I’m not much one for snacks.  I don’t get that need at 5 pm to find something to munch on.

Maybe it’s just because of what’s usually available.

I don’t eat crisps. I just don’t understand the appeal.

Pretzels make me unreasonably thirsty.

Corn chips and dip, frankly make me sad.  Too many mornings have I faced the detritus of last night’s party, wilted, sodden and mangled together in a bowl. If dropped ice cream cones are a metaphor for childhood disappointments, then soggy Doritos are the equivalent for adolescent hopes and dreams.

Cheese hour can’t be trusted. It has unruly colonialist pull on my stomach. No sooner is a platter out than any space or will I had left for a proper dinner is silenced.

And to me a bowl of plain nuts look like refugees from a golf club cocktail bar.

But when you’re entertaining there’s always the need for a small plate of something. A little nibble while the first drinks are poured. Something for people to do with their hands while the conversation kicks into gear. Something to quietly squat on the coffee table and signal ‘yes, we knew we were coming. See? We even laid out something to help get us started’.

So this is a perky little combination that I pulled together to kick our tamale feast last week. It’s spiced and toasted pumpkin seeds and almonds.

When dry toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) puff up into the most cheerful little canisters. They get crunchier and sweeter too. Add some whole toasted almonds (which play nicely with most things) and a riot of  Mexican inspired spices and you’ve got a party mix, quite unlike any I’ve tasted in a while.

It’s spicy and salty enough to make you want to keep reaching for your drink (particularly if it’s a beer or a margarita). It’s quick enough to chuck together in a hurry. And it’s curious enough to spark up some conversation between strangers as they chase after what flavours are at play.

I’m big enough now to know when I’ve been wrong. And even more so, to say it publicly.

Snack time is now officially served between 5 and 6pm. Just whatever you do, please don’t let it ruin your dinner.



Spiced Mexican Seeds (and nuts)

(Nb, this spice combination would also work quite cheerfully on popcorn)

Shopping/foraging
2 cups of a mix of pumpkin seeds, whole almonds and sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
2 teaspoons of chilli- either fresh that’s cut into small strips, or as chilli powder
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
2 teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon of salt flakes
1 tablespoon of icing sugar

Equipment
1 frying pan. 1 larger bowl to mix.

Here’s how we roll

1. Add the cumin and coriander to the fry pan. Dry toast it for 30 seconds.
2. Pour those spices into the larger bowl.
3. Add the pumpkin seeds, sunflower and almonds to the dry fry pan (if it is a small pan do it in two batches). Toast on a medium heat for around 5-10 minutes, stirring and shaking occasionally to make sure they don’t burn.
4. Remove the seeds when they’re puffed and crunchy and the almonds are toasted.
5. Add the other spices, salt and sugar to the warm nuts. Stir all around.
6. Seperate into small bowls.
7. Pour yourselves some drinks. Nibble at contents of bowls.