We’ve all been there – one day you’re having a nice relaxing afternoon, then suddenly you have an unexpected social occasion sprung on you by a family member. When you have to feed a bunch of unexpected guests some tasty finger foods, it can be quite tempting to call the nearest pastry shop to order something to go, but those often require a bit of a lead time.
At Crustique, we know the special kind of terror that descends when you realize that you have to whip up something that looks like it came straight off a pastry shop menu, which is why we’ve put together this list of pantry and freezer staples to keep around the house that will allow you to conjure up contemporary canapes at home when time is of the essence.
In the pantry:
Melba toast, water crackers, wheat meal biscuits, and cheese crisps are a godsend when you have to whip out something to eat really quickly. Arrange it on a plate with some cheese, veggies and pesto and you’ve got a simple canape plate that nobody can fault. Serve it with fresh fruit (like kiwi, grapes or figs) and a drizzle of honey.
2. Tinned seafood
Tinned mussels, tuna, mackerel, and sardines may not be the height of culinary fashion, but it can really save you time if you need to whip up a meal in a pinch. Serve it on crackers with some fresh tomato and basil or cobble together a quick noodle casserole by adding it to pasta and a basic white sauce. Pro tip: You can make snack-size casseroles by baking the pasta, white sauce & fish in a muffin tray.
3. Nuts & chocolate
These two ingredients are wonderful because you can serve it as is – no assembly required. Choose a high quality chocolate that you can present alongside a nice cup of coffee and you have the makings of a simple, yet delightful, dessert right there. Nuts can be served as is, tossed into salads, ground up for a dukkah, added to baked goods, and so much more. Alternatively, you could combine the nuts and chocolate for a delicious hot sauce to serve over ice cream (always a hit with both children and adults alike). Pro tip: Always check if any of your guests have an allergy before adding nuts to a dish.
In the freezer:
1. Puff pastry
Puff pastry is the culinary equivalent of that friend you can take along to any party – it’s simple, easy, and plays well with others. Here’s a quick idea – allow the pastry to defrost, roll it out and blind bake with some dried beans at 180°C for 15 minutes. While the pastry is in the oven, chop some onion, mushroom and the meat of your choice (we like to add some thyme to this mixture). Scoop the mixture onto the puff pastry, cover with grated cheese and pop it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted. You can easily make this a vegetarian option by swapping the meat topping for tomato, onion, mushroom and aubergine.
2. Mini frozen appetizers
Many frozen food brands now have mini spring rolls, tartlets and spanakopita as a part of their product ranges. A few boxes of these little treats can really save the day when you are under pressure. Some gastronomes may feel it’s cheating, but when the doorbell is ringing and there is nothing in the way of snacks, we don’t think they’d turn up their noses. If you still feel a little bad about serving ready-made snacks, you can always jazz it up by adding a personal touch, like a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
Yes, that’s right – cheese freezes perfectly well (we’ve tried and tested it, so you can take our word on this). Keep a few rounds of soft cheese like brie or Camembert in the freezer in case of emergency. We like to stock up when there is a good price at the grocer. To feed an unexpected horde you simply pop it in the oven in a ceramic dish at 180°C for around 30 minutes (watch to see when it melts) and serve it with some of your trusty Melba toast. If you feel fancy you can add some pesto and a sprinkling of pine nuts for a savory option or honey and fresh figs for a sweeter repast.
It’s always good to have a contingency plan in place for when you have to feed a lot of people with little or no lead time. Keep this list of canape ideas handy and you’ll be right as rain. Keep an eye on the Crustique blog for more advice on baked goods, baking trends, kitchen gadgets, and more!