December equals party time and party time equals December. Only perhaps this year we might be a little more cautious when it comes to lavish entertaining…
So what if we have a list of people to invite – either because we’ve enjoyed their hospitality once (or more often), or because we want various friends to meet or simply because it’s Christmas and a party is a wonderful excuse to gather?
Well, rather than inviting small groups for individual dinner parties, the easiest and least expensive way to ‘catch up’ on outstanding invitations is to throw a drinks party. And it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
TIPS ON ORGANISING:
- Make lists and more lists… of guests, of the foods you want to serve, of shopping to do and of jobs to do…
- Engage help from friends to prepare and serve as well as clean-up afterwards – make sure to brief them if they’ve never done this kind of work before
- Clear the kitchen and living room as much as possible, leaving only a few chairs for people to sit down and a few tables to leave food and glasses – the bedroom is the place for coats.
Use large platters or trays to hand around food – wrap in foil if they’re not pretty enough
Allow for extra glasses – people always ‘lose’ them during the party
Most people will bring a bottle – even so, allowing for non-drinking drivers you should count on 4 glasses per person (there are 5 in a bottle)
To cool beer and wine line dustbins or toy boxes with a large, heavyweight rubbish bag, then put in enough ice to cover the bottom, place bottles on top and cover with more ice
TIPS ON FOOD:
- Count on at least 10 bites per person. Parties do not need hours of work in the kitchen – easy readymade party foods include:
- Crusty bread or potato wedges with ready-bought hummous, garlic mayo, pesto or salsas. You can also serve dips with vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli florets, sticks of carrot, courgette, pepper and cucumber, button mushrooms or radishes…
- Bowls of marinated olives from foodmarket stalls, mixed with cubes of feta cheese and cherry tomatoes (serve with cocktail sticks)
- Grilled cocktail sausages with a grainy mustard or relish (remember the cocktail sticks)
- Stonebaked pizzas, cut into bite-size pieces
- Bowls of nuts, crisps and other ready-bought cocktail snacks
- Frozen, ready-to-throw-in-the-oven sausage rolls
- Crostini (thin slices of baguette which have been dried and crisped in a low oven beforehand and kept in an airtight tin) topped with things like salami with slices of gherkins, goatscheese with onion jam, brie with halved grapes, tapenade with pieces of hardboiled egg, small slices of cooked black pudding with a blob of chutney etc.
TIPS ON DRINKS:
- Bubbly puts everyone immediately in a good mood so it’s nice to give a glass on arrival. It doesn’t have to be champagne: cheaper alternatives are Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco or French Blanquette de Limoux.
- If it’s very cold outside you might want to welcome people with a glass of gluewein (red wine simmered with a little sugar, an orange, a stick of cinnamon and some cloves) or even a small shotglass of a delicious hot soup!
- To keep the drivers happy, Shloer sparkling wine juice or Ame are good alternatives. And don’t forget still and sparkling mineral water!
Delicious, cheap and really easy. Can be made a day ahead and baked at the last minute. You can also add chopped anchovies, sundried tomatoes or fresh herbs to the basic recipe. Makes about 80 bites.
- 1 loaf of pre-sliced toast pan
- 300g cheddar cheese, grated
- 2-3 large onions, chopped
- few tbsp of mayonnaise
In a bowl mix cheddar and onions together with just enough mayonnaise to bind it all together. Remove crusts from bread and cut each slice into 4 equal squares. Spread mixture thickly onto each piece of bread, place on baking trays, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 220’C and bake for 10 minutes or until the bread is crisp and the topping a bubbling, golden brown.
CUCUMBER BOATS WITH MACKEREL PATE
- 2 cucumbers
- 1 vacuum pack of smoked mackerel fillets
- 5-6 tbsp of Greek yoghurt
- 1 tbsp horseradish sauce
- (optional garnishes : finely chopped chilli, fresh tarragon or dill etc)
Halve the cucumbers lengthways and with a small spoon remove the centre. Lightly salt and set aside till most of the liquid is drained off. Remove the skin from the mackerel and place in a food processor. Add yoghurt and horseradish and whiz until you have a nice thick paste. Wipe the cucumbers dry with kitchenpaper then fill with mackerel paste and refrigerate. Cut into bite-size pieces before serving.
There’s no need for a peanut dip with this recipe as it has been added to the marinade.
- 1kg chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces
- for the marinade:
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 6 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- juice of 1 lemon
- 5 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- salt and pepper
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken and refrigerate overnight. Thread two chicken pieces onto each cocktail stick and place on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 220’C and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked, then allow to cool and refrigerate till needed. When ready to serve, reheat in a hot oven for 5-8 minutes.
Great recipe that doesn’t lose its colour, unlike the real thing. Besides, little sweet frozen peas are easier to find than ripe avocados! If you don’t like chillies, use finely chopped tomato.
- 1 kg frozen petit pois
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh limejuice
- salt ,pepper and a pinch of sugar
- 1 red serrano chilli, chopped
- 1 pck fresh coriander, chopped
- 2 bags of tortilla chips
Simmer the peas in boiling water for 4 minutes then refresh under cold water and drain. Transfer to a foodprocessor and whiz with the olive oil, limejuice and onion, then season with sugar, salt and pepper to your liking. Stir in the chilli (or tomato) and coriander and serve with corn chips.