Getting enough canapés to eat at a party is a battle. It takes skill, tactical know-how and cunning to get enough.
Caterers usually do two to four canapes per person if it’s before dinner and eight to 10 canapes if it’s just drinks. Let’s speak frankly: this simply isn’t enough, especially if you have just come from work. Here are a few techniques I have devised to make sure you get your fill. You don’t want to suffer from that terrible condition I refer to as ‘canapé stress’ when you spot a waiter with a tray wending his/her route through the throng distantly and you fail to get their attention even after chasing and shouting. You end up irritable/hungry/drunk. No, you don’t want this.
Position yourself: figure out where the canapé people are coming from, work out where the exit from the kitchen is situated. Then place yourself there. Not literally in the doorway but say, a subtle five to ten steps away then … hover with intent.
Don’t be shy: if you have a special diet, say vegetarian or gluten free, you will have fewer canapés geared towards what you eat. Inform the server about your dietary restriction and if you spot a canapé that you can eat, ask to have two or even three of them.
Be prepared: have a plate or serviette to store your canapés, it’s hard to balance a glass and more than one canapé at the same time.
Avoid: bowls of peanuts. Rather like bowls of unwrapped mints in restaurants, tests have shown they contain more bacteria than a toilet seat.
Don’t: double dip. I know a tortilla chip is big and needs more dip on it but don’t.
Making canapés is a faff because you are trying to make a miniature tasty dinner which fits into one mouthful. Here I give you five no fuss recipes; you barely have to cook them, it’s more a case of assembly. Still they will look very cool to your guests, the skill is in the shopping.
Below each recipe I give a wine suggestion, something other than the classic Champagne to serve your guests at any Christmas gathering. (My next column will be all about champers)
Endive boats with cream cheese and smoked salmon
Makes approximately 10 canapés
4 endive/chicory heads, white or red, separated into leaves
200g of cream cheese
Zest of a lemon
1 tsp sea salt
250g smoked salmon
Separate out the endive heads, using the larger leaves. Mix the cream cheese, lemon zest and sea salt together. Then if you want to do this neatly, place the cream cheese mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe a strip of cream cheese down the middle of the endive leaf starting from the tip to about 3/4 of the way up the stem of the leaf.
Then take a strip of smoked salmon and lay it along the cream cheese. Add a sprig of dill on top and grind some fresh black pepper on top.
A lightly oaked chenin blanc such as 2014 DeMorgenzon from Stellenbosch goes beautifully with cheese, smoked salmon and the slight bitterness of endives/chicory.
Cocktail blinis with blue cheese and truffle honey
Makes 12 to 15
250g of blue cheese
You can make the blinis from scratch – I use Delia’s recipe, but of course feel free to buy them.
Toast the blinis on one side under a grill then add slices of blue cheese to the other side of each blini. Quickly grill the cheesy side of the blini (a minute or two will be enough) then drizzle truffle honey over the top using teaspoon. You can of course use normal honey but truffle honey is delicious with cheese. Serve warm.
Try a wine that is new to the list the award winning South African white Maestro DeMorgenzon at £15. Gorgeous vanilla fruitiness!
Blue cheese, truffles and a silky Pinot Noir are a fantastic match, and this example, Domaine Drouhin 2013, comes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, America. We all know that California produces some great wines but as global warming and drought takes hold, Oregon and Washington, further north, are starting to create very good wine. Like many good American wines it’s a touch pricey at £24, but well worth popping into this months’ box to see if you like it. I visited Portland last year and I can honestly say it’s one of the best food cities in the world, with more than 500 street food outlets, terrific restaurants, craft beers, small batch spirits and sublime wines.
Crostini with bottarga slices and pistachio
Makes 15 to 20
1 mini baguette, thinly sliced into rounds
100ml of good olive oil
50 grams of bottarga, thinly sliced
2 tbsps of shelled pistachios, chopped
If you’ve never heard of bottarga this is your opportunity to discover it. It’s one of those magic ingredients which transform every dish from mundane to divine. It’s made from pressed tuna or grey mullet and is a fishy version of truffle, that powerful. The Italians adore this stuff and grate it on pasta (recipe here). Use shelled pistachios, removing the skins by rubbing them off in order to see the bright green interiors. You can also buy pistachio nibs in Middle Eastern shops, these are hand carved, quite expensive, but a good ingredient to have in your pantry. Actually I keep them in the fridge or freezer, this way they retain their bright colour.
Toast both sides of the baguette rounds then drizzle with olive oil. Top with round of thinly sliced bottarga and a sprinkle of green pistachios. Serve warm.
One usually drinks white with fish, yet bottarga packs a punch and can easily withstand a full bodied red. Try this Argentinian red Enamore 2013 at £19.00p
Boiled eggs with asparagus spears and hibiscus salt
Makes 10 to 15
10 to 15 small eggs, boiled for 4 minutes
300g pack of asparagus spears
75g Salted butter
Hibiscus or other flavoured salt
This recipe is a good starter as well as a filling canapé. Boil a four-minute egg. While you are doing that, lightly fry the asparagus spears in the salted butter.
When the eggs are ready place them in egg cups. Cut off the tops neatly and place an asparagus spear in each egg. Sprinkle the egg with hibiscus salt (easy to make, just grind up hibiscus flowers with salt, it turns a lovely pink colour) or any other flavoured salt, say truffle salt. If you don’t have enough egg cups you could present them on a tray filled with cooking salt, using the salt to prop up the eggs.
Serve immediately while hot.
This Viognier from Domain de Vedilhan matches very well with eggs and asparagus, not always an easy match! It’s a bargain at £9.25 for such a good quality wine, lots of fruit, just the right amount of oak and good for vegans and vegetarians.
Stuffed dates with goat’s cheese, walnut and pomegranate
180g pack of medjool dates
100g soft goat’s cheese
50g of walnut halves
2 tbsps of pomegranate seeds
Buy good quality dates for this such as the toffee-like medjool or Bam dates from Iran. With a small knife carefully make a slit in the dates and remove the stone. Using a teaspoon fill the date with goat’s cheese. Poke a walnut half into the cheese and add a few pomegranate seeds.
With a Middle Eastern themed canapé why not try a Lebanese wine? Party like it’s 1999 with vintage Chateau Musar. At £28, it’s a little bit spendy but hell it’s Christmas and this is a world class wine, classic with forest fruit notes and dark chocolate hints, you will love it!
Do you always serve Champagne at your drinks gatherings? Or do you sometimes serve very good wine? Have you experienced ‘canapé stress?’ Let us know in the comments.