If you’re hosting a dinner party, it’s likely you’ll put most of your effort into the main course – whether it’s beef wellington, Thai green curry, coq au vin or roast lamb.
But make sure you don’t forget the appetisers: small starters can be just what your guests need to whet their appetites before the main event.
Splurged most of your budget already? Rest assured that there are plenty of options that are easy and won’t cost much. Here are some of our favourite inexpensive party appetisers, in order of difficulty.
Cheese on sticks
They’re classic children’s party food, but who says adults can’t enjoy them too? Most grown-ups remember cheddar and pineapple skewered on toothpicks being a staple of kids’ parties of yesteryear. They might sound old hat now, but you’d be surprised at how tasty they still are. For a more contemporary version, swap cheddar and pineapple for mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, garnished with a little basil leaf, for a caprese salad on a stick. If you want to be particularly chic, you could try blue cheese with a cube of apple, finished with a balsamic glaze instead. Experiment with different options, and pick what goes best with the overall theme of your meal.
White bean dip
If you’re catering for vegans, this white bean dip recipe from Martha Stewart is simple, cheap and delicious. All you need is a can of cannellini beans, a lemon and a little olive oil. Drain the cannellini beans and place them in a food processor with the juice of half a lemon and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Then simply blitz until smooth. Spoon the dip into a bowl and season to taste. It’ll be great with salt and pepper, but you might also want to add a sprinkle of cumin and paprika to spice it up a bit. If you really want to add a kick, throw a clove of raw garlic into the food processor before you blitz, along with a little extra lemon juice.
Puff pastry bites
Good shop-bought puff pastry is easy to come by in supermarkets, and it’s a great ingredient for making delectable and versatile party appetisers. If your guests are meat-lovers, get your hands on some pork mince; season, divide into golf ball-sized patties and roll a strip of puff pastry around each one. Pop into the oven and within half an hour, you’ll have your own home-made sausage rolls. For a Middle Eastern twist, try lamb mince spiced with cumin and minced onion in this combination instead. Or if you’re looking for a non-meaty starter, these mini salmon and dill puffs are a delicious alternative.
This recipe isn’t the most difficult on this list, but it’s perhaps the hardest to perfect. A good baked camembert is a thing of beauty, and a fantastic way to get your dinner party off to a spectacular – and very low-effort – start. There are lots of ways to bake a camembert: to keep it plain, simply use a fork to pierce the top of the rind all over. Then bake at 180 degrees Celsius for around 20 minutes. Alternatively, rub the top of the Camembert with dried thyme, salt and garlic granules to add a herby crust. Ideally, when you pierce through the baked camembert, it should ooze out piping hot cheese, but this may take some practice to get right without the camembert bursting before it comes out of the oven. Simply serve with crusty white bread and a few crudites: cherry tomatoes, slice of apple and florets of broccoli work particularly well.
What are your favourite party appetisers?