Just as sartorial trends define an era, so too do food trends. So while guests at a cocktail party in the 60s and 70s would’ve been decked out in safari suits (men), maxi dresses (women) or tight flares and body shirts (both), it’s likely they’d have been sipping Moselle and snacking on vol-au-vents. And perhaps pineapple and cheese skewers, but there’s really no need to go there.
Despite a recent revival, the provenance of vol-au-vents goes way back. Literally translating as ‘flying in the wind’, the term was first recorded in print from 1800 and Carême, the inventor of puff pastry, is credited with their creation. Vol-au-vents were constructed from two circular layers of puff pastry, and the centre of the top piece removed to form a ring. The removed centre was baked separately to form a lid. Traditionally served as an entrée, the favoured fillings of the time were always bound with a velouté sauce. The bite-sized version was known as a bouchée, or mouthful. Vol-au-vents, however, have come into the modern vernacular as a catch-all term.
To bring vol-au-vents into the millennium,we eschew the gluggy fillings of the past – canned asparagus anyone? – and embrace a lighter style. Think Champagne-poached chicken spiked with lemon rind and tarragon, as we’ve done here. Prawns treated in a similar way would also work beautifully. Or try blanched fresh asparagus, refreshed and lightly dressed in vinaigrette.
Flares and maxi dresses have re-appeared on the fashion radar, so it’s high time vol-au-vents made a comeback, too. What better party piece than light-as-air puff pastry cradling a flavoursome filling?