If a holiday cocktail or wine and cheese party is in your home entertaining plans, here are a few original ideas from chef instructors at Liaison College in Kitchener, Ont.

Cranberry Duck Scones

The duck must be prepared several days ahead.


375 ml (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour (approx)

30 ml (2 tbsp) sugar

6 ml (1 1/4 tsp) baking powder

1 ml ( 1/4 tsp) baking soda

2 ml ( 1/2 tsp) salt

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) dried cranberries, chopped

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) buttermilk (approx)

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add buttermilk and mix until just combined. If dough is too dry or too wet adjust with more buttermilk or flour as necessary.

Turn out dough onto a floured work surface and knead dough until it comes together, 10 to 12 times, then roll out with a floured rolling pin to about 5 mm ( 1/4 inch) thick.

Cut out small rounds of dough about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter and place on a cookie sheet. Brush with an egg wash (1 egg, egg yolk or white mixed with 15 to 30 ml/1 to 2 tbsp of water or milk) and bake at 190 C (375 F) until golden brown and risen.

Duck Prosciutto

5 duck breasts

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) kosher salt

5 thyme sprigs

Zest of 2 oranges

Small jar fig jam

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) sprouts or greens

250 g ( 1/2 lb) gorgonzola cheese

Clean duck breasts by trimming off any visible silver skin. Dust with salt and lay thyme sprigs and orange zest on flesh side. Sandwich breasts between two trays and press with weights or heavy cans for 1 day. After 1 day, quickly rinse and dry breasts and place in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days until dried. To serve, slice breast very thinly across the grain.

Note: Slicing the breasts is easier if they are partially frozen.

To assemble, slice scones in half and place on a baking sheet. Place fig jam on bottom layers, place small sprouts or greens on jam and top with a slice of duck. Place a slice of gorgonzola on top and melt in 180 C (350 F) oven (watch carefully so it doesn't scorch).

Place tops on scones and arrange on a platter and serve warm.

Makes about 12 scones.


Lamb Lollipops

Caul is a thin fatty membrane that lines the abdominal cavity in pigs, lamb or sheep. It resembles a lacy net and is used to wrap and contain pates and forcemeats. The fatty membrane melts during the heating or cooking process. It can be ordered through your local butcher.

1 rack of lamb (8 chops)

Lamb caul fat or prosciutto

Baby Arugula Pesto

250 ml (1 cup) baby arugula

75 ml (5 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic

90 g (3 oz) toasted pine nuts

Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, place arugula, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest and process until smooth.

Cut rack of lamb into chops and wrap bones in foil to prevent browning.

Place 5 ml (1 tsp) of the pesto on piece of spread-out caul fat or prosciutto. Season each chop with salt and pepper, place on pesto and wrap caul fat or prosciutto around chop. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 230 C (450 F) for 3 to 5 minutes or until fat is tight around chop.

Makes 8 chops and 250 ml (1 cup) pesto.


Phyllo-Wrapped Baked Brie

1 shallot, finely minced

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) red pepper jelly, divided

3 sheets phyllo dough

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) melted unsalted (clarified) butter

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) sliced almonds sliced

1 small wheel of brie or Camembert

Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).

In a saute pan, sweat shallot until it starts to caramelize, keeping temperature low. Add 15 ml (1 tbsp) of the red pepper jelly to shallot and set aside to cool.

Lay out one sheet of phyllo on a work surface; brush evenly with butter. Lay a second sheet on top and repeat until you have three layers.

Place cooled shallot mixture in the middle of the phyllo sheets. Place brie on top of shallot mixture. Wrap sides and bottom and flip over.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Garnish with remaining jelly.

Makes 8 servings.