Easy freezey canapés
No need to stress on the morning of a get-together at your home - make these delicious canapé favourites in advance and you'll be the toast of the party, writes Katy McGuinness
If you've rashly issued invitations to your friends and family to a party at your house, it's probably time that you thought about what you're going to feed them.
You are going to have to give them something, because if you don't they'll a) get horribly sloshed; and b) blame it on you for being mean. Yes, of course providing plenty of liquid refreshment is important, but it is also cheering for your guests to be given delicious morsels to eat.
All the better if at least some of them are home-made, although we'll be taste-testing some of the supermarkets' ready-made canapés in the coming weeks if you can't envisage making even a few of them yourself.
Not all party food requires cooking, of course, and stocking up on decent roasted nuts and premium crisps is a good start. A large piece of good Brie de Meaux - or even a whole wheel if you have a big gang coming - and some decent crackers is another safe bet, as is a charcuterie board of good cold meats, with olives and gherkins.
If you're going to go further, here are a couple of recipes for hot canapés that you can make now and keep in the freezer until you need them, along with one super-simple (and very popular) one that you can assemble on the day.
As ever, check what you have in the cupboard before you head to the shops. You probably have lots of the spices already.
1 x 375g pack all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
150g strong-flavoured mature cheddar-type cheese, grated
a few pinches of ground paprika
Take the pastry out of the fridge half an hour before you want to use it.
Roll the pastry out to a thickness of 3-4 mm, then put it on a baking tray and pop back in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
Cut it in half, and brush each half with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with the cheese and paprika.
With a sharp knife, slice the pastry into strips 1cm to 1.5cm wide and 12cm long. You should have 50-60.
Twist the strips from both ends and lay them out on trays lined with greaseproof paper in the freezer overnight.
Wrap in cling-film and store in the freezer until you need them. Do not de-frost before cooking.
When you want to use the straws, pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6.
Bake the straws on a lightly greased tray for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.
Little Gem Boats With Whipped Goats' Cheese, Spiced Nuts And Pomegranate
Makes about 40
For the spiced nuts
2 tsp cumin seeds
16 allspice berries
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt
30g icing sugar
40ml olive oil
200g pecan nuts
4 little gem lettuces
450g goat's cheese
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Heat the whole spices in a frying pan for a few minutes until they release their fragrance, then grind into a powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
Mix with the other ingredients into a paste.
Add the nuts and ensure that they are evenly coated.
Spread the nuts out across a lined baking tray and roast for about 10 minutes until caramelised. Allow the nuts to cool before storing in an airtight jar until you are ready to make the canapes.
Whip the goat's cheese and olive oil together on high speed for a couple of minutes.
Cut the pomegranate in half and remove the seeds, discarding the pith and skin.
Remove the leaves from the little gem lettuces, lay on a platter, and into each one place a teaspoon of whipped goat's cheese, a spiced nut and a spoonful of pomegranate seeds.
Rosemary And Parma Ham Filo Parcels
Makes about 60 parcels
4 X 270g packets filo pastry (24 sheets)
2 egg yolks
250g ricotta cheese
225g parma ham or prosciutto, finely chopped
25g Parmesan, finely grated
1½ teaspoons rosemary, very finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Beat the egg yolks into the ricotta and stir in the ham, Parmesan and rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Take the filo out of the fridge and remove it from the packaging. Roll it in a damp tea towel to stop it drying out. Melt the butter over a low heat.
Lay out a sheet of the pastry and brush it with melted butter.
Put another sheet on top and butter again. Slice it the short way into five strips with a sharp knife.
Take a small teaspoon of the filling and place it at one end of the strip.
Fold one corner of the pastry over the filling to make a triangle, then fold over and over again, keeping the triangle shape, until you run out of pastry.
Repeat until you have used up all the filling and pastry. Place the completed triangles on a baking sheet and freeze overnight, then wrap in cling-film or store in a plastic bag in the freezer until needed. Do not de-frost the parcels before cooking.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4. Place the parcels on a buttered baking tray and brush with melted butter. Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, until brown and crisp.
These are very versatile little snacks, other good fillings include a mix of feta and parsley, feta and spinach, Roquefort and pistachio, or a mushroom duxelle.
Taste test: Organic Smoked Salmon
While cheaper smoked salmon may make sense when you're catering for large numbers at a party, if you're planning to serve smoked salmon as the Christmas Day starter you may want to up your game a little, and choose one that's organic or wild. Organic salmon is farmed on the West Coast of Ireland, and is a premium Irish food product.
Coming up to Christmas there will probably be special offers on smoked salmon, so keep an eye out for these.
Burren Smokehouse Organic Smoked Salmon (widely available), 100g, €5.99 8/10
Our favourite of the different smoked salmons that we tasted, this has a subtle oak smoky flavour and tastes luxurious. Nice even slices with attractive colour.
Old Millbank Smokehouse Smoked Salmon (Supervalu), 100g, €5.49 7/10
This salmon is paler in colour than the Burren Smokehouse version, and the presentation isn't as regular, with the slices unevenly shaped. The flavour and texture are good though, with a robust beechwood smokiness.
Aldi Specially Selected Organic Smoked Irish Salmon, 130g, €3.99 7/10
Good appearance and colour, pleasant smoked flavour, and a great price. Aldi use a smokehouse in Killala near to where the salmon is farmed.
Lidl Deluxe Irish Organic Smoked Salmon, 95g, €2.99 6/10
Good appearance, even slices and a lovely aroma from the oak and beech used in the smoking. More than acceptable.
Supervalu Organic Irish Smoked Salmon, 100g, €5 4/10
Very untidy appearance so not great for the festive table, and the aroma is not as good as the others. Not popular with our testers.