Well friends, the party season is almost upon us. Oh hell, it’s upon us every week, let’s face it. I just said that as an excuse for talking about one of my favourite nibbles, the devil on horseback.
I had a big fad with these a couple of years ago, and then forgot about them until the amazing Jules served them at her place the other week, and now I’m all agog again at how good they are and have made them several times since.
For those whose parents never served these as snacks at classy ’70s progressive dinners (now there’s a whole other topic for a post …), or who have not otherwise discovered the delights of this little torpedo of salty sweetness, a devil on horseback is basically a prune wrapped in bacon, skewered with a toothpick and then grilled, barbecued or otherwise lightly frazzled.
Put like that, of course, it sounds – well, silly. But believe you me, Kimmy, we are talking seriously good finger food here.
The laziest, most cursory bit of online research reveals little about the ridiculous name, except that it’s a cheaper version of angels on horseback – a fresh oyster wrapped in bacon and then grilled (which I’ve never tried – sounds slippery, but really must give it a go), and this was apparently first documented in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management in 1888, derived from the French dish anges à cheval. All of this explains nothing about horses and angels. I think the horse is the bacon, and the devil (being black, I suppose??? sheesh) is the prune. Go figure. Told you it was nuts.
Anyhoo – enough with the dodgy historical nomenclature, and on with the recipes.
Jules’ absolutely delicious version, and my copies pictured here, were the updated groovified kind made by your friend and mine Maggie Beer, and the recipe is here. Of course it involves verjuice, and orange zest, and rosemary. These are good, as the verjuice plumps up the prune and gives it a succulence it otherwise can lack, and the orange zest provides some zip in what can be a cloying sort of flavour combo. I did mine with some pancetta I had in the fridge, but Maggie says speck or bacon.
My other fave comes from Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopaedia of Food and Cookery, and is a rather boofier version, direct from the seventies. If you are delicate about salt, stop here, turn around, and take refuge. But if like a true howtoshuckanoysterlover you feel the force strong within you, proceed!
1. First, take one blanched almond.
2. Wrap that little baby in an anchovy, and pop the swaddled nut into the hollow centre of a pitted prune.
3. Wrap in bacon, secure with toothpick and proceed to bung in the oven / stick on the barbecue / in a non-stick frypan, etc.
Repeat procedure for as long as you and your guests can take it. These are so rich and salty you can really only eat about two, although Senor has been known to clear a plate without once gasping for water. Jules and I have discussed possible variations; perhaps a caperberry in place of an anchovy? A teeny smidge of chilli?
Please do have an experimental go – and if you come up with your own variations, tell us all about it.
May the devilish force be with you.
*PS: I know I just said I wouldn’t be here for a bit, but just writing that got me all aquiver about the devils. Now I really am going to be gone for a week …