In my pre-coeliac days, canapés were a doddle. Even on a budget. The day before a party I would buy the cheapest bread from the supermarket, cut out as many circles of bread as I could get out of each slice, dip them in olive oil and press them into pattie tins or mini muffin tins and bake. I would end up with hundreds of little crisp toasts that kept overnight in a sealed box ready to be topped with an array of fresh toppings throughout the evening.
These days, that isn’t an option! Gluten free bread is too expensive to buy, too small to get more than 2 circles out of (with a lot of wastage), and frequently too crumbly to use. Home made is better – but that is an awful lot of bread to make, slice and cut. Just not practical – especially when you have no fridge or kitchen space – or time – for advanced prep because you are running a supperclub!
So this week I was left wondering what I could use as canapé bases for our Christmas Party that would be a) gluten free b) economical c) effective and these are my top three suggestions:
The first suggestion is to use potatoes. Buy new or small potatoes and boil them in heavily salted water until they are ¾ cooked. Drain and allow them to cool thoroughly.
Once they are cooled slice them into circles about 5mm thick – enough to be a firm base but not too thick that you are just getting a mouthful of potato. I leave the skins on mine as not only is this more nutritious but it also helps them to keep their shape and hold together.
Toss the slices in some oil – I prefer vegetable if I am roasting so there is no chance of the olive oil burning – and lay them out on baking trays. Bake for 15 minutes or so at 180°C/160° Fan or until they have coloured slightly. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool again, ideally on kitchen towel or a rack to help any oil drain.
These are then ready to use as bases. They take most flavours as toppings but I most usually use ham as the main flavour as it works so well with the potato. Slow cook a ham in either cider, apple juice or coke and then shred or chop for a variety of toppings such as mayonnaise topped with ham, ham topped with pickle, ham topped with relish.. you get the idea!
Just make a large number of potato bases and vary the toppings as you wish.
Another economical canapé base that is ideally suited to a wide range of toppings and make a great contrast to other canapés is to use cucumber. Again, slice the cucumber (skin on makes it firmer though you can peel them if you prefer) into slices thick enough to stand up to being picked up.
For our party I bought an economy bag of frozen prawns which I defrosted and mixed with a shop bought gluten free sweet chilli dipping sauce and some chopped spring onion. I kept the topping in the fridge along with lots of sliced cucumber and just assembled the canapés as they were needed. The cucumber is lovely and fresh, clean and cold and livens up any buffet table.
You can top this with other fresh light ingredients, including smoked salmon, or herbed cream cheese.
I had a large bag of polenta in the cupboard so I mixed this up per the instructions on the packet along with some grated parmesan and plenty of salt, and cooked it to make a firm polenta. Spread out on a lined baking tray, this cooled down and firmed up so that I could cut it into small squares to make more bases.
If there had been time I would have further fried off the polenta as I personally prefer a crisper base to all my canapés but I have to say that even left as it was, it went down really well with guests!
Thinking about texture and taste combinations, I topped them with a piece of goat’s cheese and some crispy fried chorizo. Strong flavoured toppings work best for the polenta I find so anything spicy or tangy works well.
Again, the polenta is a very economical option when you want to make a large quantity of canapés and it also takes different flavours very well.
Every party I will always make up some onion relish and some bacon jam. Sometimes these get used in toppings for canapés and sometimes I just leave large pots of them on the table – they always go! I am always being asked for the recipe so here they are for the record (but without any step by step pictures – sorry!).
1 tbsp olive oil
2 white onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 springs of thyme
1tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
Heat the butter and the oil and add the onions, sugar and thyme. Cook over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes. You are looking to get a lovely golden colour on the onions. Add the port, vinegar and some seasoning and simmer for another 20 minutes or so until the liquid has gone. Transfer to a suitable container and allow to cool.
Adapted from Foodie With Family
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 medium small onions
75ml cider vinegar
75ml light brown sugar (slightly packed by volume)
20ml maple syrup
75ml strong black coffee
1/2tsp ground black pepper
Chop the bacon and fry until any liquid has gone and the bacon is crisping. Remove it and drain on kitchen towel. Leave a little of the bacon fat in the pan and sauté the onions for 5 minutes then add the garlic and sauté for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, maple syrup, coffee and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for about 2 minutes before reintroducing the bacon and turning the heat down to love. Simmer uncovered until the mixture is syrupy. Allow it to cool and then blend to a paste consistency.
Grab some brie, or some toast, or heck just a spoon and enjoy!