For many, festive entertaining is stressful and daunting! With a few tips and forward planning, anyone can become a domestic god or goddess, even for the uninvited guests.
The trick is to plan ahead. If you know you have guests coming and would like to wow them with a selection of canapés, start with three: one super easy, one a little more fancy and ideally one hot canapé. A simple start is a rye bread base, smeared with a little soured cream or cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon (or cooked beetroot) and a little lemon juice! To bring more visual appeal, top with a little caviar, fresh dill or even a little edible gold! I make sure to have a batch of blinis, melba toast (which can be topped with pate, rillette or just cheese or charcuterie) and pastry baskets ready. To make the baskets, just layer 3 squares of filo pastry in mini muffin cases with a little melted butter and bake for about 5 minutes until the edges are turning golden. These will keep in an airtight container for up to a week and can be filled with savoury custard and baked or just anything cold. The easiest finger food to feed a crowd is a dip with vegetables and crisps to dip into it. Just keep a tin of cooked chickpeas, butter beans or another legume and tahini in the cupboard, add a little boiling water, oil (flavoured oils are the way to go for added twist), lemon juice, spices herbs and even cooked vegetables like beetroot, carrot or peas. As legumes are a great source of protein, this snack is filling as well, so a great addition if you are entertaining a crowd.
For a slightly more impressive canapé (which you can still prep ahead), try making mini Yorkshire puddings, which can be made up to 3 months ahead and frozen (just flash them through the oven to crisp them up). Then top these with horseradish cream and a sliced fillet steak. For more freezer filler ideas, try making a batch of choux pastry and mix half with cheese and a little marmite and bake for savoury gougeres and the other half just plain. Hollow out the plain ones and they are ready to be turned into sweet profiteroles or filled with a savoury mixture like spicy prawns or mango, coriander and chicken salad or fried mushrooms with a little hollandaise.
For hot canapés, just a tasty soup in a shot glass or a small cup will do – maybe a parsnip and chestnut soup with a drizzle of truffle oil. For a more impressive dish try a vegetable tempura, mini fish cakes (the mixture can be made ahead, frozen and sliced and fried straight from the freezer) or splurge on an impressive ingredient, like lobster and serve simply chopped up with a little lemon juice and herbs.
Canapés need to be packed with flavour and they don’t need to be complicated. Maybe spend a little more on the fish or meat you’re serving, to make the flavours shine! It also about the visual impact – don’t be shy and use props, like wooden boats or spoons, nice big platters, fresh herbs (or even micro herbs), edible flowers or even edible gold and silver. One pro tip: edible gold spray on fresh leafy herbs bring a real sparkle to your table!