5th May 2023
Bubbles and nibbles are just what we need in this season of celebration and like the king of sparkling wines (vintage Champagne), or an English rosé, Cava, Prosecco or Crémant, the bite-sized accompaniments should fizz with flavour too.
Smoked salmon with caviar is queen of the canapés, but crab and dill, prawns and sweet chilli are courtiers in waiting, while other colourful and interesting toppings are guards of honour.
Even if you’re celebrating an event more secular and republican than a Coronation, this set of nibbles has something for everyone, and all can be prepared in advance for assembling as and when required. As long as the fizz is on ice, the nibbles won’t be far behind.
The toppings may draw the eye, but it’s the bases that set these canapes apart: a light, very British buttermilk scone, an easy, no-knead wholemeal treacle bread, and impressive seeded olive oil crackers. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms, put the smoked salmon on squares of bread or perched on top of a scone.
The toppings are chosen for colour, variety, dietary preferences and wow factor. (You can buy ready cooked prawns, crab, quail eggs etc – to speed things up further but you will sacrifice some flavour.
Be sure to store any toppings in covered bowls safely in the fridge.
Broad bean purée – Use a stick blender to blitz 150g twice-podded broad beans with a large clove of garlic, a big glug of olive oil, a teaspoon of sea salt, a handful of mint leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning – you may need more lemon, salt or oil. (This puree also makes a delicious alternative to avocado on toast.)
Smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caviar – the best you can afford, Organic where possible
Picked crab with dill – ask your fishmonger to prepare a mix of white and dark meat for you or buy a tub from the deli section of your favourite supermarket. Mix with a teaspoon of mayonnaise and half a bunch of finely chopped dill. Check and adjust seasoning.
Prawns with sweet chilli – I use raw frozen prawns but you can buy cooked ones if time is short. Defrost 150g prawns and simmer in boiling water with a squeeze of lemon juice, until just cooked (pink, opaque, tender). Add some soy sauce to Mae Ploy Thai sweet chilli sauce and toss the prawns in the mix.
Cheese and chutney – the best you can buy (I use salted Estate Dairy cultured butter, extra-mature Somerset Cheddar, Stokes red onion chutney)
Quail eggs, anchovy – the eggs are little finicky, but so rewarding. Boil in salted water for no more than 3 minutes, then cool under running water. Leave until cold before carefully peeling. Slice the anchovy fillets in half lengthwise to give you long ribbons.
Finely chopped parsley, coriander leaves, dill fronds. To make Parmesan shards, finely grate 80g of Parmesan cheese, line a baking sheet, pile small mounds of grated cheese on the baking sheet and bake at 180C for 6-8 minutes. Leave to cool and break into shards.
After all, what’s a royal event without a scone? Keep them plain or cheesy for greater versatility (any leftovers can be topped with jam and cream).
We are using the recipe from the Royal kitchens at Buckingham Palace, where thousands are made each year for official garden parties.
The chef’s tip here is to let them sit for 10-15 minutes before baking, to allow the raising agents to start working. Then blast them in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes.
Makes 10 medium or 20 bite-sized ones
- 250g Plain Flour
- 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
- A generous pinch of salt
- 60g unsalted butter (or vegetable oil, or lard if you prefer)
- 1 whole free-range Egg
- 120ml buttermilk (or natural yoghurt)
- (For cheese scones add 80g extra-mature grated Cheddar cheese, some chopped chives, thyme or parsley, 1 chopped spring onion and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the dry mix before combining).
- Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl, cut the cold butter or lard into small cubes and use your fingers to rub the butter in to the flour until a crumb forms (or blitz in a food processor).
- In a small jug, whisk the eggs and buttermilk together (if you’re using oil add it now)
- Add the liquid to the crumb mixture and mix quickly to combine – you don’t want to overwork the dough and make it tough. Use your hands, a fork or a wooden spoon. You may need a splash more buttermilk or milk to bring the dough together.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, gently flatten the dough, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
- Now heat the oven to 210C
- Roll out the dough to a thickness of 2.5 cm and use a round pastry cutter to cut circles.
- Brush to wash the top of the scones with the last of the buttermilk and egg mixture, or a little milk.
- Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until risen and golden brown (large ones may take longer)
- Serve warm, or freeze until ready to use. Defrost at room temperature or in a low oven.
WHOLEMEAL TREACLE BREAD
This is an easy loaf that doesn’t require kneading – the mix is wet and sticky and will rise in the loaf tin. The treacle adds an earthy hint of sweetness that is a great match with smoked fish but would work equally well with any of the other toppings. Once baked and cooled, it will keep well wrapped in baking parchment and clingfilm, or you can slice, wrap and freeze for quick defrost at room temperature.
Cut 1 thickish slice in 4 for topping or use a pastry cutter to cut rounds.
- 450g plain wholemeal flour
- 1 heaped teaspoon of quick yeast, eg Dove’s Farm
- 10g fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon treacle or molasses
- 290ml warm water
- Sesame and poppy seeds for the top
- Prepare your 750g / 1.5lb loaf tin with non-stick spray or line with baking parchment.
- Place the dry ingredients in a bowl or food processor. Add the treacle and the warm water and mix to a wet, sticky dough. Tip the dough into the prepared tin and flatten the top with wet hands. Sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for-60-75 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 220C. Place the loaf tin in the centre of the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the loaf from the tin and return to the oven for a further 20-25 minutes. When baked the loaf will sound hollow when the base is tapped.
The USP here is the crunch, a great contrast to a soft, squidgy topping.
- 225g plain flour
- 0.25 tsp baking powder
- 0.5 tsp sea salt
- 30ml good olive oil
- 125ml warm water
- Olive oil for brushing
- A mix of sea salt flakes and sesame, fennel, caraway and nigella seeds for sprinkling
- Put the dry ingredients in a bowl, and the oil and water and mix to a stiff dough. You may need a splash more water if it’s dry, or a spoon more flour if it’s too wet.
- Cover and leave to rest for an hour.
- Heat the oven to 200C.
- Roll out the dough as thinly as possible, no more than 2mm, and use a knife or pastry cutter to cut. Place on a lined baking sheet, prick generously with a fork (NB to avoid bubbles), brush with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt and seed mix.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and crispy – you want snap, so move them around and keep baking until they are crisp right through.
BUBBLES AND NIBBLES INGREDIENTS CHECKLIST
- Frozen broad beans
- Smoked Salmon
- Crème Fraiche
- Caviar or lumpfish roe
- Raw, deveined tiger prawns
- Mae Ploy Thai sweet chilli sauce
- Extra-Mature Somerset Cheddar
- Red-onion Chutney
- 250g unsalted butter
- 250g salted butter
- Quail eggs
- Anchovy fillets
- Parmesan cheese
From the store cupboard:
- 500g Wholemeal flour
- 1kg Plain flour
- Baking Powder
- Extra-Virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- English mustard powder, cayenne (optional)
Professional chef and baker, wine judge and food and wine writer. www.daffodilsoup.co.uk