We love inviting people over for drinks and nibbles – what we don’t love is planning the party platters. The more we rack our brains over what to make, the more tricky it seems, until it’s turned all Squid Game in the kitchen. So much to cater for: omnivores and the gluten free, vegos and meat eaters, young and old, hearty appetites and party pickers… Now we’re ricocheting in panic like a one-horse sleigh.
So, our Chrissie gift to you is a few super-simple, foolproof recipe ideas that take all the tension out of entertaining. Some of these can be made from Dinner Ladies staples you might already have in the freezer. Making you look like a total kitchen god or goddess when unexpected visitors drop by.
Let’s start with dill-cured salmon gravlax and blini kit – perfect festive canapés!
Serve with champagne and you’re pretty much sorted. Gravlax is simple to prepare but it does take a bit of time – and can make a mess – so best leave it to us, really. We make a curing rub of sugar, salt, black pepper and chopped dill to coat the salmon, which arrives in your kitchen vacuum-sealed and ready to slice, complete with chive blini mix and horseradish cream. If you’re catering for gluten-free folk, serve on elegant slices of cucumber instead. Top with a sprig of dill and tiny sprinkle of salmon roe or caviar – because we wish it could be Christmas every day!
Whiz up a batch of our favourite hot-smoked trout paté [find the recipe here] and spread over crisp shop-bought crostini, thinly sliced baguette or slices of cucumber. Top with tiny dill sprigs.
Our sweet corn and haloumi fritter mix
Use a teaspoon to measure out blini-sized fritters in the pan. Arrange on a platter and top each one with a spoonful of posh tomato chutney, a little sour cream, a crisp twist of maple bacon or pancetta for crunch, and snipped chives. For the non-bacon-eaters, top with a spoonful of guacamole (mix mashed avo with diced tomato, lime juice, chopped coriander, chilli, salt and pepper) and tiny dollop of sour cream.
A batch of Dinner Ladies sausage rolls with sneaky veg
These can be magically turned into stylish canapés if you slice each roll into thirds before baking (easily done if you defrost them first). Serve with a great tomato chutney or caramelised onion jam. Packed into crunchy butter puff pastry, our sausage rolls are half lean pork, half chickpea and veg, so they’re tastier than your average roll too.
Tips and Tricks
One party trick we’ve learnt over the years is to always have a pack of frozen tiny pastry cases in the freezer. They can be whipped out in any entertaining emergency, given a quick toast in the oven and filled with all manner of things – some you might already have in the freezer. Here’s a few ideas: for vegos, a teaspoonful of warmed ultimate vegetarian chilli or spiced lentil tarka dahl, maybe with a stylish blob of mango chutney and yoghurt on top. If you’ve cooked up our duck confit with quince and pomegranate glaze and you have any leftovers (crazy thought!), shred the meat to make an indescribably fab tartlet filling. Or fill with hot-smoked trout paté (boy, is that paté versatile!).
Not really canapés, but a more ‘robust’ finger food (and perfect for the end of a long night when everyone needs sustenance before hitting the road) bake up a batch of Cornish pasties. These little English hand pies are packed with diced vegies, feta, garlic and herbs.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: ‘Condiments maketh the meal’! Order in a batch of our sweet-sour beetroot, cranberry and orange relish to liven up sausage rolls, Cornish pasties or simple platters of cold meats or cheese. Also have a few jars of the brilliant chilli jams, hot tomato chutneys, caramelised onions, green tomato and jalapeno relish that are on the market now. Even British HP sauce is great – and nicely traditional! – with sausage rolls. So there’s no excuse for a bottle of ketchup. (Unless that’s your thing – in which case, no judgement at Christmas!)