When you walk into a room and immediately get handed a freshly cooked, handmade scotch egg, you know you are going to have a good day. And so this is how I joined the practice run-through of the new canapes workshop soon to be offered at Coldsmoking Cookery School.
It is high-end caterers Page and Moyse who will be running the course and they certainly know a thing or two about making a decent canape. In fact, paring the recipe choices back so that they will fit into a five hour course seemed to be the biggest challenge of the day as both Jo and Louise are bursting with ideas and experience. Twin sisters, the two run the business in remarkable harmony, with Jo being the hands-on food expert and Louise taking care of the business side and offering practical support.
The next canape to prepare was a chocolate truffle and whilst that was chilling, it was on to making choux pastry. I have made choux pastry before and it has always made me feel a bit anxious so I was very happy to have some advice from an expert. I was intrigued too that this choux pastry was destined for savoury canapes.
Having swiftly brought my lumpy batter back from the brink of ruin, Jo then piped a perfect line of neat domes. At home whenever anything requires piping I call upon my daughter as she seems to have a knack for it that I lack. However, I was keen to give it another go whilst Jo was on hand to offer guidance. So I piped some domes onto the tray next to Jo’s and, let’s just say, it was fairly obvious which ones I had done!
Next we moved to some miniature cheesy biscuits and whilst they were cooking we took a break for a cup of tea and to review our progress so far. Then it was back to it, making blini batter and piping filling into the now cooked and cooled choux pastry canapes. It was all beginning to take shape and it looked very fancy.
Making canapes can seem a little daunting and fiddly and requiring a whole host of unusual and weird ingredients. However, with Jo’s guidance the creations so far had seemed perfectly manageable and the ingredients were straight-forward too. This theme was continued through to the next section, as Jo showed us how to make canapes out of sliced white bread. It was surprising how it was possible to transform such a basic ingredient into Melba toast and delicate filled croustades.
But that really sums up the feel of the whole course. It was about making canapes using straight-forward steps and bringing together simple ingredients in such as way that they look complex and luxurious. A sprig of herbs here, a sprinkling of locally sourced edible flowers there, the right choice of serving dish and a perfectly executed quenell and suddenly it was all looking a lot more impressive. As someone who makes food with more concern for the flavour than the appearance, I was keen to pick up some tips about how to add a bit of finesse to the end result. With Page and Moyse catering for weddings, corporate lunches and events all year, they certainly have a lot of experience in this area and it was easy to learn a few things as they imparted tips as effortlessly as they wield a piping bag.
The end of the course brought together all the various elements that had been created during the five hours, with final plating up and presentation. It was hard to look upon it without a feeling of accomplishment; it was certainly an impressive display and it had me itching for a special event to try out my new skills.
The canapes were divided up and boxed up and I felt ridiculously pleased to present a few tasters to my family when I got home. They were suitably impressed too and the tiny mouthfuls were tempting enough for my girls to try some flavours they hadn’t tried before. Now all I need is an excuse to impress a few guests so that I can try out my new skills.
If you have a special occasion coming up this autumn or winter and you fancy blowing your guests away with an impressive display of canapes, or even if you just fancy learning a few useful tips for presenting your food with elegance, then book yourself onto this new workshop, coming to Coldsmoking Cookery School this October.