook for another minute or so on the other side, until golden brown. You'll probably need to do this in batches, so keep them warm while you cook the rest – these are best hot from the pan. 

Potato blinis are another excellent alternative, and provide the perfect base for a dollop of caviar, as this Thomas Keller recipe variation proves.
Makes about 30 
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed 
3 large egg yolks, room temperature 
1 large egg, room temperature 
½ cup sour cream, room temperature 
¼ cup all-purpose flour 
1½ teaspoon kosher salt 
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper 
¼ teaspoon baking soda 
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
1.Preheat oven to 425°. Prick potatoes all over with a fork and bake on a rimmed baking sheet until very tender and a knife slides easily through flesh, 60–70 minutes. Let cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 200°.
2.Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, egg, and sour cream in a medium bowl to combine; set sour cream mixture aside.
3.Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop flesh from skins; discard skins. Pass flesh through food mill or ricer fitted with the small-hole disk into a large bowl. Working quickly, sprinkle flour, salt, pepper, baking soda, and nutmeg over potatoes; toss lightly with a fork to distribute ingredients, fluff potatoes, and break up any clumps. Make a well in the center and pour in reserved sour cream mixture. Whisk in a circular motion, working from the center out to incorporate, just until smooth (it should look like a thick pancake batter). Cover; let sit 10 minutes.
4.Heat a large skillet, preferably nonstick or cast iron, over medium-low. Brush skillet with a thin layer of butter. Spoon scant tablespoonfuls of batter into skillet, spacing about 1” apart. Cook blinis until undersides are golden brown and surfaces look matte and bubbles form on top, about 90 seconds. Gently flip and cook until other sides are golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm until ready to serve (up to 1 hour before). Repeat with remaining batter, wiping out skillet between batches and brushing with more butter.
Now simply enjoy, with the best New Year's wishes from all at Maws!