Chic Party Food Ideas (February 16, 2011)
Chic Party Food Ideas
I love entertaining, enjoying the look of greedy anticipation on the faces of friends and relatives when served with an array of dishes that have been hand-prepared.
Not having the largest of homes prohibits our ability to host sit-down, large scale meals (which is a shame, as I love the Italian get-together concept of large dishes from which everyone can help themselves). As a result we have embraced the canapé and drinks style get-together, which needs considerably less room and allows me to indulge my whim for presenting lots of different dishes, tapas style.
I'm not a natural baker and chef (however recent successes such as sun-dried tomato and olive breads may mean I am turning a corner in this regard). As a result I have mastered the art of using pre-prepared items (such as pre-baked pastry cases ) and turning them into something delicious, with a personal twist. This elleviates all the drama and disappointment my (from scratch) baking attempts usually seem to often illicit (a recent attempt to make macaroons particularly springs to mind!).
So, here are some of the canapé and party food ideas I came up with recently, to celebrate my birthday with some family and friends.
Individual, de-constructed prawn cocktails
Once considered passé and an example of the very depths to which British cuisine once sank, the prawn cockail is much maligned. The combination of a good quality, rich, Marie Rose sauce, crisp and flavoursome lettuce and juicy fresh prawn work really well. The key to re-inventing this dish is only to use the highest quality ingredients, focusing on each element.
The glasses I used for these individual servings of de-constructed prawn cocktails are, I understand from the Ikea website, actually shot glasses. However they reminded me of mini martini glasses, and I loved the idea of using them for a modern twist on this old favourite. Only £2.99 for a pack of six, they are also a cheap and chic serving suggestion, and have a dual function in that you can also use them for the purpose for which they were intended – serving alcohol!
Placed at the bottom of the glass is a tea-spoon of shop-bought Marie Rose sauce (I used M&S but all the major supermarkets have own-brand and well as market leading brands available). Placed on the bottom of a cocktail stick is a selection of different lettuce (chosen for both taste and visual appeal) and then a Madagascan king prawn. The idea is that you dip the lettuce into the Marie Rose sauce and then eat all the three items together, getting the taste of the traditional prawn cocktail, but on a much smaller and more party manageable scale.
Bruschetta with smoked mackerel and horseradish pâté
This delicious canapé could not be easier. Simply buy a pack of bruschetta from any major supermarket (mine were from M&S). As the bruschetta are pre-cooked all you need to now do is add the pâté. Mackerel pâté is not as complicated as it sounds. I buy strips of smoked mackerel fillets from my local supermarket, shred the flesh into a bowl and add cream of horseradish to taste (I use Tesco's Finest Cream of Horseradish, but there are lots of excellent variations available in all major supermarkets). I add some black pepper, but no salt as the mackerel is quite salty and the cream of horseradish sauce has seasoning already.
I like my pâté quite tangy, so use a lot of horseradish. I would advise regular tasting to see you have got the balance just right for you – hence my lack of details of the quantity of horseradish to use.
Place a teaspoon of pâté on each bruschetta and (optional) sprinkle with small Nonpareils, capers (I get mine from Tesco's). Delicious.
Bruschetti with tapenade, tomato and basil
Living with a vegi (who eats fish, so a 'pescetarian') means that it is important to come up with exciting and interesting party food, but also for it to be healthy.
Using the same bruschetti as in the previous recipe, put approximately a teaspoon of black tapenande (you could make this but I buy a good quality tapeneade from Wallys Deli, Royal Arcade, Cardiff as I'm too lazy to make my own) on the top of the bruschetti and then decorate with finely diced 'on the vine tomatos' (which I think have a great flavour) and a fresh Basil leaf. Delicious and very moorish.
Blinis, cream cheese and lump-fish caviar
These canapés should always be accompanied by a small shot of ice-cold vodka, preferably in little shot glasses. The blinis were ready made and just need cooking for a short time and then allowed to cool (cooking instructions very easy to follow), and purchased from my local supermarket. They can be bought in advance, as they freeze well; defrost overnight.
For the topping, I used low-fat cream cheese and placed a teaspoon of black, lump-fish caviar on the top of each of the blinis.
Guests are always impressed with canapés using caviar (with it's decadent connotations), and lump-fish caviar flavour is excellent for the price.
The caviar was purchased from Wallys Deli, Royal Arcade, Cardiff. I believe it's also available from a range of supermarkets.
Chocolate leaves (decorating Black Forest Gateaux and Individual Chocolate Muffins/Fairy Cakes)
These decorations looks really impressive, and could not be easier to make. We have a large bay tree in the garden and I used a selection of bay leaves, and also rose leaves. It's really important to wash the leaves thoroughly (and carefully, to avoid damaging them) to remove any pests, pesticides or dirt from them. Dry them carefully and put to one side.
Melt dark chocolate (I find this works best) until it is at a liquid consistency. Use a small brush to apply a thin layer of melted chocolate to the underside of the leaf (where the veins on the leaf are more pronounced) and then place in the fridge to set. If the chocolate leaves are too thin, add another layer. When you are happy with the thickness of the chocolate leaves, remove the leaf carefully.
Stored in an airtight box, and in the fridge (my preference) the leaves will be usable for three days.
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