I do love a party! From small intimate dinner parties to big garden parties with dancing till silly o’clock. The food is often a benchmark at such events, and sets the tone for the rest of the party from early on.

For me, canapés are mandatory at almost any party.

They can be a conversation starter, soak up that early alcohol, and fain hunger before the main event. They are also a great way of showcasing your food. When introducing guests who are not familiar with game, it is perfect to offer them morsels of beautifully presented wild meat to indulge their senses. I serve an array of game canapés at my ‘Game Talk & Tasting’ events as it’s a great way to try lots of different options.

In this guide, I’ll take you through the fundamentals of canapés for parties. From allowing the right number to menu balancing, and choosing the right ingredients.

I have also shared my go-to game canapé list for parties, plus a short video guide for making filo baskets and crostini which you can find over on the Cookery Corner Masterclasses.

You can also sign up to my Canapé Bootcamp in October (link to which will be promoted in the member’s facebook group very soon!) to get armed for those all-important upcoming festivities. Delivered online so you can learn in your own time, CGUK members receive 20% discount with code CGUK20. Here you will get my recipes as well as in-depth guidance on canapé preparation so you can feel confident developing your own for any event.

QUANTITIES   

The rules are simple when you know how.

Break them if you wish of course, but be careful not to over-face your guests. Canapés should always leave your guests wanting more.

Drinks reception / pre-dinner: 

4-6 canapés per person.

If this is expected to be longer than an hour add 2 more canapés per person.

To replace a starter or for a drinks party with no main meal:

8-12 per person.

I would always suggest 4 different canapés, doubled or trebled depending on your event as per the above guidance.

This rule does get broken if you are wanting to really show off an array of different foods however, but if this is the case most people would like another of the ones they really like – so only do this when you are serving extended canapés. This is what I do at tasting events though. There generally is a fair bit of work involved in preparing quality canapés, so do plan ahead and be realistic about what you can achieve.

My Event Planners are a great tool to help keep you on track, order them here.

MENU BALANCING

Before deciding on which canapés you are going to be serving, decide on the theme and main course for your party. Everything else on your menu should match; Indian canapés and a classic venison Wellington don’t tend to go that well. 

Once this is established there is again a simple guide:

1 Meat 

1 Vegetarian

1 Fish

1 Cheese

Of course, if you know your guests well you could change this according to their tastes, or just go full on with the game, but do be mindful that you offer a choice. It is also important to ensure that there is at least one gluten-free and one dairy-free option available, as well as any other dietary requirements and allergies catered for.

BASES

Canapés rely heavily on bases such as filo baskets, crostini, blinis, melba toast, and mini Yorkshire puddings.

You can mix it up by using baby gem lettuce leaves, figs, nectarines and other solid fruits or scooped leaves. 

Some will not even need a base, think of Pheasant Goujons, Venison Bonbons or tiny little crab cakes which can be popped straight in your mouth. However, if they don’t have a dry coating, do make sure there are little skewers to pick the food up with. Guests do not want to be licking their fingers or hunting for napkins at this stage of the party.

In the same sense do not pile bases too high or overfill baskets, canapés should be a one-mouthful delight with no mess!

INGREDIENTS

Choose fresh ingredients which are in season and balance well. 

A few ingredients combined in interesting ways are often best rather than lots of complicated work; take a look through my canapé menu to give you inspiration.

Crème fraiche may well become your new best friend as it is great at combining and ‘stuffing’; for example mix a little horseradish and crème fraiche to add to your venison-filled mini Yorkshire puddings.

Filo baskets, crostini and melba toast will go soggy if filled too early with ‘wet’ ingredients. Prepare what you can in advance, and then know exactly how you are serving the rest.

SERVICE!

Platters, smart trays or slates work beautifully for serving canapés. Be aware that anything that can roll about may want an edge or sticking down with a tiny blob of sauce. Filo baskets will take flight in the wind!

I serve my famous Venison Bonbons with Mustard Aioli, pea-sized blobs of the aioli stick each bonbon to the platter, which the guest simply scrapes up with that hot little delight.

Dress the serving vessels with pea shoots, edible flowers or micro herbs. These simple additions create a really fabulous sight, and we do eat with our eyes after all!

Be sure to share your canapé pictures with us when you give them a go at your next dinner party!

Written by Esther, The Country Cook