Who can resist a good canapé? The only thing better than being presented with a festive glass of bubbles is spotting a tray of mini delights to accompany it. Below are some delicious morsels designed for ease of preparing, serving and devouring.
While we all love the classics like brie and cranberry crostini or vintage smoked salmon on brown bread with a squeeze of lemon, these bites are also something a little bit different. There’s not a sliced baguette or puff pastry block in sight, but rather an array of light and inviting nibbles to suit all tastes and have your guests coming back for more.
These perfect party canapés require a bit of oven/pan time in advance, but can all be served at room temperature so you can get ahead in the afternoon before your guests arrive and won’t be beholden to the oven timer all night.
Baked Parma Parcel with Fig and Goats Cheese
Figs are utterly irresistible when warmed, sticky and sweet and perfectly paired with the saltiness of Parma ham and goats cheese. All I do for this particular bite is slice figs in quarters, stud with a teaspoon of creamy goats cheese, wrap in a half slice of parma ham and bake until crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, 10-12 minutes in an oven at 200c.
If you can’t get or don’t enjoy figs, this works nicely with thick nectarine crescents too. If serving hot from the oven rather than warm (both are good), be sure to add cocktail sticks.
Parsnip Crisp with Ham, Mustard and Watercress
The sweetness of parsnip with torn Christmas ham, spicy mustard and watercress is a combination I can’t get enough of. Making vegetable crisps is easy with a mandolin, and for this I slice a fat parsnip, as we need the surface area for topping, but the smaller bits make lovely crisps. Shave into thin coins before oiling, seasoning and spreading out on a baking sheet.
Cook for 20 minutes at 180c before flipping and baking for a further 10 minutes until the crisps are slightly curling at the edges and golden. Remove from the oven and they will continue to crisp up as they cool. Top your parsnip crisps with thick cut or torn honey glazed ham, a little drop of dijon mustard and a watercress leaf and serve.
If you fancy making your entire party crisp offering a little bit bougie, make your own sweet potato, beetroot and carrot crisps along with the parsnip as Niomi Smart does in this recipe.
Halloumi and Chorizo Skewer
Threading sticks with cheese and chunks of chorizo may sound tedious, but the result is an addictive mouthful everyone will want seconds of. Just cut a block of halloumi into bitesize cubes and slice chunky chorizo sausage (I’m not a big fan of the thin slices) into coins. In a large frying pan with a drizzle of oil, fry the halloumi and chorizo until the cheese is slightly golden and the chorizo has began to crisp and release its paprika spiked oils. Allow to cool slightly before adding one of each to a small skewer or cocktail stick.
It is always a good idea to make a couple of veggie based skewers while you’re at it, so substitute red peppers, cherry tomatoes or red onion for the chorizo, cooking the same way, and keep all your guests happy.
Cheese Crisp with Truffled Mushrooms
Is there a more indulgent duo than cheese and truffle? I think not. The realisation that you can in fact make a cracker purely out of cheese was the luxury snack light bulb moment of my dreams and I wish that for you too. It is as simple coarsely grating a hard cheese such as gruyere, gouda, parmesan or cheddar and arranging in mounds (about a tablespoon worth in each) on a lined baking sheet, leaving nice gap in between as they will spread. You could sprinkle over some fresh thyme and black pepper at this point. Bake at 200c for 10 minutes until starting to brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool and crisp up.
Your topping choices are endless, and these crackers are divine on their own or added as a vessel to a charcuterie board. I like to gild the lily flavour-wise and top my cheese crisps with torn oyster mushrooms (or use diced portobello or shiitake) browned for a few minutes in a hot pan with butter, thyme and a splash of truffle oil. Forget Ferrero Rocher, with this you are truly spoiling your guests and yourself.
Roasted Aubergine, Cashew Cream & Sundried Tomato
While I personally would be happy with every canapé featuring some form of cheese, you may have vegan or dairy-free guests to cater for and aubergine, sun-dried tomato and cashew cream parcels will do the job nicely. Your resident cheese fiends may even find themselves quite taken by the silky cashew topping.
To make it, soak 150g of unsalted, raw cashew nuts in water overnight or boil in a saucepan for 20 minutes until soft if your patience is as thin as mine, then drain but reserve the soaking water. Allow to cool and then add the nuts to a blender along with a good squeeze of lemon juice, a small clove of garlic and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes. Add a trickle of the soaking liquid and blend until smooth but thick and spreadable, adding more soaking liquid if necessary. Season to taste.
The cashew cream alone makes a delicious dip for crudités of all sorts, but to make it more portable, slice an aubergine into half inch rounds, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 180c for 15-20 minutes on a baking tray. Remove from the oven and top with sliced sun-dried tomatoes, basil and a dollop of cashew cream for a plant-based pizza style canapé.
Black Pudding, Blue Cheese, Pear and Walnut
I have always found the subtle spice and clove undertone of black pudding rather festive and it wouldn’t be Christmas without many, many wedges of blue cheese. This bite is silly simple to assemble but delivers big time on the flavour front.
Just fry up some black pudding disks (not too thick) until good and crips, drain excess oil and top with a thin strip of pear, crumble of blue cheese (I like Cashel here and it is available everywhere) and a walnut for crunch.
Cucumber, Shredded Duck and Hoisin Bites
This canapé is a cheat’s delight and guaranteed crowd pleaser. I have never met anyone who could resist a duck pancake, but this version side steps the fiddly encasing in favour of a lighter cucumber base.
Simply slice cucumber into half inch disks, spread a little hoisin sauce on and top with shredded roasted duck (I love the Silver Hill Crispy Duck Kit for this, keep the pancakes for your next Chinese food craving) and some finely sliced spring onions.
Prawn Cocktail Lettuce Cups
Few can resist the nostalgia of a prawn cocktail, so why keep it only as a beloved Christmas starter choice? These Prawn Cocktail Lettuce Cups from Butler House are the perfect size for a luxurious canapé treat and I love the addition of fresh crabmeat to add to the indulgent feel. These will look ever so inviting fanned out on a large tray to catch the eye of your seafood loving guests.
For even more easy and delicious canapé inspiration for all your festive gathering needs, check out 10 Easy Christmas Canapés with 5 Ingredients or Less.