Sunday, 15 July 2012

Nibbles from nothing

It's nearly the end of term and school holidays here in England- hurrah!

(If you have the misfortune to work in education, as I do, then you never quite lose that childish end-of-term euphoria .)
 I suppose every cloud has a silver lining. Even teaching.

End-of-term also brings a host of buffets, nibbles and sherry parties, retirement do's and shared lunches. So, a good opportunity for me to think about frugal finger food, canny canapes and nibbles from nothing.

Before I start, taking a quick look at my notes I see that a lot of my canape ideas are bread related: using up leftover tortilla wraps, naan or pitta bread, baguette or sandwich loaf.
 I'm reminded of a radio interview I heard recently with the food writer Marguerite Patten who was an advisor to the Ministry of Food in the Second World War. She recounted how a woman had been fined and ostracised by her community for throwing away slices of stale bread. This was considered both wasteful and shameful.

Those were the days!

There are so many ways to make use of leftover bread- breadcrumbs, croutons etc- which can all go in the freezer for another day.

Tortilla wraps can be snipped into triangles, tossed in oil, salt and seasoning (chilli flakes or black pepper are good) and baked for 15 minutes until crispy and golden. Much nicer than the ones which come in bags.

The same can be done with leftover naan or pitta bread- whatever type. Here I baked plain naan with some oil, curry powder and salt. Yummy!

What's needed of course are some dips to go with these chips: no need to buy expensive ones in jars. Make your own from ketchup and chilli sauce and finely chopped peppers, soy sauce and finely chopped spring onion, mustard and mayonnaise, plain yogurt and mint or spring onion, hoisin sauce or whatever is leftover in the fridge. Try making your own tartare sauce from mayonnaise, capers and finely chopped gherkins- or try tartare tapenade: olives and capers (and some anchovy paste if you like it) pulsed in the food processor and added to mayonnaise. Sounds weird but is a revelation!

Bruschetta are another great canape- made from thinly sliced leftover baguette or ciabatta, toasted in the oven as above. Top them with anything you might want as a pizza topping: mozzarella, pesto and tomato, ham and pineapple and cheese, peperoni and olives, roasted vegetables, onions and anchovy (like a pissaladiere)- the choice is endless and depends on what you have to hand. Have a look at these for some ideas

When I looked t these little toasts, I suddenly thought- why not make mini toasted sandwiches- like tiny croques monsieur ? So I buttered some slices of sandwich bread cut into tiny sandwich shapes, filled them with cheese and put them in the sandwich toaster for a couple of minutes- wonderful! You could fill them with anything you normally like in a toasted sandwich: beans, cheese, tomato, tuna, whatever.. but they look so cute (and you could cut them into cuter shapes using pastry cutters if you wanted- how about gingerbread men shaped toasties? Not sophisticated- but fun!.)
Mini croques messieurs
Finally, whilst we are on the mini theme: mini chip cornets are a simple  (but very much appreciated) canape.

Make cornets from circles of card - or consider them part of your gym membership perks and see what there is at the water cooler- and fill with chips. Serve with salt and vinegar (as here) or ketchup or mayo- whatever you like with chips.

You could go a step further and pop half a fishfinger, scampi or chicken nugget in there too!

Happy holidays!


  1. Hi Liz!

    Love these ideas, especially the mini toasted sandwiches! Can't wait to break that out at the next family gathering... And I *love* the idea of using biscuit cutters, I suspect that will be a crowd-pleaser next time I babysit.

    This doesn't fall under the heading of nibbles, but I find leftover flatbreads go very nicely with eggs on a Saturday morning, instead of toast - either just warmed if they're still fresh, or baked if they're going stale.

    My absolute favourite use for stale sandwich bread: stuffing for roast chicken/beef! I've never found anything to beat my mum's recipe, which is just torn-up leftover bread, some butter, chopped onion and Italian herb mix.

    1. Thanks Janichou

      I was just thinking today how much I felt like having roast chicken for dinner- it must be all the miserable weather we are having. I'm still craving comfort food.

      Here's hoping for some sun soon!

    2. The mini fish 'n chip cones with salt and vinegar for dipping are inspired! Would never have thought to do that as finger food. Can't wait to have people over to try it out now. I don't go to the gym (shame on me!), so can't pinch any cups, but I guess paper cones aren't that complicated to make.