THERE is nothing like a good party to put you in the festive mood and if you want to be the hostess with the mostest then why not throw a sophisticated cocktail party?
Imagine yourself glamorously reclining on a crushed velvet chaise longue enjoying a Christmas cocktail (or two!) and surrounded by your nearest and dearest. People love to be asked to dress up – and this is the season to ask them. Beautifully dressed guests make everyone else feel they crackle with wit and sophistication and don’t need to chuck breadrolls to raise a laugh.
A cocktail party certainly isn’t a party for handfuls of nuts and pineapple on sticks. You need little slivers of delectable food that look as polished as they taste.
Allow six to eight bites per person and mix hot with cold. Make canapés in advance – after all, there’s no point having a party you can’t enjoy.
Toss thin slices of crisp pear in a little lemon juice to keep them from browning, then top each slice with a small scoop of Stilton pressed into a walnut half.
Chill some butter in the fridge or freezer. Clean and trim firm radishes, slicing off the root, but leaving an inch of leaf stalks.
Make a slit in the radish with a knife and push into each a sliver of cold butter. Pass with a bowl of rock salt to dip into.
Boil some small unpeeled potatoes. When done, leave them to cool, take a small slice off the bottom of each so the potato can stand then scoop out a hollow. Fill with sour cream and add a dollop of lumpfish roe on top – or caviar, if you can afford it.
These are best served at room temperature, but it’s fine to serve them cold as well. You could substitute the caviar with tiny pieces of sun-dried tomato.
Marinate cubes of chicken breast in lemon juice, olive oil and a very generous quantity of herbes de Provence. Spread out on tinfoil and grill until cooked through and turning brown at the edges, then serve with cocktail sticks and a bowl of garlicky mayonnaise.
Bake small rounds of French baguette until golden, then spread with various crostini toppings – a chicken liver mousse or rough country pâté – with a spear of cornichon, or cooked white cannelloni beans coarsely mashed and topped with torn strips of basil and a trickle of olive oil.
Make guacamole boats: halve cherry tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and discard. Fill the hollows with guacamole. Just before the guests arrive, snap the corners off triangular nachos and stick them into the tomatoes to make sails.
Make parmesan wafers: pile teaspoons of grated parmesan cheese on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and flatten gently into rounds.
Bake at 190C/375F/gas mark 5 for five minutes until golden. Remove the wafers from the sheet with the paper still attached and leave them to cool on a wire rack. When cool, remove and store in an airtight container until needed.
Cocktails and some tasty nibbles make any party go with a swing.