Cooking With Mark

Quick fix party foods

Short on time? Here are easy-to-make canapes to impress your guests this festive season

The party invites have been flooding in; it’s that time of the year. Trying to catch up with friends before Christmas or attend so many events can prove hectic and exhausting. When the invite says canapes will be served, I’m always a little sceptical — more often than not I’ve rushed straight from the office only to find the finger food mentioned as canapes are very thin on the ground — or don’t even make it across the room.
I love little things on little things; in fact, I like a little anything; mini burgers, hot dogs. Anything that’s been made into a micro version of its former self.
When I host a soiree, I make sure there is a substantial spread. I love people’s idea of what constitutes perfect party food. There is a huge frozen food chain in the UK that sells dozens of boxes of premade frozen foods and Christmas is a particularly busy time for such stores. The products they sell are dirt cheap, but there is a reason for this — they’re disgusting.

I often get asked if I’d ‘mind just making a few bits’ to bring to the party. I’m assuming my cooking skills are being called upon, which is flattering, but the number of serving dishes and storage boxes I’ve never seen again is ridiculous

If I ever got invited to a party where this type of food was served, I don’t think I’d stay long. Most people’s idea of a buffet or finger foods is deep bowls of crisps, dry, salty snacks and a selection of dips. You know, those that have four different flavours, where inevitably one vanishes in seconds, and one will never be touched.
I often get asked if I’d ‘mind just making a few bits’ to bring to the party. I’m assuming my cooking skills are being called upon, which is flattering, but the number of serving dishes and storage boxes I’ve never seen again is ridiculous. But with a little imagination you can make some great-looking and tasty canapes: here are a few quick and simple ideas. Thinly slice a French bread stick and toast on both sides, allow to cool, add some soft cheese and top with strips of smoked salmon and fresh dill.

Also, try cubing a mozzarella ball, slide a cherry tomato onto a cocktail stick, mozzarella, then another tomato, finish off with a basil leaf. These look great served on a platter, with a drizzle of balsamic gel.
Using toasted bread or store-bought crackers are great bases for canapes. A good deli is a great place to get ingredients; I love artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, they work well with pesto and basil. I pre-chop and slice the parts, place them in bowls ready to be assembled. Save time by toasting the bread beforehand.
Assemble the canapes just before guests are due to arrive; this will ensure they stay crisp well into the party. The recipes alongside are great time-savers. I used shop-bought pastry and you can make the sausage rolls in advance, then pop them in the oven when your guests arrive — it will fill the kitchen with that fresh pastry smell. The mini pitas not only look great, they are delicious.

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

 

 

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