Cymru Culture

Articles / Erthyglau

Stylish party canapés

(September 12, 2009)

Having long since been a devotee of Come Dine with Me on Channel 4, I have watched with eager anticipation the different contestants' versions of 'fine dining'. At key points during the year (such as anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas) chez Cymru Culture opens its doors and welcomes friends and family to sumptuous, themed parties.
Gradually, I've developed a reasonably extensive (and, I am told, delicious) range of canapés and party nibbles. Some of the recipes are given below.
The key to party food is that it should be varied, fresh, preferably organic, nutritious and visually appealing. This does not mean, however, that a party host has to slave in the kitchen for hours, spend a fortune, or go for the impersonal option of hiring outside caterers.

As a result, I've shared some of my 'tricks of the trade' for easy, but delicious, party food and have provided details of where to obtain the ingredients.
You may feel inspired to try these recipes yourself.  Alternatively, if you have a party food recipe of your own, - which you'd like featured on Cymru Culture - please drop the Editors a line via the 'contact us' page'.
  Party 1: Chocolate Hazelnut Tart
Hazelnut and chocolate tartlet
Use a large all butter tartlet (£2.29 for pack of 8 from M&S - similar options are available from other retailers, please see in-store for details) and put in a generous amount of Belgian chocolate creme patisserie (also available in M&S).
Decorate with raspberries and freshly roasted (and chopped) hazelnuts. Finally, place a fan-sliced strawberry on the top (to achieve this: start a third of the way down from the top of the strawberry, cutting straight down with a sharp knife until you reach the bottom. Cut as many times as the width of the strawberry will allow. Apply a little pressure to the top of the strawberry and it will fan out).
Party 1: Strawberry & Cream Tart
Fruit and cream tartlet

Use another large all butter tartet (for details of where to get them see above) and whip fresh double cream. To avoid having to whip for ages (and the possibility of developing RSI) I cheat by using a hand blender/soup blender and within 60 seconds a large bowl will be stiffly whipped.
The cream has to be whipped very stiffly, otherwise it makes the tartlet soggy prematurely.
Create a fan strawberry (as detailed above) and decorate with fresh raspberries. You could use frozen raspberries - I find they are too wet and that their outer casing can often be damaged and not firm - but the choice is yours.
You can, of course, use other types of fruit if strawberries and raspberries are either not available, or not in season. Other variations could be lychee, clemantine segments, slices of ripe pair or grapes.
Party 1: Strawberry Cream Tart (2)
Fruit and cream tartlet
Making sure the double cream is stiff also means that the fruit is well secured (just push them into the cream slightly).  This means that when your guests eat them, all the fruit does not fall off, or make them difficult to eat.
Party 1: Mini Raspberry Cream Tarts
Mini raspberry cream tartlet
If you'd like to make smaller variations of the large fruit and cream tartlets, M&S (also available at other retailers) make smaller (mini) all butter tartlets.
The brand I use are from M&S and are available in packs of 18 for £2.29. But in the past, I have also used similar items from Tesco and they have been excellent (often other retailers do different pack sizes so worth looking around for which will be the best option for you).
These mini tartlets are always all eaten and, as they are a mouthful rather than an entire desert, guests feel less guilty about eating them.
As with the larger tartlets, variety is the key - both to appeal to different guests' tastes, with regards fruit, and also visually.
Party 1: Cream Cakes Together
Selection of fruit and cream tartlets
I like to serve all the cream tarts together, so the guests have lots of variety and visually the display is more interesting.
I use white porcelain serving plates (square plates - a great selection is available from Debenhams from their basics range) and always serve odd numbers, as this seems to work better visually.
Party 1: Prawn Cocktail Tarlet
Prawn cocktail savoury tartlet
Prawn Cocktail is seen as somewhat passé, however these are a modern twist on the tasty original and prove very popular at parties.
Wash a 'Little Gem' lettuce and cut into small, thin strips. Place in the bottom of a savoury tartlet case (range available from M&S and other retailers).
If fresh prawns are unavailable, defrost a bag of small prawns and mix with mayonnaise. Place a tablespoon of the mayonnaise and prawn mixture on top of the lettuce strips. Use large fresh prawns to decorate the top of the tartlet, and then sprinkle a little paprika over the top for added bite - also to make the tartlet look more attractive.
I have also served these tartlets with a single chive stem draped across the top. Again, giving something a little more visually interesting to draw  the attention of the party guest.

Party 1: Prawn Cocktail 2
Prawn cocktail savoury tartlet
These tartlets also double as excellent picnic and outdoor food, accompanied by crusty bread and fresh salad.

Party 1: Houmous Tartlet
Houmous and pine nut tartlet
Use a mini all butter tartlet, fill with a spoonful of organic hoummus and sprinkle/decorate the top with freshly roasted pine nuts.
Simple and really delicious.
Party 1: King Prawn Chilli Blinis
King prawn & chilli blinis

Blinis are Russian mini-pancakes, more often than not served with caviar and fine Russian vodka, however they are available in the chiller section of all major supermarkets.
Take a small blini and put a teaspoon of low fat cream cheese on the top.
On top of the cream cheese, placed marinated chilli king prawns.
Easy to make, relatively low fat (if you use reduced fat cream cheese) and the contrast between the hot chilli and the cool cream cheese is really delicious.

Party 1: Peppercorn Roasted Salmon
Peppercorn roasted salmon blinis
Take a mini blini and spread with a teaspoon of reduced fat cream cheese.
Place a flake of peppercorn roasted salmon on the top (all major supermarkets sell these salmon flakes in the chiller cabinet - they also come in honeyroasted and chilli varieties).
Party 1: Smoked Mackeral Blinis
Smoked mackeral and horseraddish blinis
Use a small blini and spread with a teaspoon of reduced fat cream cheese, which has been mixed with a quarter of a teaspoon of creamed horseradish (Colman's Horseradish Sauce is excellent for these blinis).
Purchase some smoked mackerel fillets (from the chiller section), cut into small bite-sized sections and place on each blini.
The combination of the cold cream cheese, hot horseradish and smoked mackerel is really delicious.
Party 1: Smoked Salmon Tart
Smoked salmon and cream cheese mini tartlet
Use a mini all butter tartlet, place a teaspoon of reduced fat cream cheese into the base. Then place a piece of smoked salmon on top of the creamed cheese.
For added interest I also sometimes place a small chive strip on the top of the tartlet.
Claire Meredith, September 2009

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