Hors d’oeuvre, anyone? Fabulous finger food recipes from the world’s best chefs

Fingerfood, canapes, amuse-bouche, horse d/oeuvre, appetizers, starters and tapas. What’s the difference?! Well actually they are all essentially the same thing: bite-sized foods to be eaten without cutlery originally designed to encourage you to drink more. The name ‘canape’ comes from the French word for “couch”, drawing on the analogy that a garnish sits atop the bread as people do a couch. Because they are often served during cocktail hours, it is desired that a canapé be either salty or spicy in order to encourage guests to drink more. A canapé may also be referred to as finger food, although not all finger foods are canapés. The French started offering canapés to their guests in the 18th century, and the English adopted the practice at the end of the following century. One modern version of the canapé is the amuse-bouche. Amuse-bouche literally means “mouth amuser”, but is translated more delicately as “palate pleaser”.

Hors d’oeuvre means literally “apart from the [main] work” or the first course – food items served before the main courses of a meal, typically smaller than main dishes, and often meant to be eaten by hand (with minimal use of cutlery). Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot such as chopitos or meatballs. In select bars in Spain tapas have evolved into an entire and sometimes sophisticated cuisine. The original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses with between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.

The poor old cheese-and-cocktail-onion hedge-hog has done its dash as have mass-produced mince savouries and store-brought chips’n’dip. Who hasn’t been to an event where your finger-food consisted of deep fried mini samosas and spring rolls and boring old breads and dips – usually store bought hummus or tapenade. The ‘slow food’ trend has seen a change in attitude toward finger-food where ‘sophisticated’ is now hand-made bites of fresh and often healthy treats made with love. Hot seafood dishes and perfectly cooked meats and poultry are always a hit as are sliders and poppers, charred veges and complex dips and sauces. And of course we can’t forget delicious cheeses!

In our next series of blogs we’ll be showing you how to create simple, delicious finger-foods by giving you super-easy recipes created by the world’s most famous chefs (and some infamous). A lot of these recipes can be ‘up-sized’ or mixed and matched to create delicious entrées or even mains. They can also be made days ahead so you’re not sweating over the oven on the day of your event.
Here’s our first for you: the simplest recipe that gives an elegant result that your guests will love. We suggest serving these with char-grilled asparagus spears or salami’s and endive leaves.


Creator: Josh Emmett – Masterchef Judge and Michelin star chef


Serves: Serves 8 as a starter (makes about 35-40 profiteroles)

You can make the profiteroles a day in advance and store them in an airtight container at room temperature.

100g butter, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
125g flour
60g gruyere, cubed
3 large eggs
100g goat’s cheese (I use Puhoi Valley), at room temperature
25g mascarpone
25ml cream
2 tablespoons Rata honey (or your favourite honey), warmed
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves
flaky sea salt to serve


Preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Combine the butter, salt and 250ml water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and comes away from the sides of the pan.  Add the gruyere to the saucepan and use a wooden spoon to beat it in until it melts through the mixture, then transfer to the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, start beating the dough then add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag then pipe teaspoon-sized balls of the mixture on to the prepared baking trays. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until puffed up and pale golden. Set the profiteroles aside to cool for 10 minutes. Beat the goat’s cheese with a wooden spoon to soften it then add the mascarpone and beat to combine. Fold in the cream then taste and season with salt and white pepper. Transfer the mix to a piping bag. Insert the piping bag nozzle into the base of each profiterole and pipe in a little cheese mixture. Drizzle the profiteroles with warmed honey then sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt.