This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
Thanks to professional caterer Suzie Nash for her expert tricks of the trade and giving us four of her most popular party canapés recipes.
How many canapés per person? If a drinks party then I usually allow 4-5 savoury and 2-3 sweet canapés. If precursor to dinner, then 2-3 per person should be ample.
Prepping Do as much as you can in advance. For example, cut up the different elements into the correct size pieces, cover and put them aside in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.
Be organised. Keep your guests happy while you are assembling your canapés by laying out ‘static’ nibbles such as olives, crisps, cheese straws or tapenade on croutons.
Make sure each canapé is a memorable mouthful That means full of flavour, with texture, colourful and easy to pick up. No-one wants their guests to have messy hands that need to be constantly cleaned or to be awkwardly eating something while trying to have a conversation.
Don’t make too many different kinds of canapés – avoid flavour clashes.
Be creative. Look for interesting ways to present your canapés. Use teaspoons, shot glasses or mini skewers. Lay them out on mirrors, glass or wooden boards. Have a little dish or a shot glass by the canapes for used skewers.
Keep them fresh A simple pumpernickel bread with a cream cheese and piece of smoked salmon for example will keep fresh and won’t go soggy for at least two hours in the fridge.
Stick to classic flavour combinations For example duck breast cubed with a blob of apple puree. Lamb with a fresh mint leaf.
On a budget? Make vegetarian canapés, they are the cheapest. Just ensure the ingredients you use are top quality.
Food allergies – if necessary, make everything gluten free or nut free, then you don’t have to worry.
Cheat Buy ready made savoury pastry cases from the supermarket. Vol au vents are very 70s but those crisp pastry cases are excellent containers for a good quality filling. Or buy prawn crackers and make some mouthwatering Poppadom Scoops.
Decorate canapés with herbs. Food looks more attractive, healthier and herbs add a pop of green freshness.
Prepare on canapé at a time Best advice I was ever given by a chef I used to work with was to concentrate on one type of canapé at a time. It is less confusing, especially when you have lots of different ingredients.
Now, some specific recipes – four of Suzie’s favourites because she knows from experience just how popular they are with her clients’ guests.
Chicken Caesar Salad Tarts
Ingredients: makes 20
7 large slices of medium white bread
4 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts
200g cos/little gem lettuce finely cut
50g anchovies finely chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 tbsp chopped dill
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
100g Parmesan finely grated
Optional- store bought Caesar dressing
Preheat oven to 200’c
Using a cookie cutter (5cm) cut rounds from the bread. Brush with olive oil. Gently put rounds into a mini muffin tin and press down. Bake for 7-10 minutes until browned.
Season chicken and brush with olive oil. Grill on a grill pan till cooked. Cut into tiny cubes.
Put lettuce, dill, anchovies, garlic, lime zest and juice into a bowl and mix together. If dry add some olive oil. Add chicken. Sprinkle parmesan into mix.
Fill above mixture into your bread tarts. Spoon over dressing if using and more parmesan if you wish.
Lamb skewers with a mint and mustard dipping sauce
Ingredients: Makes 30
500g lamb loin fillet cut into 30 cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp dried oregano
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tbsp mint jelly
Pinch of salt and pepper
Marinate the lamb in the olive oil and oregano, season with salt and pepper for about 2-3 hours or overnight.
Heat a griddle pan and sear lamb cubes till medium. Keep warm.
Dipping Sauce: Put mustard, creme fraiche, mint jelly, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk to combine.
Assemble lamb cubes onto skewers and arrange on serving platter with the dipping sauce on bowl.
Teriyaki Salmon Bites with a ginger soy sauce
Ingredients: makes 20
350g fillet of salmon cut into 20 cubes
4 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp sake
6 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 cm piece of fresh ginger grated or finely chopped
2 spring onions finely sliced
Juice of 2 limes
7 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
Place all glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil then simmer on low heat for 10 minutes until thickened. Let cool.
Toss salmon cubes into cooked glaze, coat well. Marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat a frying pan or grill and sear salmon cubes 2-3 minutes each side.
Mix all dip ingredients together in a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.
Assemble salmon onto skewers and serve with dipping sauce.
Little Chocolate Pots
Ingredients: makes 8 little pots
350ml full fat milk
360g condensed milk
430g 70% dark chocolate
60g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
Melt chocolate, milk, condensed milk, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium/low heat. Stir occasionally. When it is all melted turn up the heat and whisk until smooth.
Pour into your individual pots and put in fridge overnight to set. When ready to serve you could grate some dark or milk chocolate over the top.
If all the above sounds like just too much hard work or you are time-poor, then you may prefer to call in the caterers and you’ll be able to relax. Great if you prefer to be mingling with your guests than fiddling in the kitchen! If you live in London or the South-East then give Suzie’s Farmhouse Kitchen a try. I have helped Suzie prepping food and seen at first hand how she only uses top quality ingredients for her inspired cooking.
More canape recipes (made, tested and tasted by Annabel or I) if you click here