Ideas and Inspiration

Canape considerations

Here are the answers to common cocktail food questions – from what type of canapés to serve, how to serve them, and the number of bites required to satisfy each guest’s hunger …

  • How many canapés will I need?

    Allow about 8 bites per guest for a function lasting one-and-a-half hours; 10 bites for two hours; and 12 bites for three hours. Hosting a group of bigger eaters (such as hungry blokes) means you should provide not just more canapes per head, but also more substantial canapés. Serving a variety of both lighter and more filling options will ensure there is something for all guests – for example, while some guys will happily wolf down six gourmet pies, the female guests might prefer lighter, less messy options such as rice paper rolls.
  • It’s also far less stressful to over-cater than under-estimate the amount of canapés you need, so prepare plenty – you can always freeze the leftovers or send them home with the last friends to leave the party.
  • How should I serve my canapés?

    Unless it’s a ritzy occasion, your best bet is to plate up your canapés using either disposable or plastic containers. This doesn’t have to look cheap – there are a lot of stylish melamine platters available at kitchen shops – and because they’re lightweight, they’ll save your arms when serving!
  • Besides platters, individual serving containers are easy and fun – mini cardboard noodle boxes or ‘pails’ are available at supermarkets and can be loaded up before the party even begins. Fill them with Thai beef salad or a tasty mild curry. Shot glasses are also a fancy option for items like chilled soup; small canapés like scallops look amazing served on Asian china spoons (from Asian supermarkets); or use clear plastic wine glasses for individual desserts like white chocolate mousse.
  • Don’t forget disposable cutlery, a mountain of cocktail napkins and toothpicks!
  • Should I DIY my canapés or have them catered?

    Catered canapés are obviously the more expensive option, but if your occasion is very special, you might feel the cost is justified. Some caterers will deliver pre-prepared platters of canapés that you either serve as they are (for cold options) or just re-heat and serve. This is a more cost-effective than having the caterer on site preparing the food themselves, yet still saves you a lot of sweat in the kitchen.
  • For those who are DIY-ing, the key to ensuring you get time out of the kitchen is to mix up the offering. This means both hot and cold bites – serve them alternatively so you’re not chained to the oven. Cold canapés can be pre-prepared and plated up before the party even begins. And having some bought, ready-to-eat canapes (try sushi or mini pies from a gourmet deli) along with creations you’ve cooked yourself will also give you more time to socialise.
  • What canapés should I avoid?

    Guests tend to shy away from food that is too tricky to eat while juggling their wine glass. So keep the size of your canapés small – true ‘bites’ that can be eaten in one or two mouthfuls are best.
  • Keep drippy sauces to a minimum so guests don’t spill them down their outfits. Also avoid cuts of meat with bones, like sticky chicken wings, which are awkward and messy to eat. Having said that, lamb cutlets are usually a hit, so think of a way to serve them that is manageable, such as neatly covering the bone with foil. Do a prompt follow-up with an empty bowl to collect chewed bones or discarded skewers. Also skip olives with pips so guests don’t have to spit them out in their napkins – stuffed varieties are more interesting anyway.
  • Don’t serve food boiling hot, directly from the oven – allow items such as pies and quiches to cool a little to eating temperature before doing the rounds. Taste-test each hot item in the kitchen before serving it up to ensure guests don’t burn their mouths.
  • What are some easy-to-eat and simple-to-prepare canapés?

    Try these:
  • Cold
    • Vietnamese rice paper rolls
    • Sushi platter (bought ready to serve)
    • Thai beef or Caesar salads in noodle boxes
    • Savoury blinis with smoked salmon and crème fraiche
    • Frittata cut into bite-size cubes
    • Chilled soup in shot glasses
    • Dressed oysters
    • Ribbon sandwiches (make ahead and freeze)
  • Hot
    • Curry or noodles in noodle boxes
    • Gourmet pies
    • Mini burgers
    • Marinated lamb cutlets
    • Marinated prawns and scallops
    • Mini quiches
  • Dessert
    • Tiny gelato cones (bought ready to serve)
    • Individual chocolate mousses
    • Mini pavlovas or meringues
    • Mini cheesecakes
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