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Easy Festive Canapes with Prosciutto di San Daniele and Grana Padano:
It is coming up to that time of year. Christmas and New Year are approaching fast – the holiday season. Just as we are all really busy shopping for the perfect presents, preparing for Christmas lunch and cleaning the house ready for the Mother in Law to appear, we decide to have friends round for drinks and canapes. Then, there’s that awful moment of neighbourly competitiveness. Never can we be seen opening a packet of M&S ready prepared…or lapse into sausages on sticks, crisps and cashews, canapes and nibbles from Christmas Past. Instead, made-from-scratch canapes, preferably ones that showcase our in-depth culinary expertise and knowledge of food, are the only option.
Gentle reader, my advice is to be prepared and to go Italian. At least in spirit. While every Italian village has its own recipes and ways of cooking, a common theme is that the food is plentiful and simple. The best Italian food relies as much on wonderful sourcing as on any cheffy techniques.
My Italian inspired canapes make use of two special products which I have been sent and which are perfect for making canapes.
Prosciutto di San Daniele is a PDO ham produced exclusively in the city of San Daniele del Friuli. It has only two ingredients: Selected thighs from pigs born and reared in central and northern Italy together with sea salt. No additives or preservatives are used. It is said that the unique flavour and texture comes from the terroir – from the unique microclimate in San Daniele del Friuli where winds blowing from the Carnic Alps meet sea breezes from the Adriatic in an environment where the humidity and temperature are dictated by the land and the effect of the River Tagliamento.
Grana Padano was granted its PDO status 1996.
It was created by Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle in the 12th century and is still made in the PO River Valley of Northern Italy. It is made from raw cow’s milk and is aged for a minimum of 9 months to over 24 months. The thick, deeply straw-coloured rind develops toward the end of the ageing process and helps to protect the fragrant and flaky cheese. Grana means grainy in Italian and Grana Padano has a fine granular texture and develops from a mild and creamy flavour to a stronger, complex and more savoury cheese which is even more crumbly.
You can read more on my previous post about Prosciutto di San Daniele and Grana Padano
If you add to that some Olive Oil which I brought back from a recent trip to Garda Trentino I’m not sure I want much more. Perhaps some bread and olives?
But, when the doorbell rings and guests arrive, they expect something other than a large chunk of cheese and some slices of prosciutto. No matter how special that is.
I’ve set myself a challenge of making canapes which are simple and will showcase the flavours of these two special products rather than overwhelm them.
First up – a very simple bruschetta. All you need for this is a day old ‘rustic’ bread. I’ve used an ‘artisan french stick’ which was discounted in my local supermarket- it makes canape sized bruschetta easier since you don’t have to halve the slices. If you are using a round loaf, just cut each slice in half or quarter to make bite-sized portions
- 1 Loaf of bread I used a french stick. Any other artisan style bread will work
- 2 tablespoons Good Quality Olive oil
- 2-3 cloves Garlic Peeled and cut in half lengthways
- 2 Tomatoes Chopped
- 1 handful Fresh Parsley or Basil finely chopped
- 125 g Prosciutto di San Daniele
- 50 g Grana Padano Shaved into 'curls'
- Slice the bread into 1cm thick slices.
- Grill on both sides for 2-3 minutes till golden brown.
- While the bread is still warm, rub over a very little cut garlic on one side and drizzle with about half of the olive oil
- Top each bruschetta with a small piece of Prosciutto di San Daniele
- Chop the tomatoes into small chunks and chop whichever herb you are using finely. Mix the herbs into the tomatoes with what remains of the olive oil and a pinch of salt
- Spoon a little tomato mixture onto each bruschetta
- Top with curls of Grana Padano
- You can serve these warm or prepare in advance and serve cold.
A clove of garlic, some good olive oil and a tomato together with a little Grana Padano and Prosciutto di San Daniele and you can make something delicious and tasty in just a few minutes.
Next, some rather posh looking Grana Padano cheese puffs (or beignets if you prefer).
- 20 g Grana Padano Finely grated
- 60 g Plain Flour
- 2 Medium Eggs
- 125 ml Cold Water
- 40 g Butter
- 1 pinch Salt
- 1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
- 1-2 thin slice Prosciutto di San Daniele
- Turn the oven to 225c and leave to preheat.
- Put the water, butter and salt into a heavy based saucepan. Heat until the butter is melted, then bring the mixture just up to the boil
- Add the flour, all in one go, stirring as you do so. Delia recommends using a paper chute for this, but if I am honest, I just tip the flour in!
- Beat the mixture till the paste leaves the sides of the saucepan cleanly, then allow to cool for a minute or two.
- Beat the eggs.
- Add the eggs bit by bit to the mixture, beating well till all the egg is incorporated and you have a smooth paste.
- Beat in the grated cheese and cayenne pepper
- Take a greased baking tray or silicon mat and make the puffs either using a piping bag with a plain nozzle or, as I did, with two teaspoons to shape rounds that are about the size of a cherry. This recipe will make around 15 puffs
- Put them in the oven and cook for 5 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to 180c and cook for a further 15-20 minutes. They are done when they have puffed up and are nicely golden all the way round.
- Remove them from the oven and place on a cooling rack
- If you are ready to eat them, fill them each with a square of Prosciutto di San Daniele once they are cool enough to handle. You can reheat them for 5 minutes in a hot oven if you want to eat them warm later. They are also perfectly good cold but, if you intend to eat them cold, I'd advise letting them cool completely before filling to keep the centre moist.
I learnt to make choux pastry, the base for these canapes when I was quite young. My mother hated baking and particularly hated making anything HER mother made well.
So, when she needed to make pastry it was either puff pastry or choux pastry rather than sensible, staid shortcrust. As a child, I was fascinated by the method for choux – making that weird, sticky, glue-like paste that somehow turns into light as a feather eclairs or beignets when it’s baked. I’d advise anyone who thinks it’s tricky to have a go.
Finally, these pretty, one ingredient Grana Padano baskets can be filled with all sorts of things. You can even make a bigger basket to hold a salad. My tiny canape sized ones were moulded over espresso cups and lined with a little Prosciutto di San Daniele. I’ve seen these made in a frying pan, but I am not sure I’d manage to flip them – so I bake mine in a very hot oven for a few minutes. It’s fiddly but definitely worth the effort. Any that don’t make it and get broken will work well on the cheeseboard.
- 100 g Grana Padano Grated
- 1 thin slice Prosciutto di San Daniele Cut into 5 pieces
- 50 g Olives mushrooms in oil, roasted peppers, sun dried tomatoes (Your choice of topping. I used a mixture of olives, roasted peppers and mushrooms in olive oil)
- Cut 5 squares of silicon paper, each 15x15cm
- Heat the oven to 225c
- Spread a rough circle of grated cheese onto one piece of silicon paper on a baking tray. The cheese should be about 5cm diameter and no more than 1/2 cm thick
- Put the tray into the oven
- Cook for 3-4 minutes, till the cheese is melted and bubbling and the very edges are starting to brown
- Remove from the oven and flip over a waiting mould (I used handless espresso cups)
- Peel away the silicon paper and use a paper towel to protect your hand while you gently form the 'basket'
- Repeat until you have as many 'baskets' as you need or have run out of cheese.
- Once the baskets have cooled, line each one with a piece of Prosciutto di San Daniele
- Add your choice of toppings. Mushrooms, red peppers, olives, fresh tomatoes or even a little rocket would work well.
Add in a few bottles of Franciacorta and some bowls of olives and I’m not sure much more is needed. Have a happy and relaxing Christmas.
Looking for ideas for Canapes this Christmas? Why not pin this post for later
NB I was originally paid to create these recipes, but have recreated an old blog post