Amuse-Your-Bouche

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Canapés for the ultimate cocktail party

It is scientifically proven that we, as humans, love everything tiny. Nothing makes us squeal more than a main course dish compressed into an itsy-bitsy bite-size portion, except perhaps, a puppy in a flowerpot. Tiny tartlet? Don’t mind if we do. Mini roast beef? We’ll take ten. Prawn cocktail in a shot glass? All over that shit. Call them what you will; appetisers, hors d’oeuves or soupçons; nothing screams ‘I’M A FULLY FUNCTIONING ADULT’ louder than a cocktail and nibbles party. Drinks are a must, but tiny morsels of slightly pretentious food will open you up to the glitz and glamour of adulthood… and boy, do we need find it amongst the detritus of council tax payments and 6am starts.

“The 28-hour sourdough is sensational; deliciously soft centre with a crisp, chewy, charred outer crust which is ideal for dipping. If you haven’t been to Pollen, you haven’t truly lived.”

It’s always time for a canapé and a glass of something fizzy as far as we are concerned; but the tiny-treats that we have come up with were born to be part of the ultimate drinks party. Think Mad Men, think Downton Abbey, think any kind of bygone era when it was perfectly acceptable to converse, drink champagne and gorge on tiny bits of food every weekend without fail. So, let’s get dressed up, get some champagne (more likely prosecco) chilling in the fridge and prepare to get classy AF.

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In terms of the actual dishes, we may have gone a little overboard. But, if you like to flaunt as much as we do, work your fingers to the bone and make them all. We promise it will all be worth it when you hear that sweet hum of appreciation. It’s important to note that any of these dishes would be great for smaller parties too, or as a teaser before the main event at a dinner party. The beetroot dip would make a great starter; just double the quantities and share it between four, or even as a side dish with Greek or middle eastern dishes like lamb meatballs. It is imperative to serve this colourful dip with some bread. We’ve heard some seriously good things about Pollen Bakery in Ancoats, Manchester and we were not disappointed. The 28-hour sourdough is sensational; deliciously soft centre with a crisp, chewy, charred outer crust which is ideal for dipping. If you haven’t been to Pollen, you haven’t truly lived.

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As always we want our recipes to be accessible for everyone so we’ve included a mix of vegetarian, fish and meat canapés so it’s fun for the whole family. Korean pork to keep the carnivores happy and börek for those with a conscience.  Smoked salmon blinis are an easy choice (if not a bit of a cheat, but we won’t tell). Of course, you can make your own blinis, but as far as we are concerned, pancakes were so last week.

“Music completely depends on what sort of ambience you want to set. But if you want to complete the cultured adult illusion we would suggest some smooth jazz”

You can make cocktails (if you can be bothered); some of our favourites are an Old Fashioned, a French Martini or a classic Mojito. However, if that’s too much faff, stick to something effortlessly classic, like a gin and tonic. We would recommend Batch Premium Gin (£37.00). It’s a local gin from Burnley made with 12 botanicals. It’s dear, we know, but we are advocates of eating and drinking local British produce wherever we can and it’s worth you all chipping in for the second best G&T on the planet. (Ten points to Griffendoor if you can guess the first.) Serve with ice cold tonic, a stick of lemon grass and some fresh basil. Failing that, bubbles are always the way to go.

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Decor is in your court this week. Canapés are a staple that can be used over and over again for different events. So, keep it simple and serve on wooden chopping boards or large plates, you can get these really easily from home stores or even supermarkets. Music completely depends on what sort of ambience you want to set. But if you want to complete the cultured adult illusion we would suggest some smooth jazz from the likes of John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Nina Simone or Duke Ellington. Jazz is the perfect background music to be drowned out by good conversation and the harmony of compliments (hopefully). Start the evening this way at least, you can switch to Disco when the bottles have racked up and you feel like dancing.

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Recipes are below. And remember, tiny food has half the calories, especially when washed down with copious amounts of fizz.

See you next Thursday,

G&T

Beetroot dip (V)

(Makes one large dish/bowl)

1 pack of vac-packed beetroot

1 tsp. horseradish

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to dress

100g feta cheese or crumbly goats cheese

80g chopped hazelnuts

Sprigs of fresh dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Good quality sourdough bread for dipping.

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Put the beetroot,  horseradish, lemon, seasoning and olive oil in a food processor and pulse until smooth. It should be the texture of hummus. Put it in a bowl or in a large dish and chill. Crumble the feta or goats cheese over the top, sprinkle with the hazelnuts and dress with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprigs of fresh dill.

Smoked Salmon Blinis with mustard cream

(Makes 16)

135g ready-made blinis

200g good quality, high welfare Scottish smoked salmon

300ml crème-fraiche

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. wholegrain mustard

1.tsp. horseradish

Salt and Pepper

Lemon wedges and chives to serve

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To make the mustard cream, combine the crème-fraiche, both mustards and horseradish in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and chill in the fridge.  Heat the blinis up in a dry frying pan by cooking them for 30 seconds on each side. This allows them to soften and not taste like a dry bath sponge. Allow them too cool slightly before you dollop a little of the cream on the blinis. With your hands tear apart some of the salmon and delicately fold it on top of the cream. Once they are all topped, squeeze a little lemon juice on them from a height, and sprinkle with cracked black pepper and chopped chives.

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Spinach and feta börek (V)

(Makes about 20)

270g filo pastry (leave it to the experts, homemade filo is about as time consuming and difficult as learning Sanskrit.)

200g feta cheese

2 eggs, whipped in separate bowls

100g cooked spinach

500ml sunflower or vegetable oil

Fresh mint

Black and white sesame seeds to serve

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Start by making the filling. In a bowl combine the cooked spinach, chopped mint, egg and feta and smash it up with a fork until it makes a paste. Place the filo on a damp towel, and slice it into quarters. Take a sheet of filo and place it on a slightly floured surface. Put two large teaspoons on one end of the pastry and spread into a sausage.

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Fold in the sides and roll into a cigar. Brush with a little egg to stick the pastry together. Repeat with all the pastry. Heat the oil up in a large saucepan. Drop a small piece of potato in the oil to test if its hot enough, it should fizz to the top straight away. Shallow fry the borek, a few at a time until they are golden brown on both sides. Take them from the oil and leave them to drain the oil on a bit of kitchen paper. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

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Korean sticky pork belly

(Makes about 25 skewers)

900g pork belly

6 tbsp. dark soy sauce

4 tbsp. fish sauce

Juice of 2 limes

3 cloves garlic, diced

Thumb sized piece of ginger

1 red chilli

1 teaspoon of Korean red pepper powder

175g soft brown sugar

1 cucumber

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Season the pork and roast the pork belly for 40 minutes at 200 degrees. Once cool, cut into 5cm cubes. Next make the marinade by combining the soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger, chilli, garlic, lime juice and sugar in sauce pan and stir until the sugar dissolves over a medium heat. Turn the heat to low and cook until syrupy. Allow the marinade to cool a little before tossing the pork in half the mixture and allowing it to marinate for at least an hour. Save the other half for dipping and drizzling. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and cook the pork belly skin side up for 15 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Serve with cucumber.

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Hello! We are Ginseng & Thyme, two friends and work colleagues from Manchester with a passionate affinity for food, drink and lifestyle. Here’s our food story, what’s yours? Twitter: @ginsengandthyme Instagram: @ginsengandthyme

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