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Canapés without tears

PUBLISHED: 09:17 19 January 2015 | UPDATED: 09:18 19 January 2015

Party canapes

Party canapes

Archant 2014

Don’t despair at the thought of hosting a party, with these simple but stylish canapes from our food writer Mary Kemp.

Party canapes - Binham Blue and cranberry chutneyParty canapes - Binham Blue and cranberry chutney

Every year I quote Elizabeth David’s wish to go to bed on Christmas day with a good glass of wine and a plate of smoked salmon. Something I think many of us who cook would love to do when we feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of cooking and entertaining we take on at Christmas!

There is something quite fun and delicious about a glass of fizz, lovely canapés and time with dear friends and family. But making delicate morsels can be so time-consuming that there is always the temptation to get someone else to do the hard work - buy ready-made or resort to something very simple. So this month I have gone in search of ways to create great party food, with the help of good friend and caterer Sarah Beckitt Reid, while discreetly cutting corners and making life much easier for us busy cooks.

Lots of our supermarkets and food specialists are now selling canapé cases and bases. You can find them in all shapes and sizes, sweet and savory - just right for taking the stress out of entertaining. All you then need is a back-up list of good ingredients in your larder and fridge with which to fill them . . . and a radiant smile as you serve your guests without telling anyone about the empty boxes in the recycling bin!

Curry chicken with fresh mango

I found some spicy canapé cases and this filling worked brilliantly in the pretty cases. This quantity will fill 18 cases.

1 good sized chicken breast

3 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise

2 tablespoons crème fraîche

1 dessertspoon mango chutney

1 tspn mild curry paste

Half a fresh mango, very finely diced

Fresh chives or coriander, finely chopped

Poach the chicken in water until thoroughly cooked, leave to cool then chop into tiny pieces. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl, and taste, adding more curry paste if needed then stir in the chicken pieces. Once chilled, fill the cases and garnish with fresh herbs.

Spicy prawns

Toss prawns in a little sweet chilli sauce, mixed with finely chopped fresh coriander and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Quails eggs en croute

Fill pastry cases with a leaf of basil, followed by a little mayonnaise mixed with a small amount of sun dried tomato pesto, topped with half a soft boiled quail egg, then finished with a sprinkle of celery salt.

Binham Blue and cranberry chutney

Fill canapé cases with a small salad leaf, then crumble in some Binham blue and top with cranberry sauce or chutney.

Hot smoked kiln salmon with horseradish

Mix a little hot horseradish sauce and crème fraîche together, add a drop of lemon juice and season to taste. Spoon into the cases and top with flaked pieces of the salmon.

Bang Bang chicken

Finely dice a cooked and cooled chicken breast, mixing four tablespoons of peanut butter with a small amount of crushed garlic and finely grated fresh ginger to taste. Then add a squeeze of lemon, a each dash of Tabasco and soy.

Hot avocado and brie tarts

These, as a cold canapé were nice but not stunning, but by popping them under the grill topped with crispy Norfolk pancetta, they transform into something very delicious!

Fill a pastry case with softened avocado, season with black pepper and a dash of lemon juice, then top with ripe brie, and put under the grill until hot and bubbly. Serve with shards of crispy pancetta.

Sweet canapés

Serve tiny meringues with memorable fillings. Add passion fruit or lemon curd to the whipped cream. For chocolatey ones, dip the base in melted chocolate, fill with whipped cream, and dust them with a good quality cocoa. I found chocolate tasting cups ideal for canapé cases. These could be filled with flavoured cream, but they are even better filled with lemon or lime and ginger posset.

Granny’s lemon posset

½ pt double cream

3oz caster sugar

The juice and rind of one lemon

Heat the cream and sugar on a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the juice and rind, stirring well. Stand to cool and thicken, then fill the chocolate cases.

Lime and ginger posset.

Follow recipe for the lemon posset, adding the juice and rind of two limes and half a finely grated piece of stem ginger when the pan comes off the heat.

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