"I am not a big fan of Christmas crackers. There, I’ve said it. I haven’t grown up with them and I’m not as amused by the cheesy jokes and flimsy paper hats as everyone else appears to be. Nevertheless, they have become part of our Christmas tradition, my children being especially fond of them."
One Christmas cracker I have a lot of time for is this festive starter, a recipe I came up with to serve to vegetarian friends one Christmas which has now become a firm favourite. It’s quite versatile and can be served as a canapé, a starter or, if made a little bigger, as a filling main course. You can also vary the ingredients to include meat, if you like, but this is one vegetarian dish that even meat lovers find irresistible.
The filling can be made a day in advance but don’t fill the crackers until you’re ready to bake them otherwise the pastry may become soggy. Any leftovers can be reheated in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan). Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a roasting pan with and toss the squash so that is is covered. Drizzle with 2 tbsp honey and sprinkle with the cumin seeds. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Roughly chop the almonds, pistachios and cranberries and put in a large bowl together with the feta and hummus. Add the squash and 1 tbsp honey and mix together thoroughly. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Cut the phyllo sheets so that they’re square. Keep any pastry you are not using covered with a damp tea towel otherwise it’ll dry out.
Place one phyllo sheet on your worktop and brush with olive oil. Place a second sheet on top and brush with oil. Add the third sheet on top of the other two. Place about 3 tbsp of filling along the bottom edge of your phyllo square leaving a gap either side.
Roll into a cigar shape and brush along the top edge with olive oil to seal. Pinch the edges to form the cracker and tie them with a small piece of kitchen string.
Line a large tray with baking paper and place the crackers on it spaced slightly apart. Brush with olive oil.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
If the edges are browning too quickly cover them with strips of foil until the middle is done. Remove the string and cool slightly before serving.