Styling Your Christmas Table: Six Super Easy Canapes To Impress Your Guests (Edition 2)
I could literally survive on canapés. If there was a mass food poisoning epidemic that meant that all food was inedible and the only thing that you were able to buy and eat without fear of death was Marks & Spencer party food, it wouldn't bother me. Not one bit. Casting aside the health implications of having a diet of only beige food, I would be perfectly happy to eat party food for every single meal.
Canapés are the food of Kings. They require no plates or cutlery (and thus no washing up), you can eat them standing up and what's more, you can hold a glass of Cava at the same time as eating one. They're a multi tasker, a social winner and they stop you getting too trollied when you're partying. They also have the outstanding benefit of making you look like you have spent hours in the kitchen when, in fact, they've taken no time at all to knock up.
When I turned 40, I celebrated with a fancy dress party at our house in Caversham with the theme of the 1970's. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I don't like to do things by halves and this occasion was no exception. Everything, from the music to the serving dishes to the outfits, was 70's themed. And I mean EVERYTHING. We set up a bar with a choice of Babysham (served in the bottle with straws), Snowballs (can't beat a bit of Advocaat) and Cinzano and lemonade, Lorraine Chase style (who will mean nothing to you unless you are a 70's child).
This extended to the food. It was a canapé party so my sister and I dug out my Mum's old 1970's recipe books for the best Abigail's Party stylie nibbles that we could find. Vol au vents, chequerboard sandwiches, cheese and pineapple sticks, mini sausages. Annabel made the birthday cakes which were layered on a huge tiered cake stand that my Dad had made for my sisters wedding - mini lemon meringues and Black Forest Gateau's were the perfect sweet 70's canapé. I scoured eBay for original outfits for Joe and I - the only downside was that Joe's tweed jacket, yellow urine coloured polyester shirt and pleated 'slacks' made him look a bit like a predatory school teacher.
We've been scoffing party food here in York for the past month. As a family, we have a tradition every year of trialling supermarket party food every Saturday night throughout December. Don't ever let it be say that we don't know how to live. This year, we've been super impressed, particularly by Iceland who have totally upped their game with their new Luxury range and Aldi, who are, as ever, shit hot at stuff like this and whose extensive selection has expanded to an entire aisle in Monks Cross. As expected, though, the winner of the Dawson Party Food Challenge 2017 was Marks & Spencer, who have nailed it as always with their mini Beef Wellingtons (Joe and I ate an entire pack of 12 for lunch one day) and mini Cheeseburgers (they lasted approximately 15 seconds on the plate before the kids attacked them).
My own personal foray into cooking started early when I took Home Economics as an O'Level. As explained in my blog last year, my experience of this has scarred me for life and for this, I blame my Mum entirely. I'd been a Grade A student all the way through the syllabus and when it came to the final exam, I was given the task of cooking a suitable menu for the residents of an old people's home. After discussion with my Mum, we decided on a plan and at this point, my fate (and subsequent U grade - Unclassified) was sealed. My menu of trout and new potatoes followed by Irish Coffee was deemed wholly unsuitable for the elderly on the basis that if I didn't choke them with the bones, they'd pass out through excessive alcohol consumption. Plus I'd used tinned potatoes which totally defied the object of demonstrating cookery prowess. My Mum appealed to the Exam Board but to no avail. I was a failure.
Despite this shocking start, over the years my cooking has improved and now I like to think that I am fairly good at it. Nigel Slater and Ottolenghi have been the mainstay of many dinner parties and the menu always, without fail, includes canapés to start. There's a reason for this, mostly because in the over excitement of people arriving at our house I am prone to drinking pre dinner drinks VERY fast and often to my detriment, so canapés provide an excellent base for the fizz. It's only sensible, tbh. I've learned this the hard way and I can tell you for a fact, there's nothing worse than a 46 year old woman falling over and looking like a knob.
Anyway, last year I wrote a blog bequeathing you my favourite six canapé recipes (click here if you didn't read it). After many requests, I am back again with the second edition and these ones, I can guarantee, are just as easy, budget friendly and super impressive to look at as the first. Eat your heart out, Nigella, these are winners. Guaranteed.
MINI PRAWN COCKTAIL
250g bag of large frozen prawns
2 x baby gem lettuce
Lemon juice, mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, paprika
Defrost the the prawns. Pat with kitchen roll and put in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together four tablespoons of mayonnaise, a small teaspoon of tomato sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice. Make sure it's not too runny - if it is, add more mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut the stalk off the baby gem and divide the leaves on to a serving platter. Put a spoonful of prawns in each leaf and sprinkle with paprika.
GOATS CHEESE, PESTO & PINE NUT PALMIERS
325g puff pastry sheet
125g soft goats cheese
Pine nuts, green pesto, flat leaf parsley
Lie the ready made pastry rectangle on your board. Spread the pesto equally and thinly over the pastry and then sprinkle over the goats cheese and pine nuts. With the short side of the pastry at the bottom, roll in equally from either long side until they meet in the middle, like a long sausage. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour.
Remove from fridge, cut into slices approximately 1.5cm wide and lay flat on a lightly greased baking tray. Bake in the oven for half an hour. Serve sprinkled with chopped flat leaf parsley.
SMOKED SALMON DIP WITH MINI TOASTS
200g soft cream cheese
120g salmon flakes
Small French stick
Horseradish, sour cream, lemon juice, dill, seasoning
In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, a dash of lemon juice, a tablespoon of sour cream and a teaspoon of horseradish. Add the chopped dill and the salmon, mixing together well. Season with salt and pepper. Put in fridge until ready to serve.
Cut a french stick into thin slices and roast in the oven for ten minutes until crisp on the edges. Serve with the dip.
MINI JACKET POTATOES WITH BACON CRISPS
Small bag of baby potatoes
6 x rashers of streaky bacon
Sour cream, flat leaf parsley
Put the baby potatoes into a large bowl, cutting any in half that aren't bite sized. Mix with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Empty into a large baking tray and roast in the oven at 220 degrees for about forty minutes until nicely browned and cooked through. Whilst these are cooking, lay out the streaky bacon rashers on a baking sheet and roast in the oven, on the second shelf beneath the potatoes, until very crispy.
Remove potatoes and put aside to cool. Remove bacon and dry on kitchen roll, waiting until cool to crumble with your fingers and place in a bowl. Make a small cross on the top of each potato and open slightly by pressing with your fingers. When ready to serve, put a small dollop of sour cream on each potato and scatter over the bacon crisps. Garnish with flat leaf parsley.
PROSCIUTTO & BLUE CHEESE STICKS
150g blue cheese
Cut cheese into inch squares. Take half a piece of prosciutto and wrap around the square, fastening with a cocktail stick. Place on a serving platter and use the honey to lightly drizzle. Chop the thyme and sprinkle over the top.
BAKED CAMEMBERT WITH GARLIC, CHUTNEY & THYME
Round cob loaf
Garlic, celery, thyme, chutney
Slice the top off the cob loaf so it's like a lid. Scoop out the middle of the bread and put aside. Take the camembert and place it in the middle of the hole that you've created. Use a knife to make slit holes in the top of the camembert. Slice the garlic and push the slices into the holes. Do the same with small sprigs of thyme.
Put the lid back on and wrap the entire loaf in silver foil. Place in the oven at 200 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and when ready to serve, remove the bread lid. Take a good spoonful of fig or red onion chutney (or any other you prefer) and put in the middle of the cheese. Serve with sticks of celery and pull bits off the bread casing to dip in.
Not only do these canapés look the part but they are also budget friendly and super easy to prepare in advance for maximum relaxation and a stress free Christmas. Just make sure you team them with a glass of Prosecco!
I'm having day off on Sunday but will be back with an end of year blog post on 31 December. I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas with your families and ENJOY!