Apologies in advance for the rather fuzzy quality of my photos. As with the food featured, the photos were created in something of a rush. And this is the nature of my feature today – for in making up some canapés which don’t look half bad on a plate (they certainly look better than a packet of crisps and some sausage rolls) when you have neither the time nor skill to cook up a storm, party food doesn’t come much easier or quicker than this.
When my team at work decided that we should have a little drinks gathering to wave goodbye to a colleague of ours, I decided that some canapés were in order. But with only a few hours to spare the evening before, and with the prospect of travelling with said canapés on the London underground the following morning I had to think simple.
I came up with the following canapés which were a resounding success, are deceptively simple to make and which despite the ease of their creation, have the ability to seduce both in appearance and flavour.
Slightly less glam – the canapés set out on paper plates and tupperware at work
Anchovy and parmesan palmiers
These are a simple savoury variation on my previously posted sweet palmiers recipe. Simply replace the sugar with a handful of freshly grated parmesan and four rows of anchovies laid out parallel to the long sides of the puff pastry (which you roll inwards). Then freeze for 10 minutes before cutting into slices and cooking in an oven at around 200 degrees centigrade for around 20 minutes. These treats are salty but mega moorish.
Proscuitto-wrapped grissini with a home-made pesto dip
Such an easy treat, but this one went down the best. Simply wrap one end of some Italian grissini (bread sticks) with proscuitto or parma ham. For the dip make some pesto – I wizzed up half a clove of garlic, four large handfuls of fresh basil with a handful of lightly toasted pine nuts and the same amount of freshly grated parmesan, a good dose of salt and enough olive oil to loosen up the mixture once blitzed in a mini food processor – there’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly made pesto to evoke the pleasant green lands of Roma, picnicking outside the Coliseum – and that was my pesto. I only used about 2 heaped tablespoons of this, adding those to 300g of soft cheese and there was my dip – creamy, with the exquisite flavour of the mediterranean.
This is one of my favourite Rick Stein recipes and works great as a starter (in larger portions) or as a canapé in small shot glasses or flutes with a few white grapes scattered into the mix. It’s a creamier more indulgent version of the typical Andalus tomato gazpacho and is so easy to make. Simply soak 200g of stale white crustless bread in 400ml of cold water for around 30 minutes. Place this soggy bread mixture into a liquidizer with 100g of blanched almonds and 1-6 cloves of garlic depending on how strong you like your garlic (I only use one, and I think that’s strong enough) and whizz this up into a smooth paste. With the motor still running, gradually add 150m of good quality olive oil and 4 tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Then add around 400m of more water – more if the soup is too thick. Check the seasoning and add salt if necessary. Then the key is to get the soup nice and cold, so refrigerate for at least 4 hours – overnight preferably. Serve with white grapes and a drizzle more of oil.
White gazpacho as a starter
Smoked trout dip
This one is slightly more controversial as it’s meant to be a mousse, but for some reason mine wouldn’t set. However, it turned out very well as a dip for the variety of crackers we had at the party, so why not add it in here. All I did was to whizz up 165g of smoked trout in a food processor with 225 g of creamed cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of dill (to taste) and 2 tablespoons of cream (it could be the cream which prevents it from setting – perhaps try without – I didn’t have time). If you have the time to chill the mixture and get it into a neat piping bag, you will probably succeed where I failed in piping little individual canapes of the mousse onto a blini or even a slice of cucumber. This looks great with some caviar on top. But failing that, serve it up as a simple dip – it’s delicious, especially when eat with the anchovy palmiers.
Figs stuffed with dolcelatte
Finally, and for the easiest of them all, a load of plump dried figs, slit them open as though you are performing a delicate surgical operation, get messy by breaking off some creamy dolcelatte and lovingly stuff each fig with your own fair hands – it’s sticky work, but strangely satisfying. You can seal the deal with some proscuitto wrapped around the fig, or leave it off for veggies (I do however find that a strand of ham makes these canapés looks lightly less poo-like). They’re not the most attractive canapés in the world admittedly, but for ease of method, and for richness of flavour, they don’t come better than this.
Tis soon the season to be jolly, so canapé season is just around the corner – these recipes are perfect for the kitchen shy host with the most – and these will enhance any bash with minimum skill or time required. Enjoy!