Styling Your Christmas Table: Six Super Easy Canapes To Impress Your Guests (Edition 3)

Canapes, for me, are the food of Kings. Quick to prepare and easy to eat, there is no other food to compare. I could survive entirely on party food - in fact, for the month of December, it’s my family’s main food group, with an additional one of our five a day gained from mince pies (I’m pretty much sure that sultanas count). It would take an event of major proportions for us to leave the house on a Saturday night when the combination of X Factor, I’m A Celeb and the two for one Quality Street tub offer at Asda means that the sofa is an unbeatable destination. Over the course of the month, we like to try out the offerings from most major supermarkets and by the 24th, there’s not a breaded prawn, duck spring roll or mini cheese souffle that has not passed our lips. If it’s not got a frozen sweet chilli dip or a chilled soy sachet, then it’s not coming in.

Yes, this is the one time that Joe cooks all year.

Yes, this is the one time that Joe cooks all year.

Food has got to be one of the best parts of the Christmas celebrations. I’ve said before that we have a Kerman family tradition which goes back to my childhood in Hong Kong when it was madly hot in December and the idea of slaving over a stove was extremely unappealing. My Dad BBQ’d the turkey on the balcony and it always tasted amazeballs - he swore by a Weber BBQ and it never failed him. When we moved back to the UK, the tradition continued and has been passed on to Joe, who owns a kettle BBQ for this very purpose. As a man who barely uses the toaster and doesn’t know how to turn the hob on, this is the only cooking task that he undertakes over the entire year so he takes it very seriously. Equipped with a gin and tonic, some sticky sausages (see below, this isn’t a double entendre) and a face like Joan of Arc, he stands freezing in the courtyard, brandishing his tongs and tending to his turkey as if he were Yorkshire’s answer to Jamie Oliver. To be fair, he has never failed in his task to bring in the bird on time - there’s never been an overcooked breast or a dry thigh on Joe’s watch, that’s for sure.

This year, however, his services will not be required. We are going to Reading, an event that happens so infrequently that it’s like the second homecoming. This is not because we don’t LIKE visiting Reading - our entire family are dotted between RG4 and SW1 - but because our weekends are ruled by the Game Of Hellfire, football. With two boys who each play for two teams, it’s classed by the male contingent as the Holy Grail, despite the fact that I would generally rather cut off my own head with a rusty saw than stand on a pitch. Anyway, there’s no football on Christmas Day and as such, we are going South as a family to stay with Joe’s mum in Caversham. The big day will be spent at Joe’s sisters house and I’ve been allocated canapes and cheese, a job that makes me VERY happy. And I’m not going to lie, it’s absolute heaven not to be in the control seat for once. So, as I dance my way joyously down the M1 to Cookham to the glory of someone else’s cooking on Christmas Day, what delectable nibbles will I be bringing?

For the last two years, I've listed my current favourite six canapes (click here and here to read) and today, I’m handing over the reins to my Stars Of The Season for 2018. As you’ll notice from my previous blogs, in order to reach this status they need to tick the following boxes: budget friendly, can be made in advance, super quick to make and most of all, they need to make you look like a canapé maker extraordinaire when you’ve barely lifted a finger. Here they are. I’ve listed where the recipes came from and if I haven’t, then they are my own work. And one extra quick tip - like a green plant when you’re styling a room, canapes are ALWAYS improved with a sprinkle of flat leaf parsley to finish. True fact.

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Sticky Sausages

3 tbsp sesame oil

3 tbsp honey

3 tbsp dark soy sauce

40 cocktail sausages (fresh or frozen)

Put all the ingredients except the sausages into a bowl and whisk well. Add the sausages, coating them in the mixture and decant into a oven tray. Cook at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes or until they are nice and browned.

Serve with cocktail sticks. Best with fresh sausages but fine with frozen.

Anyone who has the Nigella Christmas book will know this recipe well, but my family demand it all year round as it’s addictive.

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Hot Spiced Crab Dip

80g butter

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 shallots, sliced

125ml double cream

150g cream cheese

60g grated cheddar

340g tinned crab meat

Mustard powder, cayenne pepper

Lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce

Chives, flat leaf parsley

Breadcrumbs to top

Cook the garlic and shallots in the butter until soft, then add 1 tsp of mustard powder, half a tsp of cayenne pepper and the double cream. Bring to a simmer and whisk in the cream cheese, stirring over a low heat for 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat, add crab meat, grated cheese and 2 tbsp each of lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper, mix and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Chop two pieces of sliced bread into breadcrumbs and mix with a tbsp of chopped parsley - sprinkle over the top and bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees.

Serve with toasted sourdough and celery.

This is a recipe I’ve used for years taken from House & Garden magazine.

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Red Pepper Dip With Mini Jacket Potatoes

Jar of roasted peppers

100g pine nuts

3 cloves of garlic

125g feta cheese (use vegan feta if required)

1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp lemon juice

One bag of baby potatoes

Dried oregano

Drain the peppers in a sieve. Blitz the first five ingredients in a food processor.

Cut a cross in the top of each potato, put in a bowl and toss in olive oil, oregano and seasoning. Place into an oven proof dish. Roast in the oven at 220 degree until cooked, about 40 minutes.

Remove from oven, place on a platter with cocktail sticks and serve with the dip.

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Goats Cheese & Chutney Swirls

125g spreadable goats cheese

Red onion chutney

Beetroot wraps from M&S

Spread the goats cheese on the wrap evenly and add a layer of chutney. Roll and place in fridge for one hour. Cut into slices and serve.

This recipe is from my lovely friend Sam Head, Home Economist to James Martin and general creative food superstar.

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Smoked Mackerel & Spring Onion on Sourdough

Packet of ready cooked smoked mackerel, skin removed

2 tbsp hot horseradish sauce

3 tbsp cream cheese

2 cloves of garlic

Lemon juice

Sourdough slices

Spring onion

Blitz the first four ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and add lemon juice to taste. Slice the sourdough into thin slices and toast.

Top each piece with a spoonful of mackerel pate and sprinkle with chopped spring onion.

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Homemade Hummus With Pitta (Vegan)

400g tin of chickpeas x 2, drained

6 tbsp of tahini

3 chopped garlic cloves

2 tsp cumin, juice of 2 lemons, olive oil

Pinenuts, smoked paprika, chopped flat leaf parsley to serve

Blitz top four ingredients in a food processor with a splash of olive oil and water.

Place in a large bowl and top with pine nuts, a dash of olive oil, smoked paprika and flat leaf. Serve with warmed sliced pitta bread and crudites.


So there’s my favourite six. These beauties will make you look like a pro and, despite my penchant for plastic wrapped ready made sausage rolls, will taste a zillion times better. Perfect for hardcore social occasions but equally satisfying as an easy dinner whilst watching I’m A Celebrity on the sofa. Long live party food and to recipes that make you look like Nigella without the hard work. Enjoy!