Vol-au-vents are back. My grandmother would certainly approve. An excellent cook, she always made the most exquisite, tiny vol-au-vents for Christmas parties, says Alex Hollywood (pictured)

Vol-au -vents are back. I know my grandmother would approve. Alex Hollywood (pictured), said that my grandmother was an exceptional cook who always created the finest, most delicate vol-au–vents for Christmas parties.

These are utterly delectable and very practical in an age of new, unwieldy canapes. Vol-au-vents are the small, pastry-filled cases that have savoury fillings inside. Hurrah!

The name “fly in the Wind” was invented in Paris in 19th century. It is a result of light puff pastry. 

You could find them at every 1970s dinner party, buffet or event, as well as hostess trolleys and devilled egg.

Waitrose sales are now up 25% year-over-year, and some Waitrose varieties have been sold online. 

She would approve of my grandmother’s cooking. A great cook, she made small, exquisite vol-auvens every Christmas. 

They were filled with cognac-flambéd creamy mushrooms and parsley, or chicken in white wine and tarragon — not to mention prawns and dill with a rather retro Pernod mayonnaise.

Childhood memories include sitting with my sister under the table in 1970s. I was hidden from grown-ups with a large, white tablecloth and a pile of her amazing pastry creations.

We’re feeling nostalgic right now and vol-au-vents make the best comfort food. These are so delicious, you can’t help but eat one.

While my grandmother made her own delectable puff pastry — no mean feat, as you need strong arms to roll in all that lovely butter to get the desired ‘marbled’ effect — I buy mine. 

They're utterly delicious, and, in a world of unwieldy, new-fangled canapes, eminently practical. Yes, vol-au-vents, those small pastry cases stuffed full with savoury fillings, are back. (Above, Angela Hartnett's mushroom vol-au-vent)

They are delicious and practical, even in the age of new-fangled, awkward canapes. The small puff pastry boxes stuffed with delicious fillings have returned to the market. (Above, Angela Hartnett’s mushroom vol-au-vent)

You can get away with shop-bought items these days. And it’s not just pre-made pastry you can buy, but pre-made vol-au-vent cases — even easier!

Modern vol-au-vents are now incredibly simple and easy to make, with all the retro charm.

These can be used to create mouthwatering desserts. Use cream or fresh fruit to fill them. You could also mix Nutella with mascarpone, and then pipe the contents into the containers. 

You can also melt some choccy truffles in a little pot of cream, or a Terry’s chocolate orange with a bit of Grand Marnier. Then spoon the mousse into your cases. Top with chocolate shavings and sweetened Chantilly. Perfect.

Here’s the recipe to my favorite Cognac and mushroom Vol-au-vents. You can also find delicious fillings by celebrity chefs.

Cooking Tonight by Alex Hollywood is published by Hodder & Stoughton.


It makes 10-12

  • Flour for dusting
  • Butter puff pastry 500g Pack
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 knob butter
  • Olive oil
  • Chestnut mushrooms chopped to 300g
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped and crushed
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Cognac
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh chopped parsley

Pre-heat the oven at 190c/170c fan/gas 5. Pat your dough out on floured surfaces to form a rectangle about 4 to 5mm in thickness. Use a round cutter to cut 10 -12 pieces of pastry. Enough for 5-6 vols-au-vents. You will need half the rounds of pastry (5-6). Use a smaller cutter and press another round through the centre.

This should leave you with 5-6 round flats, and 5-6 rings.

To form a “rim”, brush the round with egg white and then place the rings on top.

You can score the middle to prevent it from puffing up. Then, brush the top with egg wash.

Allow to cool, and then bake the bread for about 15-20 minutes or until it is golden brown.

Heat a little butter and a dash of oil in a frying pan and sauté the mushrooms for a few minutes with the crushed, chopped garlic and chopped thyme. Add the Cognac then carefully light it and flambé. Let the flames die down and add crème fraîche. Allow the bubbles to settle and then let it reduce until it becomes thick and creamy. After seasoning, taste and fold in chopped parsley.

Serve the filled pastry by transferring the baked pastry to a plate.


Brian McDermott's chicken and ham vol-au-vents

Brian McDermott’s chicken-and-ham vol-au-vents

It’s a classic combination of festive flavors and is great for using up any leftover Christmas turkey or ham.

For 10-12 Vol-au-vents, fill in the form

  • Use rapeseed oil to drizzle
  • 25g butter
  • 1 chopped onion.
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Ten mushrooms, cut
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 25ml White Wine
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 50ml Cream
  • You can choose 50g of grated cheese
  • 250g chicken cooked and chopped
  • 250g slow-cooked ham

To serve

  • Few fresh, chopped parsley sprigs

Add the oil, butter, and water to a large saucepan on medium heat. Cook the chopped onion and garlic on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the chopped mushrooms, and continue to sweat for 4 more minutes.

Add freshly grated pepper to the dish. Allow the wine to simmer for three minutes before adding it.

Combine the flour, and then stir in the stock. Warm it first. Allow to simmer for eight minutes while stirring every now and again.

Continue to heat the cream for 4 minutes.

Mix in the grated cheese. This is the stage where I use parmesan. The sauce will thicken slightly.

Combine the chopped chicken and ham. Let it cool down for a few minutes.

The mixture should be poured into the prepared pastry shells. Heat the vol-au-vents in the oven for about 15 minutes. Finally, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Tip of the day

For the perfect vol au-vent, it must rise evenly in order to retain its filling. The egg should not drip down from the edges of the pastry when you egg wash it before baking. It will stop the pastry from rising evenly.


James’s makes a wonderful pre-Christmas meal.

Filling for 6 big vol-au-vents

  • 15g butter
  • Plain flour 15g
  • 300ml double cream
  • 50ml sparkling wine
  • A small amount of chopped chives.


  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 300g raw prawns, shelled
  • 200g salmon, cubed
  • 2 lobster tails, chopped
  • Cubed 200g Monkfish

The pea puree

  • Defrosted 600g frozen peas
  • 100ml double cream
  • 25g butter
  • Salt and pepper

Make the sauce by melting the butter. Next, whisk in the wine, the flour and cream. Season with salt. Once the sauce has melted, add the cream and wine to it. Finally stir in the chives. Heat butter and oil in a separate pan. Place the fish on it. Fry the fish for about 2-3 minutes.

Puree the peas with butter, cream, and milk in a food processer for around a minute. Once the peas are seasoned, heat them in a saucepan.

Pour the cooked peas and sauce into a bowl.


This dish is sophisticated enough to be served at a party with Parmesan, mushrooms and tarragon.

Filling for 3 big vol-au-vents

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 400g mushrooms roughly chopped
  • 1 large minced garlic clove.
  • 175ml Single Cream
  • 4 Tbsp Parmesan grated,
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley or tarragon finely chopped
  • Salt and ground pepper

In a large saucepan, melt the butter on a medium-high flame. Stir in the mushrooms, and let them cook until they are fully cooked. Cook for another minute. Stir in the cream. Let it bubble for a few minutes until the sauce coats the mushrooms. Add the Parmesan cheese and the remaining chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Place the pastry on a plate. Top with hot mushroom mixture. Add the rest of the herbs to your dish and enjoy.


Smoked haddock and prawn vol-au-vents, courtesy of the Hairy Bikers

The Hairy Bikers provided smoked haddock and shrimp vol-au-vents

The classic chicken filling can be replaced with smoked haddock or prawns.

Completing the 30 vol-au -vents

  • Fillet of unsmoked haddock, 450g
  • Whole milk 300ml
  • 200g raw prawns.
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives

The sauce

  • ½ onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Three sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 25g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 5 tbsp crème fraîche
  • Sea salt flakes
  • Black pepper freshly ground

Combine the milk and haddock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Let the mixture cool down for 10 minutes.

The milk can be kept aside while you drain the haddock. Allow the haddock to cool, and then peel the skin.

To make the sauce, heat the reserved milk and then add the onion and bay leaves to a saucepan. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes before removing from heat. Use a strainer to filter the milk into a container. Discard the herbs and onion.

Heat the butter in the saucepan on a medium heat. Add the flour to the pan and stir constantly.

Add the hot infusion milk gradually. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until thickened and smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper, remove from the heat and stir in the crème fraîche. Allow to cool on a cling wrap.

Mix the haddock with the sauce. Make sure to check for bones. Add the prawns, chives and spices.

Put the mixture in the prepared pastry case and heat for approximately 8-10 minutes until the filling becomes bubbly and hot.

Warm or cold.

Try the samples from the supermarket


12 Va Va Voom Vol-Au-Vents, M&S, £5.50. Cook all at gas 6, 180c/160c fan for 10 minutes, or 18 minutes from frozen

Ham Hock, Cheddar Cheese

The ham is studded with chives and retains a nice crisp texture. The ham was too bland and there is not enough flavor. 3/5

Smoked Salmon, smoked trout and crème fraiche

The fish has a pleasant salty tang — great if you want guests to top up their glasses. However, the pastry is way too rich for its own good. 4/5

Goat cheese and caramelised onions

The power of goat’s cheese is usually quite strong. They could have substituted mousetrap as the cheese is drowned by an overwhelming sweet onion. 2/5

Conclusion: Disappointing. Scrooge-like, the average fillings. There is not much va va va vuoom in this yawn-yawn routine.

SUM: 3/5

Taste the Difference 12 Festive Vol-Au-Vents, from Sainsbury's

Sainsbury’s 12 Festive Volu-Vents: Taste the Difference


Taste the Difference 12 Festive Vol-Au-Vents, Sainsbury’s, £5. Cook at Gas 6 for 8 minutes (180c/160c fan), or use 16 frozen.

Tomato and Mozzarella

It’s a delicious combination of intensely herby tomatoes and a touch of mozzarella. It’s delicious when piped in a case shaped like a Christmas tree. 4/5

Maple-cured bacon and maple-cured cheddar

It has the perfect amount of smokeiness, and it has the right sharpness.


Caramelised onions and cheddar

It is a great combination of the Taw valley cheddar filling with the sweet onion. The chives’ background flavour is also evident. 4/5

Conclusion: While the fillings may be predictable, they’re done very well. It’s clever and festive. It’s a great choice for a nostalgic touch.

Overall Score: 4/5


12 Festive Vol-Au-Vents, Waitrose, £6. They can be cooked at 200c/180c fan for 12-14 minutes, or frozen in just 18 minutes.

Cheddar and smoked ham

Large amount of salty shredded pork in a creamy, rich, and tangy cheesey filling. 5/5

Coronation Chicken

This 1970s creamy sauce makes a great vol-au-vent. It is a pleasing combination of sweetness and spice. 5/5

Mushroom crème fraîche

Gorgeously-seasoned mushrooms, blended into light cheese sauce. Then baked in buttery pastry. This is a delicious, filling dish. 5/5


10 Lobster Thermidor Vol-Au-Vents, Waitrose, £9. These can all be prepared in eight minutes using gas 6. (180c/356f).

A white wine sauce is laced in Cognac that includes lobster and king-prawns. It’s topped off with Parmigiano Reggiano and lobster along with a buttery herb crumb. Decadent at (gulp) almost £1 each. They are so lavish that it is hard not to adore them. Every bite is bursting with flavorful sauces and shellfish. Do you have the stomach to share this delicious dish? 5/5

Conclusion: Vol-au-vents to die for. Fanny Cradock approves. This isn’t simply a nod to the past — it’s a dive in. It took a lot of care to get the flavors right.

SUM: 5/5