Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Canapés, Party Food and Lunchbox Treats the Healthier Way (includes Thermomix instructions)

Do you despair of party food being a sea of bloat-inducing pastry and breadcrumbed, bread-based foods, and yearn for delicious treats and nibbles that aren't going to induce an attack of indigestion?

Well, here are some of my favourite recipes for entertaining, including some completely grain-free tasty nibbles, plus additional links to more of my recipes which make great party food and canapés, and ideas for even more!

And the best thing of all - most of them can be made the day before, so no need for last minute panic - you can spend the day pampering yourself, then throwing a few fresh bits together and setting it all out for your guests to enjoy.

So, pictured above are (from left to right, in traditional fashion) smoked salmon and cucumber cups, crab and tarragon stuffed baby tomatoes, celery and blue cheese barquettes with walnuts and red pepper canapés with a Greek salad topping - recipes below, and more!

Scroll down below the first four canape recipes for a whole host of ideas that won't upset your stomach, including skewers with salads, lettuce cups, gluten free finger foods and even sushi!

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Cups

(Farthest left in top photo)

  • 1 cucumber
  • 200g smoked salmon (roughly chopped, or offcuts/scraps are fine)
  • 125g cream cheese (use light if you prefer)
  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Paprika for dusting
  • 20 tiny dill sprigs to garnish

If you don’t want to pipe out the salmon mixture onto cucumber cups, you can always make it as a dip, and serve surrounded by cucumber batons, and sprinkled with a little paprika and some fresh dill or chives.

To make the mousse (or dip), weigh out 150g of the smoked salmon (reserving the rest to garnish), and then finely mince/chop in a food processor (Thermomix drop onto running blades, Speed 8). Scrape down, then add cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, and a pinch of cayenne and process until relatively smooth (Thermomix process for 20 seconds / Speed 4 - scrape down and repeat if necessary).

Cut several tiny v-shaped trenches 1-2 mm deep into the sides of the length of the cucumber, for a decorative effect. Cut cucumber into 20 thick slices, approximately 1.5-2cm each. Use a small melon-baller to just scoop a little dip out of the centre of each slice, to sit your piped mousse in (don’t cut the bottom out, though!).

Put into a piping bag (if you don’t have one, you could just use two teaspoons to put quenelles of mousse into each cup), and pipe some mousse into each cup. Sprinkle a little paprika over the mousse, and top each one with a small piece of reserved smoked salmon and a dill sprig. The mousse can be made a good day in advance.

Crab and Tarragon Stuffed Baby Tomatoes

(Second from left in top photo)

I wasn't sure whether people would like these or not, but I took them to a work do and got lots of people coming up to me the next day and saying how much they had enjoyed them, so it was worth all the fiddling about! This recipe is easily doubled.


  • 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 250g white crab meat (tinned is fine)
  • 4 tbsp / 50-60g mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • The leaves from 3-4 sprigs of fresh tarragon1 spring onion
  • Squeeze of lemon juice to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The secret to this is turning the tomatoes upside down! The bottom of the tomato becomes the lid (so there’s no stalk in the middle of it), and then the very top sliver of the tomato, is sliced off (without cutting into the cavity of the tomato, to make a flat base for it to stand on.

Cut the bottoms off, then scoop out the insides. You may need a small sharp knive (or a small teaspoon with sharpish sides) to release the middle part of the tomato from the stalk end. A small, clean finger is good to quickly swish any stubborn seeds out!

Set the tomatoes with the open end upside down on some kitchen towel for a few minutes to drain while you make the filling. The tomatoes can be prepared up to two days in advance and refrigerated.

(See below for Thermomix method for the filling in italics)For the crab filling – finely chop the tarragon leaves and spring onion, then mix together with all the remaining ingredients, and season to taste. If you carefully cut off the very bottom of the tomatoes (without making a hole in it) they will stand up nicely without rolling over. Fill the tomato cups with the crab mayonnaise, and top with the little lids. This can be done several hours in advance of serving and refrigerated. See tips below for a couple of twists.

Thermomix method for the filling
Cut the spring onion into 1 inch lengths. Drop the tarragon leaves and spring onion pieces onto running blades, Speed 8 then scrape down. Add the rest of the ingredients, and mix together for 4 seconds / Reverse / Speed 4 until combined, without breaking up the crabmeat too much.
If you carefully cut off the very bottom of the tomatoes (without making a hole in it) they will stand up nicely without rolling over. Fill the tomato cups with the crab mayonnaise, and top with the little lids. This can be done several hours in advance of serving and refrigerated.

You could use dill or basil if you preferred, instead of tarragon. Add a little finely grated lemon zest if you fancy more of a citrussy tang, and if you want a bit of a crunch, add some finely chopped radish.

Celery and Blue Cheese Barquettes with Walnuts

(Third from the left on the top photo)

  • 8 large celery stalks
  • 125g cream cheese (use light if you prefer)
  • 125 stilton cheese (or blue cheese of your choice, with rind cut off)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 20 walnut pieces to garnish

If you don't want to faff about with piping, simply serve as a dip, with the walnut pieces chopped and sprinkled on top, and the celery cut into thin sticks for dipping with. Otherwise...
Cut the celery on the diagonal to make 20 diamond shaped pieces, about 2 inches long.

Combine the cream cheese and stilton with seasoning to taste (you could use a food processor, or beat by hand, or
Thermomix process for 20 seconds / Speed 4 - scrape down and repeat if necessary) and then put into a piping bag. Pipe into the celery barquettes, and then place a small piece of walnut on each one.
Can be prepared several hours ahead and chilled.

Red Pepper Canapés with a Greek Salad Topping

(Far right on the photo at the top)

These were an invention of mine based on what I had in the fridge, and I was really surprised how much everyone liked them because I thought they were way to 'healthy' looking to appeal to people - I got loads of compliments, so I definitely recommend them, and they don't require any cooking and can be made ahead of time, the night before is fine!


  • 2 red peppers
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 sunblush (or sundried) tomatoes, cut into 3
  • 12 slices cucumber, cut in half
  • ½ small red onion, cut into very fine dice
  • 8 black olives, stoned and quartered
  • 75g cream cheese (use light if you prefer)
  • 75g feta cheese
  • Generous pinch oregano
  • Optional red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 mini-skewers or cocktail sticks – as fancy looking as you like!

Cut the core from each pepper, then cut in half and ensure all pith and seeds are removed. Cut each half into three equal lengths, from top to bottom, then cut each strip in half on the diagonal, so you get what looks like 6 triangular-ish wedges of pepper.

Blend the feta and cream cheese together with a pinch of dried oregano and a grinding of black pepper (salt shouldn’t be necessary, Thermomix Speed 4 / 10 seconds, scrape down and repeat). Put it into a bag ready to pipe.

Take a mini-skewer/cocktail stick, and skewer it at a diagonal angle from the side through a cherry tomato quarter, then a sun-dried tomato piece, a cucumber half, and finally into the red pepper segment. It should be coming in from the side at an angle, with the salad pieces sitting on top of the pepper. (Sorry, not the easiest to see in the photo, as they're all packed in next to each other ready for transporting!)
Pipe some of the feta mix in the middle of the canapé, then sprinkle some finely diced red onion on it, and place a quarter of a black olive on the top. If desired, just before serving, sprinkle the canapés with a few drops of red wine vinegar and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and season with freshly ground black pepper, and a few flakes of sea salt.


Dips are great for parties - and great for serving with a selection of raw, healthy vegetables too! As well as the smoked salmon from above, and the blue cheese, which can both be used as dips, I'm quite partial to hummus and tzatziki. Taramasalata is a bit of an anomaly as it's hard to get hold of decent smoked cods' roe and the ones you buy are generally a bit disappointing, unless you have access to a good deli. However, a good cheat is to ramp up one you've bought by blitzing in some smoked salmon to ramp up the smoky fish flavours!


You can't beat a really good hummus recipe - and I've played around with mine for a while. I think the best thing about it, is you get to choose how much effort you want to put into it, and whether you're making it from your own chickpeas soaked overnight and boiled up, or using a tin!

Either way, my recipe is here, and I'd recommend doubling it up (or tripling it) if you're catering for a party.


Well, if you're doing hummus, tzatziki is great as a complimentary dip, as is taramasalata! My recipe for tzatziki is here - another one you might want to double up the quantities for parties.

If you're making hummus and tzatziki, a wealth of healthy vegetables can be made for dipping into them, including carrot and cucumber batons, and strips of peppers and celery sticks. Just in case you do want to squeeze in a modicom of carbohydrates to dip in there, my pitta crisps are a tasty snack and can be made with wholemeal pitta, and given a variety of flavours - see here for how to make them.


Things on sticks always seem to go down well at parties, and chicken is no exception (which is why the majority here are chicken!). You can make all of these with either breast or thigh meat (thigh meat is juicier, more tender, and also more economical), or you could even use the marinades on chicken drumsticks instead - just make sure they're cooked all the way through! When making for parties, use small skewers, soak for at least half an hour beforehand if wooden or bamboo, and just thread two or three pieces of chicken on each. The great thing about serving skewers is that people have the choice to enjoy them on their own, or with salad, rice, in a wrap or pitta bread, or whichever way suits their diet.

Persian Style - Joojeh Kababs

Marinated in lemon and saffron, these are deliciously moist - and you could serve them hot or cold, depending on your preference. Recipe here.

Delicious with a simple salad Shirazi on the side for people to help themselves to, which is just a mixture of tomato, cucumber and red onion, with a few pomegranate seeds thrown in for good measure.

Mexican Style - Yucatecan-spiced Chicken Skewers

For something a bit different, why not go Mexican, and marinade your chicken in  citrus juices, spices and oregano, Mexican style, for a delicious, dairy-free alternative. Recipe here.

You could make a tasty roasted tomato salsa to serve on the side, too!

Indian Style - Chicken Tikka

Who doesn't love a bit of chicken tikka on a skewer?

Make a mint raita from yoghurt, chopped fresh mint, a little vinegar and seasoning to go on the side (you could even add some finely diced cucumber for a bit of texture) and serve hot or cold with a bowl of Cachumber (Indian tomato, cucumber and onion salad) for guests to help themselves to.

If you don't mind throwing in some naan bread, than for cute canapés you can cut full size naans into 2 inch squares, put a small dollop of raita on each one, with a sprinkle of cachumber on top, and grill the chicken tikka pieces separately then put a skewer through each one into the naan bread. To gild the lily, top each one with a little blob of mango chutney and a coriander leaf.

Turkish Style - Lamb Adana / Kofte Kebabs and Chicken Shish Kebabs

These are two of my favourite kebabs, and you'll find links in the recipes for Turkish red cabbage salad, as well as other accompaniments. They're most suited to a barbecue, really, but I couldn't resist including them here, and the chicken kebabs would be good cold as well as hot, so why not! The chicken shish recipe is here and the lamb kebab recipe is here, and a little recipe for the vegetable kebabs with za-atar with them is here.

Thai Style - Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad

Everyone loves satay - for a party, double up on the peanut sauce for each portion, so that there's plenty for everyone to dip in! Recipe here.

Make sure the peanut sauce is clearly labelled in case anyone has allergies to peanuts.

Quick Thai-style Prawn and Pineapple Skewers

A really quick and easy dish that can be put together in a few minutes, and tastes delicious! Recipe here.

Japanese Style - Kushiyaki Beef or Yakitori Chicken

Same marinade, but different meat means different names. Simple, tasty Japanese street food, best served hot. Recipe here.

Italian Style - Simple Prawn Skewers

No recipe needed for this one, it's so simple - all you need is some large prawns, preferably raw, but cooked will do, and some parma ham. Cut each slice of parma ham into three lengthways, and then in half. Wrap a piece of parma ham around each prawn, thread onto skewers, and grill until the prawns are cooked through. Delicious!

Spanish Style - Pinchitos Morunos

Delicious pork kebabs, flavoured with Moorish spices - a typical tapas dish served in Spanish bars, perfect for parties! Recipe here.

Lettuce Cups

Lettuce cups are perfect for holding delicious treats as alternatives to pastry, or bread-based products. They lend themselves to various different cuisines, and providing you use something firm that will contain the food inside nicely, you're onto a winner! Because lettuce will inevitably start to wilt after being in contact with oil, vinegar or salt for a while, it's best to only prepare these a few hours in advance. Another alternative, is to present the filling in a dish, with the leaves surrounding it, and allow guests to help themselves - particularly if the food is hot. Messy, but fun!

Thai Style - Larp Gai (Spicy Minced Chicken Salad)

This is a really delicious and healthy Thai chicken salad. Pile into little lettuce cups, and top with a few shreds of julienned carrot and radish, and a coriander leaf for colourful little canapes. Recipe here.

Another tasty Thai dish which can be served with lettuce leaves as cups, or with Thai rice cakes to scoop it up with, is...
Thai pork in chilli sauce. It's a hot one, and best served hot too, so be warned! Recipe here. (Thai pork on bottom right, Chinese pork on top left).

English Style - Prawn Cocktail Cups

The perennial prawn cocktail goes perfectly into little lettuce cups as a canape - simply mix diced cucumber, tomatoes, apple and avocado with juicy prawns and toss with some Thousand Island dressing.

Garnish each cup with an extra prawn, a tiny lemon wedge, and a sprig of dill or parsley.

Cajun Style - Spicy Prawn or Chicken Cups with Fresh Mango Salsa

Simply toss prawns or chicken cubes in Cajun Seasoning and a little oil, then either pan fry or grill until cooked through. Spoon some fresh mango salsa into the bottom of the lettuce cup, and top with the prawns or chicken, and a sprig of coriander. Alternatively, thread onto skewers and serve with the salsa on the side.

Chinese Style - Crispy Shredded Duck with Hoisin Sauce, or Lettuce-Wrapped Pork (Sung Choy Bao)

For the duck, slow cook and then shred the meat from duck legs and mix with a little hoisin sauce (usually contains gluten, so label). Julienne carrots and cucumber and pile into the lettuce cups, top with the shredded duck in hoisin sauce, and top with a few spring onions (scallions) sliced on the diagonal.

For the Sung Choy Bao (top left in photo), make up the below recipe in a double quantity (which I now realise I haven't blogged yet!), and serve hot in a bowl surrounded by lettuce leaves (you could serve with either little leaves, or iceberg leaves for people to make small parcels with) and plenty of napkins!

  • 250g lean minced pork (or minced chicken breast [275]) [410]
  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms (10g dry weight), soaked according to instructions, stalks discarded and finely chopped [28]
  • 5 water chestnuts, finely chopped (drained, about 30g) [5]
  • ½ tsp sugar [10]
  • ½ tbsp light soy sauce [4]
  • 1/2 tbsp Chinese rice wine (e.g. Shaohsing/Shaoxing), or dry sherry [10]
  • 1 tsp cornflour/cornstarch [18]
  • 1 tsp oil (sunflower/groundnut/vegetable – or Frylight or Oil spray) [45] – you could use more if needed on a non-fast day
  • 1 tbsp ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (or grated) [7]
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped [7]
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar [1]
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce (vegetarian oyster sauce is available) [14]
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (23)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 crisp lettuce leaves to serve (e.g. iceberg), or 12 crisp baby leaves (e.g. baby gem) [22]
In a bowl, mix the minced pork (or chicken/quorn etc.) with the chopped mushrooms, water chestnuts, sugar, light soy sauce, rice wine/sherry, cornflour, and then season with salt and pepper when you’re ready to cook it.

Heat the oil in a good quality wok or frying pan, add the ginger and stir-fry briefly. Add the minced meat mixture and stir-fry over a high heat, breaking it down until just cooked through.

Add the spring onions, rice vinegar and oyster sauce, and continue to cook for another minute or two, stirring in thoroughly. Add the toasted sesame oil, taste, and add more seasoning if desired. If the mixture is too dry (it should be just coated with a slight shine) add a tbsp of water, and stir in to loosen it slightly.

Serve with the lettuce leaves separately for guests to pile the meat into and roll up (with large leaves), or top with and eat.

See here for Thermomix recipe, and here for now-blogged version of conventional recipe.

Finger Foods

A variety of other delicious party foods to serve, all gluten free.

Caramelised Red Onion, Pepper and Goat's Cheese Crustless Quiche

Simply cut into small squares to serve up and delight - delicious cold as canapes or on picnics! Recipe here.

Gluten Free, Nut Free, Vegetarian Sausage Rolls

With a variety of delicious variations for the filling - and a really easy recipe for gluten free pastry, that you could also use for other recipes. Perfect party food for adults and kids alike - but will they guess they're vegetarian? Recipe here.

Thai Prawns with a Sweet Chilli Dip

Delicious prawns lightly fried in a crispy coating (gluten free) served with a sweet chilli dip - you can cheat and buy some sweet chilli sauce to make this a quick and easy nibble! Recipe here.

Courgette Ribbon, Goats Cheese and Pea Tortilla with Fresh Herbs

Another easy egg-based dish, full of flavour and great served cold too. Simply cook, chill, then cut into wedges and serve. Recipe here.

Spring Rolls - Gluten Free version

A healthier version of Chinese Spring Rolls - because they're not deep-fried! Cook them just right, and you'll have tasty, delicious crispy spring rolls ready to go! Best served hot, straight from the oven. Recipe here.

Serve with a selection of simple dips for maximum effect - remember if you're serving to gluten free guests to check the ingredients of any dips which you have not made yourself, and to use Tamari rather than soy sauce, as soy sauce contains gluten (as does hoisin etc.). See here for five simple dips you can knock up in five minutes - you might want to double or triple the quantities for a party.

Skinny Spring Rolls - easy version

You can also knock up a batch of spring rolls pretty easily using some filo pastry (not gluten free), and a bag of ready chopped stir fry mix! Recipe here.

Easy Cheesey Vegetable Slice with Buckwheat

Great cut into small squares for parties, or lunchboxes - kids and grown-ups love it too!

Recipe here.

Spicy Blackened Cashew Nuts

No recipe needed here - just fill a dry frying pan with a single layer of cashew nuts, and turn on the heat. Keep moving / tossing them until they've starting to become a little golden, then shake in either a couple of teaspoons of Cajun spice, or some garam masala, or Piri-piri for really spicy and toss together for a few seconds. Add a couple of tablespoons of light soy sauce (or tamari, if gluten free) and quickly shake to coat everything. As soon as everything is coated, and the soy/tamari has evaporated, tip out onto a plate and leave to cool. Store in an airtight container.


Well, you could have whole party based on sushi alone, so what better!

Here's how to make your own, and you could even get your guests to have a go if you know them well enough. If not, just use your imagination and make a few different fillings - there are instructions here on how to do a few different rolls too. Have fun!

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