Don’t break into a cold sweat at the prospect of feeding large numbers – we’ve got all your preparation needs covered.
- Plan your drinks. Watch for wine specials well before Christmas and buy accordingly.
- Serve punch, sangria, mulled wine, spritzers and shandies – these lower-alcohol options will keep your guests refreshed without pushing them over the limit, they’re less expensive than regular alcoholic drinks and in many cases lower in kilojoules.
- Experiment with non-alcoholic drinks such as lime and soda, tea-based punch, and iced tea, so your guests have delicious alcohol-free alternatives.
- If you have lemons or limes in your garden, slice and keep them in the freezer. Perfect for non-alcoholic refreshments and for wine spritzers, too.
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray a 12-hole muffin tray with olive oil and line with 3-4 squares of filo. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes until golden. Place chopped, roasted vegetables and a blob of pesto in precooked pastry cases, then sprinkle each with parmesan cheese.
- Crudités are a great way to keep hunger at bay when feeding a crowd. Chop up green beans, capsicums, carrots, cucumber and serve with homemade dips: mix equal quantities of reduced-fat sour cream and low-fat yoghurt, then add freshly chopped basil, parsley and a few pinches of chilli or Cajun seasoning.
- Mix together equal amounts of curry paste and fruit chutney, and add natural yoghurt to make a curry sauce perfect for rice or couscous salads. Add a selection of chopped, seasonal salad vegetables, chopped nuts and leftover ham or chicken for a tasty, filling buffet meal.
- Make biscotti, date and nut balls, and mini fruit mince pies well in advance and in sufficient quantities to last you over the Christmas season. Teamed with fresh fruit such as berries, cherries, melon and mango, these are a perfect finish to any meal.
- Keep a tub of sorbet in the freezer over summer – it’s not only delicious, it’s gluten-free and usually dairy-free so an easy dessert option for those with special diets.
- Keep frozen fruits as a standby. A simple pudding which can feed a crowd is a fruit compote made with a mix of fresh and frozen fruit, a little sugar and fruit juice. Place 1 pack mixed summer fruits and 1/2 pack frozen blackcurrants in a pan. Heat until juices begin to run. Add 1/4 cup sugar to sweeten and 1/2 cup fruit juice. Heat through until sugar has dissolved. Add a drop of your favourite liqueur, too, for extra festive flavour. Chill until serving. Serve with mini meringues and scoops of ice cream or frozen yoghurt.
Mix and match nibbles
Here are some clever ideas for platters, parties and ‘bring a plate’ functions. Pick a base, pick a topping and you’re away!
- Blini – small savoury pancakes made with buckwheat flour or a combination of wheat and buckwheat. Blini made with buttermilk are light and delicious. Use a teaspoon and pour the batter off the tip of the spoon to ensure your bite-sized blini are round not oval.
- Blintz – thin crêpes, folded around a savoury filling (cottage cheese is a good base). Bake them to make crispy crêpe bundles.
- Crostini – buy a French stick and get it sliced at the bakery or slice yourself. A stick will yield around 50 little discs of bread – freeze any you don’t need for another time. Spray lightly on both sides with oil and bake at 180°C until light golden brown on each side, turning once.
- Fritters – little sweet corn or courgette fritters make easy bases for a variety of toppings.
- Mini savoury scones – use a 5cm cutter to cut little scones. Try adding pesto or dill and Gruyère cheese to your scone dough.
- Pizzetti (mini pizzas) – make a regular pizza dough and cut using a 5cm round cutter or a sherry glass.
- Try a dip such as guacamole, salsa, or a dip made from canned beans and fresh herbs.
- Combine equal quantities of low-fat yoghurt and reduced-fat sour cream. Add other flavours such as sweet chilli sauce and lime, or chopped capers, lemon and dill, or pesto, or avocado, or smoked salmon.
- Use a dollop of reduced-fat crème fraiche and some smoked salmon shavings or splash out on a small tin of caviar for real wow factor.
- Use slivers of spicy sausage, sprigs of fresh herbs and a little bit of good cheese such as parmesan or Gruyère and bake onto pizzetti, pastries or crostini.
- Make a flavoured hummus: add roasted peppers or roasted garlic, roast pumpkin or nuts. Dried apricot and cashew hummus works well, as do a couple of handfuls of fresh herbs added to your basic hummus recipe.
- Blend fresh parsley or a mix of parsley and coriander with a hand blender in large quantities. Keep in a sealed container in the fridge and add to salads and meats for a professional touch.
- Anything looks better on a large white platter, whether it’s crackers and cheese or a roast chicken with vegetables. Keep an eye out for serving platters on special to stock up for special dinners.