Canapes. Planned for days, maybe even weeks. Lovingly crafted and carefully baked, piped, primped and presented by hands aching from the delicate work involved.
Canapes. Mouthfuls of joy, sweet and sour, crisp and creamy, smoke and salt, all juxtaposed in a single teaspoon of food. The perfect accompaniment to a flute of glacial bubbles, dry as a bramley apple.
Canapes. The very essence of sophistication.
With all this in mind I bent my nimble fingers to the task of creating serrano ham crisps, spicing a caramelised squash and onion paste, boiling to runny perfection and peeling the tiniest of quail eggs. I wiped the sweat from my brow (not with my apron you understand - I have a hygiene certificate) and arranged the morsels into a delectable whole, slicing the runny quail eggs with a surgeon's precision so as not to spill the precious yolk and finishing the whole with some chives snipped moments earlier from my own garden.
I bought the twelve canapes to the table and set them down for Nick and Fin to admire. 'Wow!' was the verdict. Fin twitched with anticipation - tiny eggs, (especially runny ones) are his idea of party food and his mood was indeed festive.
I pulled out a chair for myself and almost before my skirt had touched the seat the sound of chomping caused my head to snap to attention.
'Nyom, nyom, nyom' said Fin with his mouth full of canape and eyes full of pleasure. His fingertips were yellow with yolk.
Three canapes had disapeared already and I had the feeling that more were due to follow.
So we each popped one into our mouths and closed our eyes, enjoying the soft rich yolk, smoky sweet paste and crisp salty ham all at once.
When we opened our eyes another two had disappeared and we were forced to grab what was left or go without.
'Nyom, nyom, nyom' said Fin, licking the remains of those finely crafted canapes from his lips.
Only three minutes had passed.
I recommend you make more than 12 of these to avoid a similar situation - or hire a waiter with strict portion control who will hold the tray out of reach of small people with refined palates. They're really good. Worth the effort.
Nyom Nyom Canapes (makes 12)
Make one quantity of the squash pizza topping from this recipe. You will need just half for the canapes. Add 1/2-1 tsp of sweet smoked paprika to the mixture and set aside.
Serrano Ham Crisps
Use 3-4 slices of Serrano or Parma ham. Cut into 12 roughly square pieces and eat the scraps (chefs perk). Lay these on a baking paper lined tray and bake for 10-15 mins at 200C. They will curl up a little and turn the reddish brown colour of a violin. You will have to judge when they are ready - thinner ham will take less time. They'll crisp up some on cooling but if they're not crisp enough when cool, just pop them back in for another 5 minutes. cool on kitchen paper.
Soft Boiled Quail Eggs
Put 3cm of water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower in 7 or 8 eggs (to allow for breakages) and bring back to the boil. Boil for 1 minute exactly and take off the heat. Stand for 1 minute 15 seconds and then pour off the water and cover with cold. Pour off again and cover with cold. Leave to stand in the water until completely cool. If you aren't sure you have the dexterity to handle runny yolks then boil the eggs for an extra 30 seconds and follow the same procedure for the rest.
To shell the eggs, tap them very carefully all over on a hard surface and remove the egg shell with your fingernails in tiny pieces. Dip the egg into cold water as you go to make this easier. Set the peeled eggs aside.
Assemble the canapes not more than 15 minutes before you plan to eat them or the crisp will go soggy. To do this, put the squash filling into a piping bag and pipe a thick ruched ribbon of paste down the centre of each crisp - or form a quenelle between two teaspoons and place this on the crisp. Then, with a surgeon's speed and precision, slice an egg in half and quickly transfer each half to the centre of a crisp with paste on - yolk side up. Nestle it in a little to ensure the yolk doesn't pour out. Repeat until all eggs are used.
Garnish with a couple of short chive pieces stuck into the egg yolk and pushed down just enough to hold, but not enough to puncture the egg white and spill the yolk.
Get ready to hear, nyom, nyom, nyom.......
This my entry for this month's Go Ahead Honey it's Gluten Free. To enter yourself, just make some gluten free canapes - as simple or complex as you like, blog about them, include a link to this blog and send me a link to your page by the 25th April. You don't have to write up the recipe, but a picture and something about how they taste would be great. I'll post the round up at the end of April.