Hosting a drinks party can sometimes cause headaches... even before the event! The thing is, no matter how carefully you choose your friends, there'll always be some who's either vegetarian (if not vegan), lactose intolerant, allergic to all things gluten or on some weird diet where you can stuff your face with anything, as long as it's unhealthy... I must either not have been aware of the food crazes out there a century ago, or there must be a special place somewhere that breeds people who've got nothing better to do than invent a new diet. Or let's call it "attitude to food", which seems to be a politically more correct term nowadays, as noone would ever admit that they're dieting. A slimming or health regime doesn't suffice these days, it's got to be a whole new life style!
And that's where the headache comes in: in the old days, I wouldn't even have paid attention to those people who don't eat this, don't fancy that... tough luck if you're picky! Nowadays, what you eat and what you don't has become almost religious and I feel like I am discriminating someone no matter which item I choose to make. Putting together a well-balanced selection of finger food that caters for all tastes thus becomes exceedingly difficult.
Just last week, I got a brief for a catering which, in a nutshell, looked to feed "unadventurous eaters, most of them are more in the carnivore camp but there are a few vegetarians, too" and the hosts wanted "some things which will wow them, push the boat out a bit, but have safe options handy". Hah! But the challenge doesn't stop there, as this doesn't even account for any food intolerances or allergies. So you basically need hearty, not too much fish and some vegetarian pieces, plus some wheat-free alternatives and quite a bit of no-carb options as those Atkins-followers can be particularly greedy ;-)
With so many pre-made canapé bases you can buy in every supermarket these days, it is fairly easy to throw your own drinks party at home... with some forward planning, you'll even be able to enjoy the evening yourself. Most of them, though, be it a vol-au-vent, a croustade or a bruschetta, are not wheat-, let alone carb-free. Here's one that is: cucumber is a perfect base for a canapé, easily cut into shape with cookie cutters, then topped with whatever you fancy. Provided you let it "sweat" some time in advance, it'll keep its shape forever and won't go all soggy on you. I made a smoked trout mousse here, but the same recipe works brilliantly with ham as well, or sundried tomatoes and black olives for a vegetarian option.
Cucumber boats with smoked trout mousse
1 medium cucumber (not too thin)
60 g smoked trout
100 g philadelphia cream cheese
12 dill tops or cayenne pepper, to decorate
Cut the cucumber into rounds of ca. 1 - 1.5 cm - no need to peel. With a round cookie cutter (ca. 4 cm diametre) out rounds, dispose of the outer skin. Using a melon baller, cut a dip into the cucumber, deep enough to accommodate the mousse, but without cutting through to the bottom. Leave to "sweat" for at least 20 minutes. Before assembling, dry the cucumber "boats" thoroughly with kitchen towel. You can prepare these the day before, if you want, for a dryer result - simply store in a plastic container lined with kitchen towel.
In the meantime, blend the trout and the cream cheese with a fork or in a blender, until well combined. Season.
To assemble, fill a sandwich bag with the trout mousse, tie up, then cut off one edge to create a make-shift piping bag. Dry the cucumber boats with kitchen towel, then fill with the mousse and decorate with the dill tops or some cayenne pepper.