Styling Your Christmas Table: Six Super Easy Canapes To Impress Your Guests

Styling the Christmas table is one of my totally favourite things to do.  I spend far more time planning it than I do actually sitting at it.  Mini christmas trees, pom pom branches, table confetti - it's all going on.  As with everything, I tend to take it to the extreme.  Once I made place settings using childhood photos of my guests.  Obsessive, not. And when it comes to the food, I plan that at least three weeks in advance.  This year, I have been totally sucked in by the Aldi marketing machine and tomorrow morning, I'll be there at 8.00 am on the dot waiting to buy my leg of Serrano ham for £30 including wooden holder and knife and my frozen turkey that is apparently better than farm fresh according to Martin Lewis.  We have a family tradition in the Kerman/Dawson family that we always BBQ the Christmas turkey. This goes back to when we lived in Hong Kong and my Dad used to cook it on the balcony.  If you haven't tried it, I'd recommend it.  As would Joe who gets to stand outside with a beer and a small bowl of nibbles away from the frantic, over excited child generated chaos inside.  It's easy - all you need is a kettle BBQ and you're off.  Plus - think about it - it frees up the oven so that you only need to cook the veg.  It's the only thing Joe cooks all year and you would honestly think that he was en route to Masterchef victory.

Yes, I know it looks mad but I promise it tastes amazing.

Yes, I know it looks mad but I promise it tastes amazing.

As a result of this festive food overload,  I've decided to go slightly off piste with my blog today as I think, tbh, the likelihood of you wanting to read about paint colours and upcycling is minimal. Christmas fever is here and there's no point in trying to detract from it.  So I'm going to be a very helpful blogger and concentrate on my all time favourite (non interior based) subject.  The festive canapé.

My kitchen, where all the hardcore canapé action happens.

My kitchen, where all the hardcore canapé action happens.

Home Economics was my top subject at school.  Ella always scoffs at me when I say that but when I was taking my O'Levels in 1986 it was very different from the way it is now.   Now it's Food Tech - wtf - and it's much more theory based.  Although in my opinion, theorising about how to make a cottage pie is pretty bloody useless compared to the practical.  Anyway, I was all set to get an A and was feeling smug as the teacher handed me the exam topic slip that told me what category of person I had to cook for.  Dinner for an old person.  How difficult could that be?  I was quietly confident.  I asked my mum to help me decide the menu.  If it were possible to turn back time, it would be at this point in my life that I would do so.  My mum, with 35 years worth of cooking experience, decided that the best two course meal for an old person would be unfilleted trout, boiled potatoes and vegetables followed by an Irish coffee.  To top it off, she thought that it would be much easier for me if I served tinned boiled potatoes in order to cut down on the food prep.  Even someone who is has never cooked anything in their entire life would see how inappropriate this meal is.  Suffice to say that the Exam Board awarded me a U - that's Unclassified - for the simple reason that if I didn't choke the old people to death with the trout bones, then the whiskey in the coffee would send them all to sleep.  My parents appealed against the decision but with no joy.  Game over.

My friend  Sam  who taught me all I know about canapés.  If Sam doesn't know it, it's not worth knowing.

My friend Sam who taught me all I know about canapés.  If Sam doesn't know it, it's not worth knowing.

Needless to say, I avoided cooking for many years after this incident.  I was scarred by my U grading and for many years, ready meals were my best friend.   When pregnant with Max, I decided it was time to get back into it and for my birthday, held a dinner party for twelve where I cooked Greek lamb sofrito that was so shockingly inedible that there was enough leftovers to feed a small country.  If they were desperate and literally had nothing else to eat within a fifty mile radius.  Things had to change.  Inspired by my friend Tracey, I bought some recipe books that weren't written by Delia Smith.  Jamie Oliver was my home boy - North African Lamb Curry and Lebanese Chicken successfully saw me through many dinner parties and still do.  But it was my best friend Sam that really got me into serious recipes.  Sam is absolutely bloody amazing at cooking.  In fact, she's so amazing at it, it's her job.  She's Home Economist To The Stars and has worked with virtually every celebrity chef out there including Heston Blumental, Mary Berry, Gordon Ramsey and Rick Stein.  She currently works for the master chef that is James Martin and has just finished filming his next TV series.

So obviously, with the benchmark so high, I needed to up my game.  We lived in Caversham where the competitive dinner party was a known sport and believe me, it took no prisoners.  I had plenty of practice in trying to outdo everyone else and as a result, I now like to think that I am an averagely good cook.  Ottolenghi, the Bible for the middle class, is my go to and I could not survive dinner party prep without the God that is Nigel Slater.  My rule is that I never do anything that involves cooking in front of people or needs to be cooked on the night - pre preparing is the way forward and it's the only way I work.

Advance meal preparation is the key.  Mostly so you can cram in drinking as much wine as we do at this table.

Advance meal preparation is the key.  Mostly so you can cram in drinking as much wine as we do at this table.

But there is one thing that I CAN do very well and that is the canapé.  I absolutely love canapés.  I could actually eat canapés for every meal and never get bored.  We've always had lots of parties and sometimes I get more fun from planning the nibbles than I get from actually being a hostess.  I choose my serving dishes and platters with the same vaguely obsessive attention that I show the rest of my home and it's all fair game.  I've got large slate tiles from the Topps Tiles and countless wooden boards that I've collected over the years that I use for presenting my home made nibbles.

So this Christmas, I am bequeathing you my six all time easy to make, no hassle, no fuss, perfect festive canapés.  Canapes that you can prepare in advance to serve with a glass of champagne whilst you are present opening and will make you look super impressively Nigella like.  But that take barely any time or energy and require no skill whatsoever.  Enjoy.

Smoked Salmon Swirls

  • 120g pack of smoked salmon 
  • 250g cream cheese
  • Two tortilla wraps
  • Tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Handful of dill

Mix the cream cheese with a tablespoon of lemon juice.  Chop the dill and add.  Lay out two tortilla wraps and spread each one with the mixture.  Lay the smoked salmon on the top of the cream cheese layer.  Season with black pepper.  Roll up the tortillas to make two long tubes.  Wrap in clingfilm and put in fridge for a couple of hours or until you want to serve.  Remove from fridge and cut into slices.  Arrange on slate or wooden board and sprinkle with dill.  Voila.  This is Ella's total fave and I spend my life shouting at her not to eat them all before guests arrive.  Which she generally ignores.

Garlic & Chilli Mushrooms with Goats Cheese on Bruschetta

  • Two part baked French sticks
  • 300g mushrooms (any type)
  • Small goats cheese log
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley
  • Tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes

Bake the part baked sticks.  Remove from oven, leave to cool then cut into thin slices. Arrange slices on baking tray and bake in oven at 220 degrees for ten minutes or until lightly toasted.  Leave to cool.  Slice mushrooms into slices.  Chop garlic.  Chop flat leaf parsley.  Fry mushrooms in pan.  When almost cooked, add garlic and continue to cook for two minutes.  Add chilli flakes, flat leaf parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice and continue to cook for one minute.  Season with salt and pepper and take off heat.  Slice goats cheese thinly and put a bit on each toast slice.  Top with mushroom mix.  Arrange on board and sprinkle with more flat leaf.  Serve these with napkins as they can be a bit messy and add as much chilli as you like to taste.

Mozzarella, Basil & Tomato Sticks With Pesto Dip

  • 225g cherry tomatoes
  • Packet of mini mozzarella balls
  • Packet of fresh basil
  • Tablespoon of green pesto
  • 100g creme fraiche

Take cocktail sticks and put a tomato, basil leaf and mozzarella ball on each.  Mix pesto with creme fraiche and put in dipping bowl.  Arrange on slate platter or wooden board.  Doesn't get much easier than that.  Literally a piece of piss.

Papas Con Chorizo

  • Three large sweet potatoes
  • One chorizo sausage
  • Tablespoon of fennel seeds
  • Teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • Olive oil

Chop sweet potato (skin on) into inch cubes.  Put in bowl and mix with tablespoon of olive oil, fennel seeds, chilli flakes, salt and pepper.  Empty bowl on to baking tray.  Roast for 20 minutes at 220 degrees.  Whilst it's roasting, chop the chorizo sausage into inch cubes.  After 20 minutes, open oven and add chorizo cubes to baking tray.  Cook together for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and lay on a wooden board.  Sprinkle with flat leaf parsley.  Serve with cocktail sticks.  Joe's favourite canapé of all time.  (inspired by Leon Restaurant)

Mini Pizza Doughballs

  • 12 doughballs
  • Small goats cheese log
  • Two tablespoons of red pesto
  • Red pepper cut into small squares 2cm

Cut the dough balls in half and slice the base thinly so that they sit flat on a baking tray.  Mix together the goats cheese and 75g of the red pesto.  Spread a healthy spoonful on each dough ball and top with a small square of red pepper.  Bake at 200 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve on a slate platter or wooden board.  Very kid friendly.  (inspired by Sam Head)

Sticky Sausages

  • One bag of frozen cocktail sausages
  • Half a jar of mango chutney
  • Half a jar of grain mustard

Mix together the mango chutney and the grain mustard.  Empty cocktail sausages into baking dish and coat in the mixture.  Bake at 200 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until deeply golden brown.  Keep checking on them so that they don't stick and burn.  Remove from oven and serve in a bowl with cocktail sticks. Particularly good if you have a hangover.  (inspired by Sam Head)

So not only are these six canapés impressive to look at and pretty damn delicious but they are also super economical.  The quantities I've shown above will easily feed eight people to ten people at a total cost of £25 for ALL ingredients.  Unbeatable.  All can be prepared way in advance and stored in the fridge with only the oven baking bit on the day.  

I'll be giving next week's blog post a miss as will be way too busy eating, drinking and fighting my way through wrapping paper and cracker innards but will be back with my next post on New Years Day.  I hope that you all have a fabulously Happy Christmas with your families and thank you so much for reading my blog this year!  I appreciate every single one of you taking the time to click that button.  Thank you :)