Put simply, canapés are nothing more than tops and bottoms, with endless variations ensuring you will never, ever, get bored with serving them. And they needn’t be difficult to prepare – they perfectly complement your aperitif, giving you some sustenance while you maybe wait for some guests to arrive or chat away before sitting down for the meal proper. In UK supermarkets, you have a wide selection of pre-made finger food available, either frozen (vol-au-vents, mini-quiches) or from the chiller cabinet (salmon rolls, cheese bites). But how much more enjoyment you get out of making your own! And I am not talking about buying some olives, cheese and a box of toothpicks, but to make your very own canapés – go on, you know you can do it!
Whether you buy the bottoms and make your own tops (blinis with smoked salmon and a home-made horse-radish crème fraîche or bruschette topped with tomato and mozzarella for example) or decide to make everything from scratch, there are plenty of options that can be prepared well in advance, allowing you to concentrate on the dinner proper.
A new canapé I tried out last week was particularly successful. It is based on a recipe out of Diva Cooking – tried and trusted bible for glorious, yet simple party food – and consists of a fritter made with fresh (or tinned) sweetcorn and a simple batter of cornmeal, spiced up with chilli flakes and coriander, which you can prepare at least a day ahead. Top this with a thick and chunky salsa of avocado and lime juice, again with the addition of coriander leaves and fresh chilli to taste (or store-bought guacamole, if you don’t want to make your own or can’t find ripe avocados) – a lovely, refreshing canapé to enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine (an Italian Pinot Grigio or a New World Riesling or Verdelho, for instance) or bubbly to preceed a more formal dinner or a jug of freshly prepared margarita or mojito when you’re organising a girlie night in!
This recipe is my contribution to Festa Al Fresco, an open air party hosted by Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice who are asking to bring along a dish using a seasonal ingredient - if you're still keen to participate, do so before the 5th of September!
Mini-corncakes with avocado & lime salsa
60 g corn flour
60 g plain flour
1 level tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
5 tbsp milk
20 g butter, melted
1 pinch chilli flakes
125 g sweetcorn kernels (fresh or tinned)
2 spring onions (finely chopped)
vegtable oil for frying
For the salsa:
3 medium avocados
3 tbsp red pepper (finely cut)
1 garlic clove (crushed)
1 handful coriander leaves (chopped)
juice of 1 lime
coriander leaves to decorate
Combine all the ingredients for the corn cakes in a mixing bowl, mixing the dough loosely with a fork.
Heat some oil in a non-stick frying pan. Drop teaspoons full of the batter into the hot pan, flattening as much as possible into a round. Fry until browning, then turn over and flatten to ca. half a centimetre with the aid of a spoon or fork. Fry until browning, then lift and drain on some paper towel. Fry in batches until you've used up all the dough. Leave the corn cakes to cool before topping. You can keep the corn cakes in a metal tin (to retain the crispness) for a day. You can also freeze the cakes and defrost, then crisp up in the oven before putting the topping on.
For the salsa, cut the avocados in half, retaining one of the stones. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and mash up roughly in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and season to taste. Leave the avocado stone in the salsa until serving, this will prevent it from browning.
When ready to serve (and up to 30 minutes in advance), arrange a teaspoon of the salsa on each corncake, decorate with coriander leaves and serve.