The Art of the Canapé
Many of us love to take advantage of the little sun we get during the British summer by hosting a little outdoor get together. Whether it’s a get-together in the garden, party in the patio, or picnic in the park, mastering the art of canapés can help you up your hosting game.
Canapés, finger food, hors d’oeuvres - whatever you want to call them! - come in many different shapes and sizes! Pineapple and cheese on a stick is a thing of the dim and distant past and there is now a far wider variety of well-known options. These culinary creations must not only taste good and look pretty, but are practical and easy to grab and consume whilst standing up and socialising with a glass of bubbly in your hand.
Table Talk: For those interested in the semantics, ‘Hors d’oeuvre’ generally refers to any pre-meal nibbles. ‘Canapé’ often gets used interchangeably with hors d’oeuvre, but is actually a type of hors d’oeuvre—one that involves a starchy base (bread, cracker, et cetera) and a topping.
If you are crafting your own canapés, focusing on taste, colour and texture can help you create the perfect thing. A contrast of textures is always enjoyable. For example, if you’re serving something creamy, adding a crunchy component will make the mouthful far more interesting. Remember not to get overwhelmed - there’s no need to serve more than three or four different canapés at a party. On average, it seem that eight canapés per person works well.
Looking at some of our favourite chefs and their approach to the world of canapés is a great place to start...
Jamie Oliver has mastered the classic flavour combinations in his canapés. Although fancy recipes may seem appealing, he reckons it’s always good to have at least one much-loved favourite on offer to please your guests. His recipe for Smoked Salmon, Cress, & Horseradish Crostini, is a delightful choice for a party at any time of the year. Try our gorgeous Wild Smoked Salmon for this recipe.
Nigella Lawson has lots of summer party recipes. One of which, from her book ‘Nigella Summer’ (2002) is less classic, lighter, and inspired by Asian fusion. This is her Thai Crumbled Beef in Lettuce Wraps, and reflects her focus on elegance when it comes to canapés. Interestingly, she replaces a starchy base for a lettuce leaf, creating something far fresher and lighter for summer.
Gordon Ramsey, the notorious but brilliant TV chef, talks a lot about elevating canapes. For example, his Courgette & Ricotta Bruschetta uses simple ingredients to create something that looks luxurious and unique. By infusing the ricotta with mint leaves, and searing the courgette on the griddle, this canapé has a restaurant-quality look to it because of the attention to detail.
Mary Berry is the queen of party food, and her canapé recipes usually focus on appearing sophisticated and complicated but actually being very easy to prepare in advance. Her Blue Cheese & Fig Tarts, for example, are beautiful and delicious but can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.