General Party Pointers

PUBLISHED: 12:05 19 November 2007 | UPDATED: 14:55 20 February 2013

December Issue

December Issue

The wonderful thing about holding a canapé party is that you can cater for a large number of people without having to lay a table or having to match plates, glasses, cutlery chairs etc...

General Party Pointers

The wonderful thing about holding a canapé party is that you can cater for a large number of people without having to lay a table or having to match plates, glasses, cutlery chairs etc. To me the idea is to be able to mingle and chat with your family and friends at this special time of year. So first of all keep things simple and second, do as much preparation ahead as you can.

As far as shopping is concerned, remember the shops get really hectic in the run up to Christmas, so do as much as possible in advance. There will always be certain fresh items that have to be bought nearer the day but certainly dry store bits and all your drinks, get in early.

Be sure that you have a good varied selection of nibbles some hot some cold, some veggie etc. I always start off with something that is easy and can sit for a while, rather than a hot dish that might go cold as people are arriving. I would work on the basis of 12-14 bites of food per person per hour if people are having nibbles instead of dinner and 6-8 if just a drinks reception and people are going on to eat afterwards.

Do hot items in batches so that you never spend too long in the kitchen. If you have a few bowls or platters the same have them ready with any dipping sauces already on them, you can then quickly produce a second platter of something without the hassle of washing up.

Think out of the box with presentation ideas, tall glass vases filled with a mixture of pretzels, crisps and nuts look great dotted around the room, and are no effort to prepare. Bamboo Chinese steamers are cheap to buy and look great. You can even have a few ready to go cold canapés stacked up in the fridge (my goat's cheese balls on a banana leaf for example). Wooden boards and funky trays are also great for presentation. Skewers can be stuck into oasis in a pretty vase for a really striking arrangement.

As this time of year when it is quite cold, I would often chill things outside rather than taking up valuable fridge space, but remember chilling time will be longer.

I always have a few emergency items in my cupboard at Christmas for a quick extra nibble, for when everyone eats you out of house and home. I always have extra herbs, lemons and tins of pulses as well as a couple of jars of roasted peppers. You can make an instant chickpea dip, by whizzing with lemon juice, olive oil, coriander or parsley and even a roasted pepper. White beans mixed with softened onions, thyme, rosemary and a dash of cream makes an instant mash. I also have a lot of good bread, prawns, bacon and sausages in my freezer for those emergency meals so no one ever goes hungry at my house!


These little shot glasses filled with melon puree and topped with crispy Parma ham are perfect to serve at the beginning of a party to get everyone's taste buds zinging! I would normally send them out in batches of eight, which means that you need less shot glasses, but that of course is up to you.

Makes 16

85g packet Parma ham slices
2 small ripe orange-fleshed melon
small handful fresh mint leaves

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6; fan oven 180C from cold. Arrange the Parma ham slices on a baking sheet and then place another one directly on top. This will ensure that the Parma gets evenly crispy. Place in the oven to cook for 15-20 minutes until the Parma is really crisp. Drain well on kitchen paper and break into shards - you'll need 16 in total. Cover loosely with cling film - these can be made up to 4 hours in advance.

Divide each melon into quarters and remove the seeds, then cut away the flesh from the skin and discard. Roughly chop the melon flesh and place in a food processor or liquidizer. Add the mint and blend to a puree, then pour into a jug and cover the top with cling film. Chill until ready to use. This will happily sit in the fridge for up to 4 hours.

To serve, give the chilled melon puree a good stir and then pour about three-quarters of the way up into shot glasses. Arrange a little piece of crispy Parma on top of each glass and serve immediately.

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