A little planning is the key to an effortless party, along with great food, plenty of drinks, and happy guests. Individual bites that can be eaten without plates and cutlery are ideal party food, and can be served with drinks at an informal party, or before the main meal at a more formal sit down dinner. Decide what type of party you are having, and you're halfway there.
Keep it simple. It will make life easier if food loosely falls into some sort of theme; for example, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean. It can simplify shopping, and will prevent too many competing flavors. Budget. Have a rough idea of how much you want to spend, and write a shopping list. The more choices you offer, the more costly it will be. In summer, all items can be served cold, but in winter it is preferable to have at least 2 or 3 hot items on the menu.
Variety: choose a good variety of ingredients, from meat and fish, to vegetables and herbs. Always include 3-4 vegetarian dishes.
Prepare: make up as much as you can the day before (dips, for instance), and keep in the refrigerator, or even earlier, and freeze. Assemble at the last minute.
5 instant store cupboard nibbles - perfect for unexpected guests.
Let guests help themselves to plain, cheese, or sesame coated sticks. Fill up decorative glasses with them, and offer a selection of ready-bought dips. Or, wrap them with Parma ham and serve with a plate of mozzarella drizzled with a fruity extra virgin olive oil.
These are great for dipping or topping. Serve a variety of plain and spicy chips. Top with pieces of chicken and sliced peppers from a jar, or with a spoonful of finely chopped tomatoes and capers, and a dollop of sour cream.
Top these crisp bites with a simple ready-made pâté and a caper berry, or a meat pâté and a teaspoon of fruity chutney. For a sweeter bite, cover with cream cheese, and top with a slice of exotic fruit such as kiwi, mango, or papaya.
A bowl of mixed nuts is a good standby accompaniment for drinks. Better still, pan-fry a selection of nuts with a little sugar, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds; or, toast some sunflower and pumpkin seeds with a sprinkling of soy sauce or tamarind.
Soak in water for 20 seconds, drain, and fill with scallions and other vegetables cut into matchstick-size pieces, or cooked shrimp and fresh ginger, and roll into cones. Tie the cones with fresh chives, for a smart finish.
Skewer it flavor some little bites on sticks are the perfect easy to eat finger food. The combinations are endless-here are some ideas to get you started. Sausage and squash are great combination that can be made ahead, and served hot or cold. Roast a pan of chipolata or other spicy Italian style sausages, halved, with a peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash. Toss with olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and a sprinkling of hot red pepper flakes (if you wish), and cook in the oven at 400°F (200°C) for about 30 minutes, until cooked through. Thread onto skewers.
An updated version of the classic cheese and pineapple combination. Chop watermelon flesh into small bite size pieces, and skewer with small cubes of good quality feta cheese cubes. Spiced shrimp. Toss a handful of shelled raw shrimp with olive oil, sea salt and ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Pan fry in a little hot oil until pink, then skewer onto lemon grass stalks or wooden skewers. Seared tuna and lime. Cut a raw tuna steak into bite-size pieces, and toss with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Sear briefly on a hot ridged cast-iron grill pan for 1 minute, then skewer with segmented pieces of lime.
Skewered bites of sausage and squash, watermelon and feta, spiced shrimp, and seared tuna and lime
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