Party ready: Ideas + recipes for end of year celebrations
1 Make bite-sized pies to wow the crowd
Traditional, easy to make pastry dough makes the difference to these small, oven-baked "pies" — they will melt in your mouth. You can make the dough and the filling a few days in advance. Serve them with chimichurri, perhaps the most famous Argentinian sauce, similar to pesto, and very popular throughout South America.
Buy a roast chicken for the filling for these baby pies if you are pushed for time.
A hit of gochujang flavours these vegetable-based morsels made with store-bought pastry.
Fill bread cases with a creamy smoked fish mixture - so easy but so good.
2 Brush up with these cocktail party tips
Sue Fleischl (The Great Catering Company and Great Kiwi Bake Off judge) has this advice:
- Canapes should be one bite. Beware of drippy sauces and bases that can go soggy.
- Intensify flavours. Food that is prepared in advance and reheated will lose some of the flavour.
- If you need to use forks, ensure the food won’t break up before it reaches your mouth. And you’ll need somewhere for people to put their glasses down while they are eating.
- For a cocktail party lasting up to two hours, serve up to six choices of canapes, with nine canapes per person. Increase it to eight or more choices for an event over two hours.
- Ensure there is one vegetarian option or plan on dishes that can be made vegetarian by removing a bacon topping, for instance.
- After two hours it is time to serve something more substantial, especially if you are still offering alcohol. This is where ham on the bone comes into its own!
- For 100 people, you will need four dozen white and two dozen red wines. Offer two varieties of white and one or two of red. Ensure you also have non-alcoholic drinks.
- For more party tips from Sue, see here.
3 Prep ahead and freeze it
- If planning on using chicken to make delicate sandwich fillings, crowd-pleasing quesadillas or Annabel Langbein’s hot ‘n’ spicy chicken pies (see above) do what she does: "Chicken is much easier to strip off the carcass while it’s still warm. I sometimes roast an extra chicken and then shred it (removing bones, skin and any fat) and pop the flesh into containers for the freezer so that I can whip up pies and pasta sauces without having to start from scratch."
- If freezing food to reheat later, be sure to freeze it quickly for best results. Chill food first to lower its temperature and package it in small thin containers to help speed things up. Frozen slowly, food tends to form large crystals which can change a dish's texture once defrosted.
- Look for freezable bites like flatbreads, mini meatballs, quiches, the cheese twists, below, and filo pies that all reheat or cook well from frozen.
4 Take a packet of chips ...
Top them at the last minute (no one wants them soggy) with warm smoked fish with pickled ginger or chipotle mayo
Top them with lime ceviche
Top them with barbecued eye fillet, horseradish and beets
5 Don't forget plant-based eats
This cashew "aioli" is a great dip for vegans. It has lots of lemon and parsley added to a base of creamy sweet cashew. Serve these with baked parsnip fries for a healthier alternative to chip and dip. See below for more ideas.
6 Bake cheese twists ... simple to make, hard to stop eating
7 Make another old-school classic
Devils on horseback, like cheese twists, never fall out of favour (well, not unless you are a vegetarian) and they’re easy too: Cut 8 bacon rashers into thin strips about 6-8cm in length. Take 340g prunes and wrap a strip around each prune and secure with a toothpick. Repeat so you have two prunes on each toothpick. They can be prepared ahead to this stage and chilled for up to 24 hours until needed. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 200C fan bake. Line a baking tray with baking paper for easy clean-up and arrange wrapped prunes in a single layer. Cook until bacon is crisp (about 10 minutes). Cool for a few minutes before serving - they'll burn your tongue if eaten right away. Recipe by Annabel Langbein
8 Pile up a plate of brownies for a help-yourself dessert
White and dark chocolate brownies (photographed above)
9 Serve summery desserts in a glass
Coffee, liqueur and vanilla icecream make a super speedy affogato. More ideas below.
10 Roast a tray of nuts
Party nuts: Preheat the oven to 160C. Combine 3 cups mixed blanched almonds, cashew nuts and macadamias in a large roasting dish. Melt 50g butter and stir in 3 tsp ground mixed spice and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper along with 1 tsp salt. Pour over the nuts. Stir to coat evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes, stirring often, until golden and crunchy. Stir well and cool. Store in airtight containers in a cool place or in the freezer. Recipe by Jan Bilton
Chipotle and lime nut clusters: Preheat oven to 200C. Crush the zest of 2 limes, 2 tsp chipotle salt (or use sea salt and ¼ tsp chilli powder or cayenne) and 2 Tbsp brown sugar in a mortar and pestle until you have a smooth paste. Place in a bowl and whisk with 2 egg whites until fluffy. Fold in 500g mixed nuts (such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts). Spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Season with a little freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, add a squeeze of lime juice, cool and break into clusters. Recipe by Warren Elwin
11 Toast the end of the year
A bottle of cheap prosecco or methode champenoise lends itself to all kinds of terrific cocktails. Add rhubarb syrup and you’ve got a festive spritzer. To make syrup, place 2 large very finely chopped stalks rhubarb, ½ cup sugar, 12 mint leaves and 2 Tbsp lemon juice in a jar or bowl and leave for 30 minutes to macerate, stirring now and again until sugar has dissolved. Add ½ cup vodka and ¼ cup cranberry juice. Chill if not using at once. This makes about 2½ cups and will keep for several days in the fridge. To serve, spoon about 2 Tbsp of syrup (including fruit) into each glass with a little ice and top with chilled prosecco or other dry, sparkling white wine. Makes enough syrup for 18 drinks using 3 bottles of prosecco or sparkling wine. Recipe by Annabel Langbein