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Are canapés just too retro?

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Fiona Beckett Fiona Beckett | 15:10 UK time, Friday, 2 December 2011

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.

Stilton and toasted walnut balls

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.)

Hairy Biker's Jumbo cheese and ham straws

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:


  • Comment number 1.

    you forgot heat hot dips fondue, crab dip.
    cold dip humus, and tahini on toasted pita bread all good and very posh

  • Comment number 2.

    I have a friend who really can't cook

    She does a very popular annual drinks party - nothing but some kind of fizz to drink & tray after tray of good supermarket ready made canapes. works really well

  • Comment number 3.

    I love mini sausages and sausage rolls! I don't mind if I'm boringly old-fashioned or trendily retro, I'm still loving vol-au-vents with the old condensed cream of mushroom soup filling, but yes, absolutely have to be eaten whilst hot. Love cheese straws, love gougeres, love crips and dips, not so keen on crudites, feels too much like diet food masquerading as party food...

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry, but I quite like cheese and pineapple! And I agree with KaveyF on the mini sausages - yum. Mini scotch eggs are good too. Guacamole is a great dip with tortilla chips. Canapes are best served with a choice of lovely cocktails!

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Was my turn for Christmas in my family a couple of years ago and I done canapes which went down well. I had smokem salmon blinis, mini toad in the hole (as Fiona says no one can resist a cocktail sausage) and I had bresaola ham wrapped round some rocket and parmesan.

  • Comment number 7.

    I don't know quite where to post this comment - but given the brouhaha over entry of Indian chefs to the UK - why isn't there a Curry Master Chef program?

  • Comment number 8.

    I had a party on Saturday and did home made cheese twists, Spanish tortilla (cut into squares) served with garlic mayo and some cocktail sticks with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olives. Went down like a treat!

  • Comment number 9.

    Definitely in the sausage roll camp. I'm addicted.

    @Natasha - I always forget about little tortilla squares. Yum. I'll try to fit them in somewhere this year!

    @Jacqueline - Hm, don't know. Sounds like an interesting talking point for the messageboard, though.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm 24, so I wasn't alive when some of the retro canapés were done to death originally in the 70s, so I will happily be both munching away at some shop-bought ones (small sausage rolls cooked from the freezer, they are reduced to greasy crumbs in about 30 seconds) and making some of my own, namely vol-au-vents and mini tarts and quiches. I did vol-au-vents for my birthday in September too and I would say that they can be delicious cold, so long as you have cooked the pastry perfectly and the filling suits being cold. Anyway, I say, enjoy the canapé!

  • Comment number 11.

    good point @Triceratops-Obsoletesauraus - a crisp vol au vent case with a prawn filling can be a fine thing. Well reminded!

    I've just been to Australia - hence the radio silence - where dips and spreads seem all the rage but with inventive ingredients like smoked tomato, feta and cashew. I feel quite inspired to give them a go - but not over Christmas. The family would be up in arms!


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