Eating in: Go like the tapas

It's much more fun to whip up dozens of dazzling little treats than to sweat over a formal dinner, says Michael Bateman

THE FRENCH have their hors d'oeuvres, the Scandinavians their smorgasbord (open sandwiches), the Brazilians their salgadinhos (savoury bites), the Spanish their tapas and the Italians their antipasto (which means before the meal, and not before the pasta, as many people assume).

And in Britain what do we have? The heart sinks when you consider the fare which has been served up at so many British drinks parties over the years, though we have come some way from the worst - those sausage rolls and stuffed eggs and cheese cubes skewered with pineapple. And at least the ubiquitous bowls of crisps and salted peanuts have been replaced with tortilla chips and tasty dips.

But there is every sign of a sea-change in our habits. Jane Suthering, who teamed up with Savoy chef Anton Edelmann to produce the first classic guide to such appetisers (Canapes and Frivolities, republished in paperback this month, Pavilion pounds 9.99), says this is because people are now focusing more on the food than the drink.

What was once the domain of the banqueting dep- artments of grand hotels (the inspiration for Jane's book) has now extended to catering companies, which vie to outdo each other with ever wilder forms of presentation and more exotic flavours.

The most obvious changes have been in presentation, Jane notes. Traditional bases for such snacks - biscuits, toasts and fried bread - have been exchanged for other vehicles. Morsels are served in salad leaves or wrapped in blanched leaves; cones of greaseproof paper enclose miniature fish and chips (say, three tiny chips and a nugget of deep-fried monkfish), and seasoned oysters offered in their shells. Sushi is increasingly included, the rice and fish wrapped in nori seaweed.

Moister morsels which you can't pick up can be served in cupcake cases. Soft-boiled quails' eggs and caviar may be presented in small teaspoons.

Even the humble crisp is experiencing a make-over: they are now more likely to be made with sweet potato or beetroot, celeriac or fennel. (These are easy to make at home; peel and cut the vegetables into razor-thin slices, mop dry, and fry a few at a time in very hot oil 180C/350F. Drain on absorbent paper, store in an airtight tin and warm through before serving.)

Jane Suthering argues that it's far more rewarding to put your creative efforts into producing dazzling little treats than sweating over a formal dinner, and she points to the stunning examples on this page. These are the work of Maria Ella, 30, the cook at Delfina Studio Cafe (50 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UD: Tel 0171 357 0244), an artists' co-operative situated by London Bridge with its own lunchtime restaurant. These appetisers are served at parties held in the studio in the evenings.

MACKEREL IN CRISPY NOODLES

Makes 10

2-3 small mackerel fillets

75g/3oz seasoned flour

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

pinch paprika

pinch chilli powder

vegetable oil

125g/5oz fine egg noodles

salt

For the pickle

1/2 peeled mooli (white radish), finely shredded

1 cucumber, seeded and julienned

150mI/1/4 pint rice wine vinegar

2cm/3/4in grated ginger

1/2 stick lemon grass, chopped

1/2 chilli, seeded

sugar to taste

For the dressing

olive oil

vegetable oil

lime juice

harissa (the hot Moroccan sauce) or Tabasco

lemon grass, chopped

fish sauce (nam pla)

pinch of sugar

Make the dressing to your own taste, starting with, say, four tablespoons oil, adding a teaspoon or more of the other ingredients.

Make the vegetable pickle 24 hours in advance. Put mooli and cucumber in a jar. Bring the other ingredients to the boil. Add to the jar and leave to absorb flavours.

Drop the noodles into boiling salted water to blanch, and when water boils again, remove and drain.

Cut the mackerel into 5cm (2in) strips. Roll in sifted flour and spices. Shallow fry in hot oil just long enough to set the flour. Drain on absorbent paper. Wrap noodles around the pieces. Fry again in very hot oil until crisp and drain.

Strain the pickled mooli and cucumber, reserving juices for future use. Pour the dressing over. Serve each roll on the pickle on dessertspoons or in shot glasses.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game