Thursday, 18 December 2014

Creative canapes

Yes, Christmas is about turkey and all the trimmings, but don't forget the nibbles

Written by Milli Taylor
I cook all sorts of food for different events, but my most positive feedback is always from my canapé parties. Don’t get me wrong; a classic devilled egg will always go down a treat, and who doesn’t love a cheese straw? However, it does feel about time we shook things up a bit and got more adventurous with our party food.

For these recipes, I’ve taken inspiration from supper clubs to street food and everything in-between. I hope I can introduce you to some new flavours and ingredients and you’ll have as much fun creating them as your guests have eating them.

Party-perfect Bites, by Milli Taylor; photography by Helen Cathcart (Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99).

What should a canape be?

Bite-sized They should be easy to eat.
Full of flavour Make that one mouthful pack a punch.
Fun Don’t get worked up about what’s authentic and correct; this is the time to play around with flavours.


Lemon & lime meringue tarts

Makes 30 approx

  • 125g plain flour
  • 45g unsalted butter
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of salt
For the filling:
  • 45g unsalted butter
  • 80ml double cream
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime
For the meringue:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
You will need:
  • a piping bag
  • a 24-hole mini muffin pan, greased
  • a 6cm pastry cutter
  • a chef’s blowtorch (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ gas mark 4. To make the pastry, place all of the ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until combined.

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple of times, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick and then stamp out disks with the cutter. Carefully press them down into the muffin pan holes and bake for 9-10 minutes, or until golden and cooked on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a small pan. Add the cream, stir well, take off the heat and put aside.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together, place in a bowl set over a saucepan of hot water (the bowl and water should not come into contact) and stir for a few minutes. Add the lemon and lime juice, zests, cream and butter mix and stir well. Continue to cook, while stirring with a spatula until the mixture thickens – about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl with an electric hand-held whisk until they reach the frothy softmixture peak stage. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to whisk. When the meringue is glossy and stiff, whisk in the cornflour and then transfer to a piping bag.

Fill each tart case with a teaspoonful of the filling. Pipe the meringue on top. Using a chef’s blowtorch, brown the sides and leave to cool.

If you do not have a chef’s blowtorch, you can brown the meringues in the oven at 200C/400F/gas mark 6. They will take only a few minutes to brown, so check them regularly. The meringue will grow considerably in the oven, so only pipe a small amount on each tart.

Serve immediately, or chill for a few hours until you are ready to serve.

Raspberry & lime cheesecakes

Makes 35

  • 250g digestive biscuits, blitzed to crumbs in a food processor
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 250g white chocolate
  • 275ml double cream
  • 500g full-fat cream cheese
  • 150g ricotta
  • grated zest of 1 lime
  • 5 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water for 5-10 minutes
  • 300g raspberries
You will need:
  • 20cm x 30cm brownie pan, lined with baking parchment

Place the biscuit crumbs into a bowl and mix in the melted butter, spices and salt. Put into the prepared pan and flatten to make the base. Chill.

Melt the chocolate with 150ml of the cream in a saucepan over low heat. Transfer to a large bowl and add the cream cheese, ricotta and zest. Whisk.

Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine. Heat the remaining cream in a small saucepan to simmering point, take off the heat and whisk in the gelatine. Add to the cheese mixture and whisk well.

Set aside 35 raspberries for decoration, then arrange the remaining raspberries over the softmixture. Cover in cling film and place in the refrigerator to set overnight.

To serve, use a sharp knife to cut the cheesecake into 35 squares, then top each with a raspberry.


Artichoke, mozzarella & speck

Makes 15

  • 5 slices of speck or serrano ham (about 70g)
  • 1 x 125g ball of buffalo mozzarella
  • 15 chargrilled artichoke heart quarters from a jar
  • 15 small basil leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper

Cut each slice of speck crossways into three pieces, to make 15 pieces in total. Slice the mozzarella into 15 even pieces.

Drain the artichoke heart quarters in a sieve, then place them on paper towels to remove any excess oil.

Place a piece of speck on a board and put an artichoke quarter, a slice of mozzarella and a basil leaf on top. Sprinkle with ground black pepper, then roll the ham around the filling. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve.

Watermelon, feta, basil & balsamic

Makes 40

  • 1 watermelon, cubed
  • 100g feta cheese, cut into 40 pieces
  • 40 small, fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tbsp balsamic reduction

Cut the watermelon into 2.5cm cubes and spoon out a little hole at the top of each cube (to allow space to stuff the cheese later). Turn upside down on paper towels and leave for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Check after 15 minutes and replace the paper towels if they are wet through.

In the hole, place a piece of feta, a small basil leaf (upside down) and drop in a little balsamic reduction. Serve.

Asparagus filo cigars

Makes 24

  • 24 asparagus spears, trimmed to 10cm
  • 180g filo pastry (4 sheets of 47cm x 28cm)
  • 2 x 150g packs of Boursin or other garlic and herb soft cheese
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F gas mark 5. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and have a bowl of ice-cold water ready nearby. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water and lift out after 1½ minutes. Plunge into the cold water. Drain the asparagus and place on paper towels to dry.

Cut each sheet of filo into a grid of 6 equal rectangles. At the short end of each rectangle, place the asparagus with the spear showing. Cut the Boursin into 24 portions of cheese in total. Place a piece of cheese next to each asparagus spear.

Brush the filo with a little of the melted butter and roll snugly into a cigar (do not roll too tightly or the pastry might burst).

Brush a little more butter on top of the pastry and bake in the oven, seal-side down, until golden and crisp: about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack and serve.


Tuna & wasabi ceviche

Makes 20

  • ½ tsp soy sauce
  • 130g sashimi-grade tuna steak, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 avocado, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 10cm piece of cucumber
  • 1 tsp wasabi
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced, to garnish
  • garlic cress, to garnish
You will need:
  • 20 canapé spoons

In a bowl, sprinkle the soy sauce over the tuna and toss to mix. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the lime juice over the avocado cubes.

Peel the cucumber and scrape out the seeds, so you are left with firm flesh. Cut the cucumber into 1cm cubes and mix into the avocado, along with the wasabi and mayonnaise. Gently stir in the tuna.

Spoon on to the canapé spoons and garnish with sliced spring onion and garlic cress.

Tequila scallops

Makes 15

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • 200g scallops, finely diced
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp tequila
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly chopped amaranth or baby coriander, to garnish
You will need:
  • 15 canapé spoons

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the shallots and sauté over high heat until the edges are crisp. Remove the shallots from the pan and put the pan back on high heat. Add the butter to the pan, followed by the scallops. Let the scallops brown on one side, then turn over.

Add half of the lime juice and the tequila. Put the shallots back in the pan and cook with the scallops for a few minutes, until the scallops are just cooked. Taste for seasoning; you may want to add more salt or lime.

Serve immediately on canapé spoons with your chosen herb garnish. The scallops are best hot but can also be served at room temperature.

Sea bass ceviche, lychee & chilli

Makes 25

  • ¹⁄8 red onion, finely chopped
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
  • 200g fresh sea bass, cut into 1cm x 2cm pieces
  • 10g fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 lychees, diced
  • ½ mango, diced
  • 3 shakes of Tabasco
  • ½ tsp salt
  • olive oil
You will need:
  • 25 canapé spoons

Put the finely chopped red onion and lime juice in a large mixing bowl and set aside for 20 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, cover and leave to marinate for 20 minutes. Serve on canapé spoons or tortilla chips.

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