If you've got friends popping in for drinks, we've got the staples you'll need to throw together a few nibbles quick smart.
Impromptu guests? Too many people, not enough time? Shops shut? Fear not, here's a list of ingredients to keep in your storecupboard, fridge and freezer so you can rustle up sumptuous and super-speedy canapés at any time. Oh and the recipes to go with them, of course...
It's always good to have a pack of pastry in the freezer as it opens up a world of canapé opportunities.
Puff pastry An essential for cheese straws and great for bite-size sausage rolls, you can also use it to make palmiers. Make these ahead and pop them in the freezer to use as and when. Simply cook for a little longer straight from frozen.
Shortcrust pastry Savoury tartlets can easily be made using ready-rolled shortcrust pastry. Top with smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese.
Filo pastry Filo triangles are a freeze-ahead favourite. Spicy sweetcorn and feta samosas contain a good selection of storecupboard ingredients so you could assemble them on the day but for ease make them ahead, along with these spinach and ricotta filo bites.
Sweet shortcrust pastry Either keep a pack of sweet pastry and a jar of mincemeat in your stores or simply make these From-the-freezer mince pies to cook straight from frozen over the festive season.
Ideal for simple cheese straws, you can also make moreish crisps to eat on their own or to top a soup shot: heat the grill to high. Line a baking sheet with parchment and divide 175g grated Parmesan into 12 long strips. Grill for 1 min or until the cheese has melted and is lightly golden. While still warm and a bit flexible, release the biscuits from the baking parchment with a palette or cutlery knife, then cool until firm.
4. Frozen peas
Keep a pack of skinny mini baguettes in the freezer for the perfect bruschetta base. Defrost, slice and toast in the oven, then add a smear of shop-bought tapenade, houmous with marinated pepper strips, pesto, a basil leaf and mozzarella or make these Chilli & lime toasts.
Mini jackets are always a winning party bite, add sour cream and a few snipped chives for a cute canapé.
Add a little mustard and honey or sticky barbecue sauce and here you have a meaty and moreish nibble with very little preparation. Freeze a pack of chipolatas and defrost on the day.
8. Smoked salmon and crabmeat
Where would we be without smoked salmon on a special occasion? Serve on toasted mini baguette, with melba toast or on rye and garnish simply with a squeeze of lemon juice and black pepper or add a dollop of crème fraîche and chives.
A couple of tins of crabmeat go an equally long way, if you mix with a little lemon juice, mayonnaise and parsley you'll have another simple yet stylish seafood topping.
9. Ready-to-serve nibbles
A selection of help-yourself bites bulk out party food and require very little effort from you. Check use-by dates to make sure they'll last until you need them. Choose your favourites from:
- houmous, tapenade or other dips
- prosciutto, salami or chorizo slices for a platter
- marinated olives, artichoke hearts or roasted peppers
- veg for crudités
- pitta and breadsticks
...eggs, butter, self-raising flour, baking powder, sugar, chocolate.
A traybake cut into small squares is a great way to create a sweet canapé in a hurry. Try Mini brownies or another large bake. Alternatively, buy in some chestnut purée and double cream to make Mini Mont Blancs.
As well as the big ten, it's also worth buying a few well chosen items from the following list, depending on your personal taste:
- fresh herbs for flavour and garnish
- sour cream, crème fraîche, mayonnaise or cream cheese for toppings
- lemons or limes for flavour as well as a zesty garnish
- capers or cornichons as a garnish
- blue cheese or mozzarella for toppings
- icing sugar to decorate
For more recipe ideas visit our Christmas canapé collection.