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A small miracle.

Planning a New Year's Eve party but don't know what to serve up?

Simple canapes could be the answer. While it may no longer be fashionable to serve up puff pastry vol-au-vents at a party, you don't want to leave a roomful of hungry guests nibbling on a bowl of crisps.

According to Lucy Cufflin, author of 'Lucy's Food', the canape is very often ignored by party hosts, despite being an easy and cheap way of impressing your friends. It's also a brilliant way to avoid the dreaded deathly silence at a dinner party, and a good way to make sure guests are kept satisfied throughout the night.

Read on for tips on creating 'maximum effect' canapes with 'minimum effort'.

* If planning to serve canapes in place of a meal then you need 10-12 per person. If it is pre-dinner then three-four, and if it is a drinks party or shorter period of time, then around 8 per person.

* Keep the selection small: remember people like to have seconds of something delicious. If you are planning to serve

12 per person, perhaps limit the choice to six or seven types.

* Make sure you have a selection of meat, fish and vegetarian canapes to serve.

* It's great to have a mixture of hot and cold canapes. Lay them out on a few oven trays, so you can slot them in the oven as you need them. You don't want them all to come out at the same time.

* Remember, canapes are eaten with fingers, so warm ones want to be warm, rather than too hot to handle!

* Nothing looks worse than a canape tray with 2-3 canapes left, so re-fill once it's two thirds empty so it always looks inviting.

* In between servings, give your plates a wash so they always look freshly made up.

* Pop sprigs of fresh herbs or even flowers on the trays. It's wise to get these garnishes planned in advance, so you can quickly add them to the trays as they leave the kitchen.

* Keep cold canapes covered so they do not dry out and think about where you are going to store them. The fridge can be too cold and may affect texture and taste, so a larder is ideal or another cool part the house.

* Write yourself a list of what to make and when. Give yourself plenty of time.

* Ask friends or family to help, as making canapes can be a very sociable affair. Get some good music playing, have a drink while you prepare and enjoy!

* Lucy's Food by 'Lucy Cufflin' is published in hardback by Hardie Grant.

* * * *

Try your own: Mini scones

INGREDIENTS: (Makes 16-20)

500g self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

150g butter

2tbsp dried parmesan

250ml milk

1 egg

METHOD

Put the flour, baking powder, salt, butter and parmesan into a food processor until fine crumbs. You can also do this by hand,

by rubbing the fat and flour between fingers and thumbs. Tip into a mixing bowl.

Add milk and egg and combine together quickly with your hands to make a very soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for the least time possible to get a smoothish dough.

Flatten with your hands to 3cm thick. Cut out rounds and place onto a baking sheet (no need to grease or line). Work the off-cuts into a dough, flatten out again and cut until you have no dough left.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the scones have risen and are light brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Eat the same day, store in an airtight container for up to one week, or freeze.

Lucy's tip: You can top these mini scones with almost anything, so why not use up what you have in stock rather than buy expensive new toppings.

* * * *

Take 2: Croustades

Steak and horseradish croustades

INGREDIENTS: (25-30 bite-size croustades)

1 part-baked baguette

Olive oil to drizzle

150-200g rump steak

A little vegetable oil

3tbsp horseradish sauce

150ml double cream

Small handful of rocket or other herb, to garnish

METHOD

Slice the baguette into 5mm-thick slices (25-30 slices). Place on a baking sheet (no need to grease) and drizzle over the olive oil. Just a drop on each is fine as the oil will soak through the bread as it cooks. Cook uncovered for six-eight minutes or until the croustades are golden-brown. They need to be slightly crispy, but not dark brown or they will be too hard and taste burnt. Allow to cool, then store in a plastic bag or sealed container. These will keep for up to one month in an airtight container in a cupboard, so make them when you have leftover bread and space in the oven. Then you can simply pull them out of the cupboard when you want - easy!

Rub the steak on both sides with the oil and heat a frying pan until smoking. Cook for one-two minutes on each side. Season with salt and wrap in foil. Leave to cool then chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Whisk the cream and horseradish sauce together until thick (about one minute). Cut off any fat and slice the beef wafer-thin. Put teaspoonfuls of cream onto the croustades and then 1-2 slivers of beef piled up. Top with a little leaf or herb sprig.

Lucy's tip: Own-brand horseradish sauce is fine for these croustades, but remember to stay close to the oven while they are cooking to avoid burning them.

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Dec 30, 2010
Words:940
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