Last weekend, we invited some friends to come along to a picnic concert at Marble Hill Park. Picnic concerts are a very English thing, I guess, and I really wonder why. With weather as unpredictable as the British and the probability of rain that high even at the height of summer, it is surprising that these events enjoy such popularity and are actually completely sold out well in advance. But it's hard to resist the charm of spreading out your blanket in the gardens of a period home or palace, listening to music and watching the stars while you enjoy food and wine - and a firework finale to top it all up!
On Saturday, for the first time, we didn't actually enjoy the music that much (first year of contemporary music, rather than classical), but our spread was definitely worth the trip - rather than bringing crisps and dips and the occasional cucumber or egg-cress sandwich like so many around us, I decided to match what our friends were proposing on the drinks side (champagne only, to celebrate a new job) and prepared a range of canapés. Now, canapés can be tricky when you can't assemble them just before serving and the added difficulty of having to carry them from our house to the venue in a basket or cooling bag limited my choices somewhat. But here's what we took:
- bruschette with aubergine, tomato, pine nut and parmesan
- salmon roly-polies
- blue cheese, mascarpone and onion confit mini quiches
- prosciutto and honey mustard palmiers
- spiced mini crab cakes with sweet chilli sauce
- individual blueberry and mint cheesecakes
For some of these beauties I only managed to take a picture "sur place", which means it'll take a while for me to somehow get them onto my laptop and blog about them, but for those where I had done all the legwork before we left the house, I will share the recipes with you one after the other.
First up are the crab cakes, which I wasn't sure about when I started making them, too often had a tried to make similar things only to see them fall apart in the pan or fryer. These here, though, held their shape beautifully and they weren't soaking in fat either. White crabmeat, fresh (!) breadcrumbs, mayo and a range of condiments combined to form tasty balls are then rolled in more crumbs (until then I'd never chopped fresh bread in the multimix) and baked in the oven until golden brown. Instead of assembling them beforehand, I served them out of the (superb square lock&lock container with four individual compartments) bowl with toothpicks to dip into a (bought, forgive me) sweet chilli sauce. By the time we reached the picnic ground, they were but luke-warm, which was no cause for concern, they'd even have been delicious served cold.
Mini crab cakes*
(makes about 30)
250 g white crabmeat
½ white onion (finely chopped)
1 tsp runny honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 dashes tabasco
2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp horseradish sauce (or freshly grated horseradish)
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp mayonnaise
ca. 6 slices white sandwich bread
sweet chilli sauce (to serve)
Combine all the ingredients except for the sandwich bread in a bowl. Cut the sandwoch finely in a chopper (I used my Braun Multimix). Add half of the crumbs to the crab mix. Form balls of ca. 2 cm, roll in the fresh breadcrumbs and place on a lightly oiled baking tray, then leave to rest in the fridge for an hour.
Put the tray in the oven at 200 C. Bake until golden brown (ca. 20 minutes). Cool to tepid or room temperature. Serve with sweet chilli sauce.
* based on a recipe in "Canapés" by Eric Treuille (p. 63)