The party invites have been flooding in; it’s that time of the year. Trying to catch up with friends before Christmas or attend so many events can prove hectic and exhausting. When the invite says canapes will be served, I’m always a little sceptical — more often than not I’ve rushed straight from the office only to find the finger food mentioned as canapes are very thin on the ground — or don’t even make it across the room.
I love little things on little things; in fact, I like a little anything; mini burgers, hot dogs. Anything that’s been made into a micro version of its former self.
When I host a soiree, I make sure there is a substantial spread. I love people’s idea of what constitutes perfect party food. There is a huge frozen food chain in the UK that sells dozens of boxes of premade frozen foods and Christmas is a particularly busy time for such stores. The products they sell are dirt cheap, but there is a reason for this — they’re disgusting.
If I ever got invited to a party where this type of food was served, I don’t think I’d stay long. Most people’s idea of a buffet or finger foods is deep bowls of crisps, dry, salty snacks and a selection of dips. You know, those that have four different flavours, where inevitably one vanishes in seconds, and one will never be touched.
I often get asked if I’d ‘mind just making a few bits’ to bring to the party. I’m assuming my cooking skills are being called upon, which is flattering, but the number of serving dishes and storage boxes I’ve never seen again is ridiculous. But with a little imagination you can make some great-looking and tasty canapes: here are a few quick and simple ideas.
Thinly slice a French bread stick and toast on both sides, allow to cool, add some soft cheese and top with strips of smoked salmon and fresh dill.
Also, try cubing a mozzarella ball, slide a cherry tomato onto a cocktail stick, mozzarella, then another tomato, finish off with a basil leaf. These look great served on a platter, with a drizzle of balsamic gel.
Using toasted bread or store-bought crackers are great bases for canapes. A good deli is a great place to get ingredients; I love artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, they work well with pesto and basil. I pre-chop and slice the parts, place them in bowls ready to be assembled. Save time by toasting the bread beforehand.
Assemble the canapes just before guests are due to arrive; this will ensure they stay crisp well into the party. The recipes alongside are great time-savers. I used shop-bought pastry and you can make the sausage rolls in advance, then pop them in the oven when your guests arrive — it will fill the kitchen with that fresh pastry smell. The mini pitas not only look great, they are delicious.
I hope you enjoy them and season’s greetings from me.
SEAFOOD MINI PITAS
Makes 6, prep time 10 minutes, cooking time 5 minutes
6 mini-pita breads
100g of smoked salmon pate
A handful of rocket leaves
12 sun-dried tomatoes
12 deli-bought jumbo cooked prawns in oil
6 stuffed green olives
Lemon wedges to serve
Toast the pita bread in a hot griddle pan, on both sides. Place the pockets on a serving tray, add a layer of pate, top with rocket leaves. Next, add the sun-dried tomatoes and prawns. Add the olives, then drizzle with the remainder of the oil from the prawns and serve with lemon wedges.
JERK CHICKEN ROLLS
Makes 25, prep time 20 minutes, cooking time 30-40 minutes
500g of minced chicken
2 tsp of jerk paste
1 red onion, finely chopped
8 crushed cream crackers
2 tsp of dry jerk seasoning
Handful of coriander
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
Egg for glazing
Black sesame seeds to top
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. In a food processor with mixer fork, add the chicken, jerk paste, onion, crushed cream crackers and egg, and combine on a slow speed. Add the dried jerk seasoning and the chopped coriander. On a floured surface, cut the pastry sheet in half, lengthways. Brush egg along the top and bottom. Lay the chicken in the centre of each sheet. Wrap the pastry around the mixture, overlapping slightly to seal. Turn the roll so the joint is on the bottom. Using a sharp knife divide into equal pieces, then score three lines across each one. Place on a lined baking sheet, brush each with egg and sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Bake for 30-40 minutes until crisp and golden.
— Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield, follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix.