These tasty appetisers are made from bottled oysters in a béchamel sauce which are the filling for vol-au-vent pastry cases. Such appetisers were extremely popular in Australia, long before the many patés, cheeses and dips which are now so popular had even appeared on our culinary horizons. A tad old-fashioned perhaps, but still delicious. When I checked on Zaar there were very few similar recipes, so perhaps it was just here that they were so popular. This is another recipe I have adapted from the Australian publication by Reader's Digest of a book jam-packed with traditional Australian recipes: 'Family Recipe Scrapbook: tried and trusted recipes for today's cooks'. I bought the book in preparation for the 2005 Zaar World Tour, so I could track down familiar recipes I've eaten often. What I love about the recipes in this book is that from whatever decade past they belong, they have been updated to suit C21st tastes. The 20 minutes cooling time is not included in the preparation and cooking times below. The proportions in the recipe are for 24 (38x12mm) vol-au-vent cases.
- 1 cup milk
- 1 small bay leaf
- 2 slices onions, thin slices
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 small celery rib, sliced
- 30 g butter
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons plain flour
- sea salt, to taste
- fresh ground white pepper, to taste
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 24 small bottled oysters, drained
- 24 small vol-au-vent cases
- 1 tablespoon chives, to garnish
- Pat the oysters dry with paper towels and set aside.
- Prepare béchamel sauce by combining the milk, bay leaf, onion, peppercorns and celery in a small, heavy-based saucepan, over a medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to cool. Strain and reserve the milk.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan until hot and bubbling. Add the flour and stir constantly for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid the sauce from becoming lumpy.
- Return the saucepan to the heat and cook the sauce, stirring constantly on a medium-high heat until it comes to the boil and thickens. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
- Spoon 1 teaspoon of béchamel sauce into the base of each vol-au-vent case, top with an oyster and spoon over a little extra béchamel sauce.
- Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and hot. Just before serving, sprinkle with chopped chives.
- Note: These vol-au-vents can be prepared a few hours in advance and put in the oven just before they are required.