Are canapés just too retro?
With the beginning of the festive season upon us, it’s time to dust off those party food recipes and break out the foil platters. But what to put on them? Cheese and pineapple? Bleugh. Especially if presented as a ‘hedgehog’. Celery filled with cream cheese? Worse still, particularly if its stringy. Liver paté and cucumber on (soggy) Ritz crackers. Hmmm, I think I’ll give that a miss too. . .
There must be some legacy from the 70s we actually enjoy. Vegetarians aside, in all the years I’ve hosted parties I’ve never known anyone greet a plate of hot sausages with anything other than rapture. You can keep your sushi platters and your filo-wrapped prawns: the bangers will be gone quicker than you can say Abigail’s Party.
Some cheese on sticks we can get behind - Stilton and toasted walnut balls
Then what about vol-au-vents? Turns out that’s controversial. I have a sneaking fondness for them, particularly if filled with a gooey mushroom filling but as a friend pointed out recently they’re disgusting cold. Blinis on the other hand are rather good especially topped with fake caviar. I was offered some at a party the other day and wolfed my way through them in no time. (I was amused to see one supermarket refer to canapés as ‘tasty bites’ which is what my grandmother used to call them.)
Cheese straws? Now there’s a good snack, especially if they’re homemade - a thrifty way of using up the odds and ends of cheese in the fridge. Or gougères, as nice a nibble as I know with a glass of champagne or Chablis. Both better than peanuts, the last refuge of pubs who want to stoke their drinkers’ thirst, but maybe not such a great idea if you don’t want your friends to drink you out of house and home.
Then there are dips. Where do we stand on dips? Should they be wholesome and healthy like fresh tomato salsa or guacamole or shamelessly indulgent like the onion and sour cream dip I used to make with a packet of dried onion soup. (I felt slightly embarrassed about admitting to this but it turned out, checking Google, that many still do.)
The tricky balance to strike is between preparing your food so far ahead that your asparagus rolls taste like an over-chilled garage forecourt sandwich or leaving it till the last minute and having your kitchen (and your hair) smell like a chippy as you fry your fish goujons.
It’s a minefield. Maybe we should just stick to crisps.
What are your favourite party snacks and which do you hate?
More controversial canapés to try: