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
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz