Canapés are a troublesome lot. We here at A Hume have been known to think twice about throwing a festive hoolie on account of these uppity little finger foods. Dipping into the canapé repertoire can be an experience not unlike being sucked into a wormhole in which time ceases to exist and whole days are lost stuffing little known Lebanese spices into the barely visible cavity of a French bean flown all the way from Israel. It is not a good thing and does not bode well for festive spirit.
Yet, it seems, you simply can’t have a Christmas party without plates piled high with dainty food. It won’t do. Guests will totter, titter and perhaps even slide into a slur. I know – it seems unlikely that all that stands between your guests and shameful inebriation is a dollop of cream cheese on a flaccid, soggy disc of bread, but it’s true. Canapés are the party pellets that feed the furnace of festive fun.
So, should you wish to entertain your friends this season you will have to confront the canapé conundrum and as we too have a desire to spread a little sparkle and fizz amongst our chums we’ve already been busy in the kitchen. We’ve ditched the prissy and the bland in favour of small foods with enormous flavour and little effort.
Cranberry & Venison Sausage Rolls
This recipe is the best of all possible worlds because you can decide where to pitch your efforts, you can make your own cranberry sauce, or good heavens, look, there’s a jar on the shelf. Everything will be parceled up in cosy layers of buttery puff pastry and it will all look as wholesome and homemade as a Kirstie Allsopp cushion.
For the venison sausage meat I have found myself reaching for a certain retailers ‘finest’ venison sausages and they do trick. Of course, if you have a ruddy-faced local butcher he his no doubt a much worthier recipient of your business. Or you can use another type of sausage meat altogether.
Ingredients (makes about 24 sausage roll bites)
for the cranberry sauce:
250g fresh or frozen cranberries
100g caster sugar
25ml orange or clementine juice
a few shreds of clementine, or orange peel.
for the sausage roll
500g block ready roll puff pastry
300g venison sausages
1 free range egg beaten.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
Tip all the cranberry sauce ingredients into a pan and gently simmer for about 10 minutes until the cranberry begin to pop. Remove from the heat, stir, giving the berries a little push to encourage the popping and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, sieve a little flour onto a cool, smooth surface and roll your pastry into a rectangle 3-4mm thick. Divide the pastry into 3 long section of equal width. Split the sausage meat casing and half each sausage length ways. Lay each sausage section along the middle of each pastry length, stretch the meat out a little to fill the full length.
Run a ribbon of cranberry sauce along the edge of the sausage meat. You can also add a few shreds of sage, or rosemary if you like.
Brush the one edge of the pastry along the full length with the beaten egg and roll the pastry into one long sausage roll. Cut into bite size mini rolls, score the top of pastry, brush with more egg wash and bake in a hot oven for 15 – 20 minutes.
You can easily prepare these in advance and re-heat.
Griddled Prawns with lime and chilli oil
This punchy little combo is so easy it barely needs a recipe. Pre-heat a griddle pan or grill until hot and grill the prawns in their shells for about 2 mins each side, or until the shells turn a deep rosy pink. Grilling the prawns in their shells gives them so much toasty flavour but if you can only get shelled prawns they’ll be fine, follow the same method. Calculate a couple of prawns per person.
Set aside to cool then shell the prawns, leaving the tails and serve with the super quick dipping sauce below. Again this can easily be prepared in advance.
for dipping sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp water
4 tbsp brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
In a small saucepan, combine the rice wine vinegar, the fish sauce, water and sugar and bring to the boil. Once the sugar as dissolved set aside to cool. Then whisk in the other ingredients to taste.
Stilton and Pear Crostini
Stilton and pear are so wonderful together and just like Morecambe and Wise they are at their best at Christmas. So, we couldn’t have a party without them.
This recipe is adapted from one that appeared on Oprah.com, which features pumpkin seed oil. It’s not the easiest thing to source, though I do have some and it is divine, especially and oddly enough on ice cream, so if you do come across it, snap it up. You can easily substitute sesame oil or extra virgin olive oil.
Ingredients (makes about 24 crostini)
12 round brioche rolls, or 1 loaf brioche cut into small rounds.
pumpkin seed, sesame or extra virgin olive oil
350g Stilton, crumbled
6 green Comice or Anjou pears peeled and cut into thin wedges
150g toasted pumpkin, or sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5
Cut rounded tops off rolls, then slice each roll in half horizontally. Brush insides of rolls with about 3 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil total. Place brushed side up on a baking sheet, and bake until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. While still warm, place cheese and pears on toasted rolls.
Arrange rolls on a serving tray. Top with pumpkin seeds, and drizzle with remaining pumpkin seed oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.