Canape tips for idiots (like me)
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See the canapes on this beautiful table at Humphry’s in Stoke Park? Guess who made them? Me! (With, um, a bit of help ALRIGHT!).
I’ve met a lot of fab chefs recently, but I have to say I have a bit of a soft spot for Chris Wheeler, exec chef at the five star Stoke Park. Not only did he tell me a hilarious story about how the staff got him drunk on 95% Polish vodka (it involves some boxer shorts and a microphone and I’ll leave it at that) but for a man who runs six kitchens, 36 chefs, is increasingly on the TV and is gunning for a Michelin star, he is very down to earth.
It’s really interesting going down to hotel kitchens – the one I was ‘working’ in is the Humphry’s kitchen, and it’s pretty tiny, but OMG they bring out some brilliant food. I had the most amazing 7 course tasting dinner from there a few months ago. I took some sneaky snaps while I was there – I love the torn off menus taped up so that the chefs remember what they’re actually cooking that day!
Presentation is my big nightmare when cooking. I’ve been watching professional Masterchef (as you do) and am amazed at how carefully everything is plated up. Canapes are a dual nightmare – fiddly to cook and even harder to perfect on the plate. But what struck me as I helped Chris make these canapes below is that actually they’re easy enough to make – all you need is a final flourish and something half decent to present them with.
Blinis made from scratch turn out not to be difficult at all – just an egg yolk and the same weight in flour, egg white whipped up and added to the mix, and then fried.
They came out lovely and squidgy, and you can make them earlier in the day if you don’t want the panic before a party. Even for someone as hopeless as me, this is doable!
See the coffee cup frothy things, above? That’s a chestnut soup, simply made with a fried shallot, added milk and pre-cooked chestnuts that all get whizzed up, with a bit of cappuccino milk froth on the top for fun. It’s the presentation that makes them look whizzy really though they taste gorgeous too.
And then the idea I loved the best, any risotto you’d normally make at home, just save some (making sure it’s less than wet than normal), then literally dunk little bite-sized balls in plain flour to create the shape, then egg yolk and onto some breadcrumbs. Deep fry if you have the right machine, or if you’re like me just shallow fry in a pan and put into the oven for a couple of minutes to crisp up. Serve with a sauce (oh go on, just buy one! Shhhhhhh!) – maybe something chilli-ish for pumpkin, or creamy with wild mushroom.
I’m not sure if I’m having a pre-Christmas drinkies at home yet – everything is done entirely on the hoof in my house – but if I do, I’ll definitely try these canapes.
BTW, it’s worth checking out Humphrey’s if you’re looking for a fine dining experience – the dining room is goooooorgeous, but not at all snooty, and is great value compared to a lot of the other top restaurants nearby. £29 for three courses at lunch and £80 for that seven course tasting menu.
If you go, and you’re feeling generous, send a shot of Polish vodka down to Chris in the kitchen, I’m sure he’ll, um, appreciate it!