"food art in one bite – there to be moreish, to satiate, and to look as classy as its setting. Anything less, and it’s the guest who turned up to the wedding in jeans." Laura Day/Digest
On Sunday we are celebrating Christmas in November with the family because my younger son and family are off to Europe for the summer - well winter for them - and so won't be here for actual Christmas.
I have been asked to provide nibbles to start with. And let me tell you now it won't be anything as fancy as this. There may well be guests in jeans, although it's sort of Christmas so we may all dress up a bit. And since there are fifteen of us I thought I would try for two or three different things.
However, what started me down the canapé trail were these Corn blinis with prawns and romesco sauce which actually only look slightly less fancy and are completely doable. Well not the prawns. There is one vegetarian in the 15 person mix and a few who don't like prawns. Besides I don't have that much confidence in cooking prawns. I think I may have only done it once. I do like the idea of the blinis and the romesco sauce though. So maybe some feta cheese, or some roasted peppers. With some with smoked trout or maybe even anchovies - now that's a bit daring. The source for the recipe is Curtis Stone and the latest Coles Magazine - and there are a few other nice ideas too, but not quite right for the occasion for various reasons.
So having had to look for alternative toppings I thought I would briefly dive into the world of canapés and find out a little about origins, or anything else that might be mildly interesting.
"Because they are often served during cocktail hours, it is often desired that a canapé be either salty or spicy, in order to encourage guests to drink more." Wikipedia
Thus feta cheese on top of the corn blinis would tick the boxes of spicy and salty.
The word 'canapé' is French of course:
“Canapé” delightfully translates to “sofa”. Its intention, then, is as a cushion for your cuisine atop a square of toast, cracker or crispbread. These momentary bites both whet the appetite and back off hunger." Laura Day/Digest
I think in our case it will be mainly to back off hunger - the grandchildren and my sons in particular walk in the door and immediately expect there to be something to eat.
And Digest provided this diagram of how you construct your canapé - a classic one that is. A base - the corn blini for me even though it is more traditionally some kind of bread or biscuit; processed ingredients - or as Wikipedia put it, some kind of spread - the romesco sauce; feature ingredient - the prawns - or in my case, maybe feta, roasted peppers, anchovies ...; topping - Curtis Stone didn't provide one of these and I'm not sure it needs it but I guess you could add a dollop of something creamy or maybe pesto; garnish - snipped chives. Done. It's actually a very good formula which is infinitely variable. So I shall play around with it a bit I think. I just saw a jar of my plum chutney in the fridge, now would that go with a corn blini, and if so what would you put on top - feta, ham, salami ...?
However, I was actually asked to provide nibbles and as Wikipedia says:
"A canapé may also be referred to as finger food, although not all finger foods are canapés."
So this afternoon I have been idly looking for ideas here and there. This is my long list:
Yotam Ottolenghi's Butterbean mash with muhummara. Now I have actually made this before and it was pronounced delicious by my book group friends who tasted it at a recent meeting. The sauce looks similar to the romesco sauce on the blinis but this is peppers and that was tomatoes, so it should be OK. What to dip into it though? Oh I've just remembered I have some leftover flatbreads in the freezer, so that solves that. There was also an avocado and broad bean mash here - you can just see it at the side, but I think there would be a few who don't like either avocado or broad beans so perhaps not. The possibilities of this kind of thing are endless of course.
Pinwheels - Well this is also an infinitely variable thing, and here are two examples: Nigel Slater's Miso and spinach pastries and the Australian Women's Weekly Salmon pinwheels
On the left, the cooked variety whereby you get some puff pastry spread it with your filling, roll up, slice and cook, and on the right uncooked mountain bread spread in similar manner with your filling, rolled up and sliced. No cooking required. Indeed the cooked version is marginally tricky in terms of whether you cook in advance or take to the party uncooked, or cook and take to warm up, or cook just before the party so that they still might be warm when you get there. No that's a bit tricky to time I think and poor Dionne who is cooking the turkey will be a bit pushed for oven space I think. Although, that said she does have an air fryer. Hmm.
Final type - filled filo pastry things. Jill Dupleix's Cheese and mint rolls are the favourite here and I have made these before. There's the same problem with timing and heating as with the pinwheels though. But I have so much mint in my veggie garden - to the point that I must pull some out - that it would perhaps use a little. But then again I could make a pesto from it and dollop it on those corn blinis, or roll it up in a pinwheel.
Decisions, decisions. Actually I was originally thinking I might make this my once a year dolmades occasion. We have a grape vine growing at the end of the house - well there are never any grapes, but there are leaves, and this year there seem to be quite a few. But tomatoes are still not squashy enough to line the saucepan, and I would need to get up on a stepladder to harvest the leaves, so perhaps not. Maybe at the real Christmas.
Then again there's always sausage rolls both meat and vegetarian. Now I know they would get eaten. A bit unadventurous though.
Then I've got to make some mince pies too. But that's easy and can be done on the day. Tomorrow is canapé/finger food/nibbles day.
Here's a recipe to try sometime. It was last night's dinner. Ottolenghi's Bridget Jones's pan-fried salmon with pine nut salsa. Yes I'm a bit fixated on Ottolenghi at the moment. The salmon is really just salmon but the pine nut salsa is really interesting - and easy. I made some oven chips to go with it. You've just got to have chips with fish. On the left what it's supposed to look like, on the right what it actually looked like on David's plate. We gave it 3 1/2 stars, which I suppose is not a ringing endorsement, but certainly worth giving a go.