In an ideal world, all of us would have a good couple of days to prepare for a party. Cleaning, sprucing and catering for even modest do’s can be time and energy consuming, not to mention getting yourself ready to fabulously and ferociously show your nearest and dearest a good time. Of course, we live in the real world whether we like it or not: the work days are long, nothing ever goes quite to plan and nobody is perfect. Being far shy of divinity in the domestic department myself, I generally greet my first guests in my pajamas, with wet hair, brandishing brooms for them to do the final spot cleaning.
When you are out of the house as much as I am, you want preparations for any event to be as easy as pie. I’m a messy creature, and don’t have much time in the week for tidying, so this has to be my priority when it comes to party prep. Unless I stayed up all night, I’d never get all the food I planned done… unless I lower my goals to quick but classy party food that no one can resist. Your guests are wowed and well fed, and you haven’t been slaving away preparing it when you could have been doing your nails or trying hoover up all the catfluff that has, somehow, become attached to the ceiling light.
Having just held a party, here are 5 easy ‘recipes’ to make your life, well, easier.
1) Pre-purchased snacks
Popcorns, crackers, chips, gourmet crisps… they’re fairly inexpensive, can be bought in a variety of great flavours and can be moved from kitchen to table in seconds. Even popcorn made from scratch at home is the work of minutes. Little bowls of salt and vinegar are the bomb at kiddy parties. For grown up do’s, a couple of pounds more spent can buy you some real gems, and it isn’t cheating- selecting the perfect snacks for your guests means almost as much as whipping something up at home. Buy things you know your guests like, and if in doubt… Japanese rice crackers and wasabi peas, flavoured popcorns, ‘posh’ crisps and chips help the cocktails go down.
Grab some of the following:
- smoked salmon
- sliced roast beef
- cream cheese
- blinis and/or brown bread
- black pepper
Pop your blinis in the oven at 180 for about 4 minutes, or toast your bread as usual. Cut your bread slices into triangles or rounds, and slather them and/or the blinis with cream cheese.
Top with smoke salmon and a spring of dill, black pepper and beef or just black pepper and serve warm or cold. Yum.
Love them or hate them, olives are a classy addition to a nibbles bar. I like black olives, but pick up whatever you like, either chilled, jarred or canned. Drain them and serve with generous chunks of feta, and cocktail sticks. It’s like cheese and pinapple for grown ups- tactile and special. For extra drool-worthyness, dress them with a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
4) Super-quick baking
Palmiers sound posh, look clever, cost little and taste great. Buy pre-rolled sheets of puff pastry, slather them with a filling, roll up and cut into little rounds, and bake until puffed up and browned. Try these fillings:
- Tomato(passata, puree or otherwise), basil and black pepper (also good with cheese)
- Parmesan and Italian style herbs
- Cheddar cheese
- Cinnamon (1 tsp cinnamon mixed with 50g each sugar and butter)
- Sundried Tomato and Feta
5) Crudités, or presentation, presentation, presentation.
A few shards of carrot and cucumber in a tumbler, next to a tub of dip is, well, a bit sad IMHO. Even when you’re pressed for time, a healthy crunchy snack that looks voluptuous and lush is moments away.
Buy or make dips- whichever you like. Hummus, salsa, guacamole and cream dips are always good bets. Decant them into pretty bowls or dishes if you want your spread to look more home made, and set out.
Next on your shopping list, get your veg:
- tomatoes- piccolo and little cherry yellow and orange ones are perfect.
- Peppers- any colour
- Celery hearts
- anything else you like to dip- bread sticks might not be veg, but I tend to grab some too!
Start with a large decorative plate. Trim the celery and cut each stem into three, and use to section out the plate like a clock. Build up waves of colour with piles of sliced peppers and cucumber, and in the centre and sprawling out organically, pile the tomatoes. I try to get some on the vine for extra prettiness and freshness.
It’s a simple concept, but easy to glam up with presentation, and it’s great for making people feel good with the fresh, healthy crunch of nice veg slathered in naughty dips.
I hope that’s given you some ideas for your next party. Some if not all of these, make excellent pick me up snacks in their own right!
Until next time, then…