This year, two occasions merged into one enormous milestone: moving into my own home, and a rather big birthday (beginning with a tha- and ending in -irty). A celebration was necessary, and for the first time in a long, long time I actually felt like being social. Entertaining is a mode I slip into effortlessly, and I don’t mind saying that I threw all of this food together in under 24 hours. Armed with the internet and an empty wine bottle (more about that later), I was ready to tackle Cocktail Food. Here is a collection of my very Best Cocktail Food.
Skill level: basic
Time: at least 24 hours
Recipe: Head to your local grocery store. Buy the 3 cheapest jars of olives: experts claim that whole olives have the best flavour but I think that pitted have an extra space to carry delicious juices. Loosely chop 6 cloves of garlic, 2 large-ish sprigs of rosemary, 2 medium sprig of thyme. In a large jar combine olives, herbs, garlic, a little brine from the olives and a dash of olive oil. Leave in the fridge overnight, allow to return to room temperature about 1 hour before serving. Leave a small plate out for pips.
Skill level: too easy
Time: about the time it takes to drink a glass of wine/ quick
I’m not sure why these are called straws, because really, they’re more like fingers. Only serve if your party is mostly on the patio or if you have a doggy in the house (think: flaky crumbs). A major hit if there are smallish children around.
Preheat oven to 180C. Before that be sure to go to the store and buy a roll of pre-made puff pastry. Then go home and preheat the oven. Make sure your pastry is at room temperature – ish. Grab a rolling pin or in my case, and empty wine bottle. Roll out the pastry until it is roughly double the size. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Any cheese. Fold in half making a cheese sandwich. Roll out again using wine- bottle- rolling- pin. Repeat four time. Cut pastry into strips about 1 cm across. Attempt to twist into posh straw shapes, lay out on baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Serve at room temperature.
SOY MISO BUTTERNUT
Skill: this one requires concentration and a sharp knife
Time: 35-45 min
Chop a large butternut into cubes or cheat and buy a bag of prepared butternut. In a large mixing bowl combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon miso paste, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon honey, squeeze of lemon. Stir the butternut through the sauce, and then tip the whole lot onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 35 minutes or until soft. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving. (Bonus: throw the baking paper away, minimal cleaning required!)
CRUDITE & LEMON MINT DIP
Time: the time it will take to cut these vegetables into little sticks
Buy a selection of vegetable (cucumber, carrot, broccoli, pepper, celery, tomatoes). Wash and peel, cut into the size of cigarettes. In a mixing bowl add 1 cup plain yoghurt, finely chopped zest of half a lemon, juice of said half lemon, a palm full of fresh mint, salt & pepper. Stir to combine, serve chilled.
Skill: mother-in-law level
Time: hours and hours
Perhaps the original cocktail food, devilled eggs are not worth your time. Trust me. It all looks so easy and then you realise that you have to peel about 725 eggs. Then you have to manhandle them for ages, trying to manipulate them into a weird reincarnation of themselves. It’s a weird cannibalistic situation where eggs eat eggs. Pour yourself another glass of wine instead. Besides, no one came to your party to eat eggs.
BABY JACKET POTATOES
Skill: so easy you could be half drunk
Time: 45-50 minutes
On a baking sheet, throw a 1kg bag of baby potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt & pepper. Bake at 180C for 25 minutes or until soft. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Cut crosses into the tops and give them a squeezey-pinch. Drop in half a teaspoon of créme fraiché and snipped chives. Ta dah!