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‘Easy pleasy’ – festive canapés

You might be catering for slightly fewer people this year, but if you love hosting and don’t want to dial things back, we’ve got a string of treats for you to get stuck into preparing.

We don’t know about you, but we don’t want to dispense with adding a sense of occasion to the festivities just because there won’t be parties as large as usual. We’ve got a few ideas – see what you think!

Smoked cheese ‘in blankets’

Pigs in blankets are a festive staple, but if you want to diverge from this treat slightly, smoky cheese makes a really warming, rich snack. They can also be prepared up to two days ahead and kept covered in the fridge.

Ingredients:

  • 12 thin rashers smoked bacon cut into halves
  • 150g Bavarian smoked cheese trimmed from the rind and cut into 24 pieces
  • a few rosemary sprigs

Method:

1. Heat oven to 180°C.

2. Carefully wrap the bacon around the cheese pieces (you may not need a full slice of pancetta for each piece of cheese, depending on the size). Can be done two days ahead and kept covered in the fridge.

3. Pop the rosemary sprigs on a baking tray and place the cheese in blankets on top.

4. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy. If you plan to serve immediately please be careful as they will be molten hot inside.

Pecan-stuffed dates

Looking for something a little decadent? These canapés are so easy to make but packed with flavour. These can also be made the day before.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 100g finely chopped pecans
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
  • 50ml vegetable stock (this canapé will be vegan-friendly if you use vegan stock)
  • 12 pitted medjool dates
  • 12 small sage leaves

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180°C and then heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the shallot with a pinch of salt. Allow the shallot to cook for a few minutes until they’re soft. Crush the garlic and then add it to the pan, and add the breadcrumbs, pecans and thyme and cook for a further minute.

2. Pour in the vegetable stock to bring the mixture together, then set aside.

3. Cut the dates in half lengthways (don’t cut all the way through though). Take small balls of the stuffing and push inside the dates before resealing the dates by putting them back together.

4. Line a tray with baking parchment (foil will work too), put a sage leaf on top of each date, then line the dates up on the tray. 

5. Brush the outside of the dates liberally with olive oil, then bake for 15-20 mins until the sage leaf is crisp. These need to be served immediately, so tuck in!

Christmas Bark

Most homes end up overrun with Christmas chocolate and sweets by Boxing Day, and rather than have a few chocolates in each box, make something fresh and exciting! This recipe can be so easily customised and a great one to get the kids involved with. 

Ingredients:

  • 400g chocolate – it can be milk, white, dark or a mixture! 
  • pretzels
  • mini marshmallows
  • crushed Oreo cookies
  • candy canes
  • biscuits (rich tea and digestives work best)
  • peppermint flavouring

Feel free to add or remove anything depending on what you have, just make sure you keep the chocolate to bind it all together, and add something to give it crunch.

Method:

1. Use a glass bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottoms of the bowl. You can double up on pans and bowls if you want to try a cool marbling effect with different types of chocolate.

2. Melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth, then add the peppermint flavouring to the mixture.

3. Next, line a baking tray with baking parchment or cling film wrapped around the tray. Pour about 20% of the melted chocolate on top. Crush and arrange your ingredients on top of the chocolate spaced evenly apart, and pour over the remainder of the chocolate.

4. Leave to harden in the fridge for 2-3 hours, and then to serve, just break into pieces. It’ll keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

Cranberry & brie puffs

Cranberry and brie is a very festive combination, and you get a show-stopping canapé with very little effort. Feel free to attempt your own cranberry sauce but we’ll be using our favourite store-bought brand!

These puffs can be assembled a day ahead and kept chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to bake and serve, leaving you more time to socialise and enjoy yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 140g cranberry sauce
  • brie cheese cut into 12 cubes
  • 1 roll thawed puff pastry
  • 1 egg 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and roll the puff pastry out on a floured surface to a 1cm thickness.

2. Cut up the pastry into 12 equal squares and press them into a 12-hole shallow cake or muffin tin.

3. Place a teaspoon of cranberry sauce followed by a cube of Brie cheese onto each piece of pastry before gently gathering the corners and pinching together.

4. Beat the egg and then brush it over the puffs before popping into the oven and baking for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before carefully removing from the pan and placing onto a serving dish. Be sure to serve them warm!

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