Eating in: Most excellent canapes

Making your own canapes may sound like a daunting prospect, but as long as you plan in advance, there is no reason why it shouldn't be perfectly straightforward. Michael Bateman chooses half a dozen recipes with which to dazzle your guests

SOME people have a real flair for making canapes for drinks parties. But for the rest of us, the very thought of serving homemade snacks is exhausting.

Should we, for example, serve parma ham or smoked salmon, stuffed vegetables or tapas, crudites or expensive cheeses? Are they going to take all day to prepare and assemble? Will we still be stoning the olives long after the first guests have arrived? It's no wonder that many of us settle for a quick trip to the supermarket and a few bowls of tortilla chips and salted almonds instead.

But relax. Help is at a hand. For Vivienne Gonley, whose catering company, Zafferano, is fast becoming a leader in the field of the modern canape, insists that it is quite possible to serve delicious snacks without taking a crash course in party catering or slaving over recipe books all day.

The secret of making good party bites is planning, Vivienne says. It was a lesson she learnt on her first professional engagement six years ago, when she allowed only a single day to cater for 60 guests.

"The only thing you should be doing at the last minute is cutting up the tortilla," she says. "You want to be waiting for guests in your party dress, not sweating and red-faced in a pinny."

Below, she gives us an example of her style; half a dozen bites of contrasting textures and flavours, avoiding the cliche of everything just being shoved into a pastry base. The Mediterranean influence is a result of Vivienne's extensive travel around Europe, and of her previous career with the Alternative Travel Group, when she used to take parties on gastronomic tours of Italy.

The key to her approach is to think big; to take a classic dish, and then miraculously reduce it in size. So Spanish tortilla is served in dainty slices, and beef carpaccio in small parcels. Griddled tuna is served in bite-sized squares, and gazpacho in shot glasses.

These canapes are all easier to make than they might seem. The apple marmalade can be made three days in advance. The gazpacho can be made the night before: chilling it overnight improves it. The carpaccio of beef can also be prepared a day in advance and stored in the fridge between sheets of clingfilm. The tortilla should be made first thing on the morning of the party, and left in the pan all day to cool and thus improve. The chard and goat's cheese parcels need to be made last, so that they retain their freshness. But why not? The results will be a lot more memorable than peanuts, and as long as you don't leave everything to the last minute, you can have a lot of fun.

Vivienne Gonley, Zafferano, 102b Belgravia Workshops, Marlborough Road, London, N19. Tel 0171 272 2225. `Canapes', by Eric Treuille and Victoria Blashford-Snell (Dorling Kindersley, pounds 14.99), and `Finger Food', by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern (Ryland Peters & Small, pounds 16.99), are excellent illustrated books on party food

GAZPACHO WITH PARMESAN BISCUITS

This recipe is designed to serve 12 people, as are the rest (see overleaf) The gazpacho and the biscuits can be made a couple of days in advance. Serve the gazpacho in small glasses.

900g/2lb very ripe plum tomatoes, peeled

(if they are flavourless winter tomatoes, halve and brush with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar, and roast in the bottom of a low oven for a couple of hours)

700ml/114 pint tomato juice

2 large garlic cloves

half a mild Spanish onion

1 red pepper, de-seeded

1 small cucumber, peeled and de-seeded

1 thick slice stale white bread, without crusts

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

pinch of cayenne pepper

salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the garnish

chopped spring onions

chopped black olives

chopped parsley

Puree all the ingredients in a blender except those for the garnish. Add seasoning and refrigerate. Serve well-chilled, topped with the garnish

for the biscuits

50g/2oz ground rice or polenta

87.5g/3.5oz white flour

100g/4oz softened butter

50g/2oz Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon paprika

salt and pepper

Blend all the ingredients and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the mixture out to a quarter-inch thickness and cut to required shape with biscuit cutters. Brush with egg and top with poppy seeds. Bake at 220C/400F/Gas 6 for 12-15 minutes.

CHARD BUNDLES

12 chard or large spinach leaves

100g/4oz goat's cheese, cubed

100g/4oz mascarpone

25g/1oz toasted pine nuts

squeeze of lemon

salt and freshly ground pepper

On the morning of the party, blanch the chard leaves, a couple at a time, in boiling water. Lay flat between sheets of clingfilm and refrigerate before serving. Amalgamate the rest of the ingredients to make the filling. An hour or so before serving, spoon some of the mixture on to each leaf, and draw the chard together to form a bundle.

TUNA WITH GUACAMOLE

100g/4oz very fresh tuna

for the guacamole

1 ripe Hass avocado

a handful of coriander

1 clove garlic

2 green chillies

zest and juice of 1 lime

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blend all the guacamole ingredients. If you are making it more than a couple of hours in advance, keep the avocado stone in the finished guacamole to keep the colour vibrant.

Brush the tuna with olive oil. Heat a griddle pan for three to four minutes. Sear the tuna (less than one minute on each side), so that it is marked on the outside but pink in the middle. Half an hour before you are ready to serve it, cut the tuna into bite-sized squares and top with a generous teaspoonful of the guacamole. Garnish with a very small strip of mild red chilli.

WALNUT BREAD WITH ROQUEFORT AND APPLE MARMALADE

4 or so slices organic-style brown or walnut bread

75g/3oz Roquefort

for the apple marmalade

450g/1lb red eating apples

juice and zest of half a lemon

50g/2oz butter

75g/3oz dark brown sugar

100g/4oz walnut halves

30ml/1fl oz brandy Quarter, core and slice the apples. Melt the butter in a pan and add the apples, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Cook gently until the excess liquid has evaporated and the apples are soft. Add the brandy and cook until the liquid has reduced. Add the walnuts when the mixture is cold. Toast the bread and cut into squares (this can be done on the morning of the party). Up to 45 minutes before serving, top the toasts with a sliver of Roquefort and a teaspoonful of apple marmalade CARPACCIO

100g/4oz beef fillet (chilled, but not frozen, to make it easier to slice)

75g/3oz rocket

50g/2oz Parmesan shavings

50g/2oz rinsed, halved capers (optional)

dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper

With a very sharp knife, slice the beef as thinly as possible. This can be done well in advance. Lay out between layers of clingfilm and gently press out each slice with your fingers until it is very thin. Just before serving, brush generously with the dressing, then lay on each piece a few rocket leaves, a couple of Parmesan shavings and half a caper. Roll the beef around the filling to form a bundle.

TORTILLA

Should be made the morning of the party, or even the day before

5 eggs

1 large onion

1 large waxy potato

olive oil

salt and pepper

Slice and fry the onion in lots of olive oil. Peel and quarter the potato, and parboil it (for eight minutes or so). Slice the quarters and add to the fried, browned onions, and cook

for a further five minutes. Beat and season the eggs. When the onion and potato mixture has cooled, add it to the eggs, and check the seasoning. Heat some olive oil in a heavy frying pan until it is smoking. Add the tortilla mixture and immediately turn the heat down low. The smoking oil will have sealed the mixture, preventing it from sticking. Cook for 15 mins, then turn out on to a plate. Add more oil to the pan, return the turned tortilla to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes. It should be golden-brown on the outside but slightly runny on the inside.

Cut into wedges at the very last minute and serve at room temperature.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
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.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits