Yes we can-apé!

Move over, pigs in blankets and sausage rolls. The new, healthy vegetarian canapés are coming through!

Clockwise from top left: melon and feta kebabs, cucumber hors d’oeuvres with cream cheese and sprouts, tomato and halloumi polenta bites, falafel balls with tachina (crudité behind), healthy date balls, mini crustless quiches, caprese morsels, DIY papaya lettuce wraps with ginger dipping sauce.

I’ve listed the recipes in the order that you should prepare them so you can pace yourself (some keep well for a few days and others are best made fresh).

Note: If you’re going to grow your own sprouts (click here if you’re not sure how), start several days before.

 

FALAFEL BALLS WITH TACHINA

You can make these weeks in advance because they freeze well.

Soak 500 g dried chickpeas with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda overnight (don’t use canned chickpeas for this – the falafel may fall apart). Rinse. Blitz in a food processor with 3 cloves garlic, 3 Tbs chopped fresh parsley, juice of 1 lemon, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp cumin seeds (whole), 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, and 2 tsp baking powder (not traditional but makes them light and fluffy). It should be coarsely ground, not a fine paste. You can leave this mixture in the fridge for a day or two – in fact standing improves the flavours.

Use wet hands to shape small falafel balls and deep-fry in vegetable oil in batches, stirring periodically, until golden brown. Drain on paper towel or a clean dishcloth. Once cool, store falafel balls in the freezer; remove an hour or two before serving and they should be just right!

To make the tachina sauce, blend ½ cup tahini (ground sesame paste) with 3 cloves crushed garlic and ¼ tsp salt, then add the juice of half a lemon and 2-3 Tbs olive oil. Thin with warm water to desired consistency. Tachina also freezes well but allow a good few hours for thawing. Otherwise, store tachina in fridge for several days and decant up to an hour before serving.

TIP: Serve crudités for scooping up the extra tachina. The fresh crunch couples the soft falafel beautifully. (Cut crudités on the day of serving.)

 

DATE BALLS

It’s nice to offer a sweet option, and this one’s great as there’s no added sugar.

Melt 1 cup chopped dates in 2 Tbs coconut oil until soft and gooey (can take a while with dried dates). Remove from heat, then add ½ cup desiccated coconut and ½ cup chopped nuts (peanuts, almonds, pistachios or a mix work well). When cool enough to handle, mould into dainty balls and roll in extra desiccated coconut. Store in an airtight container for several days.

 

TOMATO AND HALLOUMI POLENTA BITES

This is great because you can prepare the various elements in advance at your leisure, and then look like a domestic goddess when you quickly “throw it all together” at the end!

Fill a roasting dish with roughly chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic cloves and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Roast at 200°C until liquids have reduced and the ends are starting to char.

Combine ½ cup polenta and 2 cups water. Bring to the boil and stir frequently for about 10 minutes. Pour into a greased baking tray. (If you’ve got the oven on at this point, drizzle the polenta with olive oil and bake for 10-15 minutes to add colour.) Allow to cool, then cut into canapé-sized squares or wedges.

Store tomato ragout, polenta squares and sliced halloumi in separate containers in fridge. Compile and garnish with fresh basil leaves up to an hour before serving.

TIP: Can’t find polenta? Use regular mieliemeal instead. A pinch of turmeric even gives it a yellow hue.

 

MINI CRUSTLESS QUICHES

Beat 3 eggs and 1 cup fat free yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper. Half-fill greased mini muffin pans with this mixture (pan sizes may vary; this quantity did 6 of mine, in a few batches). Top variously with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, grated cheddar or chunks of brie. Gently press the toppings into the mixture, so it oozes up the sides, forming a shell. Bake at 180°C for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown.

Store in airtight container in fridge.

TIP: Remove half an hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Arrange on a pretty platter and garnish with chopped chives.

 

MELON AND FETA KEBABS

Spear cubes of melon (spanspek, sweet melon or watermelon work well), chunks of feta, mint leaves and pitted olives onto wooden skewers. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (you can make these several hours before serving).

TIP: Remember you can wash and reuse the kebab sticks!

CAPRESE MORSELS

Halve cherry tomatoes and top each with a sliver of mozzarella cheese. (At this point you can store them in the fridge for several hours.) Just before serving, spoon a dollop of basil pesto onto each morsel.

TIP: To avoid wonky canapés that wobble all over the plate as you carry it, use this trick: Place each cherry tomato down whole before you cut it. That will show you where it’s steady base is. Slice parallel to this point, and both halves should balance fairly well.

 

CUCUMBER HORS D’OEUVRES WITH CREAM CHEESE AND SPROUTS

Lay round slices of cucumber on a serving plate. Top each with a teaspoonful of cream cheese (fat free cottage cheese works fine too), a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce and a pile of sprouts. Just before serving, sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds.

TIP: Alfalfa sprouts are so pretty for this, but lentil sprouts works too. Bean and chickpea sprouts are a bit large and unwieldy.

 

DIY PAPAYA LETTUCE WRAPS WITH GINGER DIPPING SAUCE.

The crunch of tart cos lettuce and the sweet softness of pawpaw pair beautifully with this ginger sauce, and guests enjoy wrapping and dipping their own.

To make the dipping sauce, combine tamari (or soy sauce if you can’t find it) with grated fresh ginger, crushed garlic, ground cumin, finely chopped coriander and a little chopped chilli.

Arrange piles of cos lettuce leaves and slices of papaya or pawpaw on a platter with a ramekin of dipping sauce.

TIP: You can make the dipping sauce several days ahead, and use any leftovers to coat your next stir-fry.