Cocktail Party Food

Tantalising and tasty nuts and nibbles! That’s the motto for preparing cocktail party food and we’ve some advice to help make your party the yummiest thing since chocolate.

  • Provide a variety of finger-food including something for the vegetarians.
  • Your guests won’t want to get too messy so sloppy saucy dishes aren’t a good idea.
  • Be adventurous: include some unusual nibbles in among the more familiar.
  • Have a mix of hot and cold.
  • The cocktails themselves are the most important ingredient so make sure your food complements not overpowers the drinks.
  • The nibbles are an extra not the star attraction so you don’t need to provide table-loads of food.
  • Have one or two sweet snacks to bring out at the end of the evening to accompany coffee.

Preparing food for a cocktail party doesn’t have to be complicated. Most supermarkets and delicatessens stock a huge selection of ready-prepared canapés and party food as well as all the ingredients you need to put on a lavish table of hors d’oeuvres.

  • Make up large platefuls of antipasti with meats, nuts and cheese.
  • Have bowls of flavoured olives, smoked almonds and vegetable crisps scattered around.
  • Top crackers with caviar, smoked salmon or stilton.
  • Make mini-kebabs on cocktail sticks from a mix of cheeses and olives or onions.
  • Use ready-made canapés but make them your own by presenting them beautifully.

But if you’d prefer to do it all yourself, we’ve a selection of scrumptious recipe ideas too. You can buy a variety of olives these days but there’s nothing quite like home-made.


You need:

  • 1 lb olives
  • 16 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, very finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Black pepper
  • Orange peel, finely sliced

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and leave to marinate for 24 hours at room temperature.

It can be kept in glass jars in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

You can vary the herbs to suit your own taste.

Caesar-Style Dip

For a Caesar-style dip to serve with crudités of raw vegetables, pita bread and crisps, combine:

  • ½ pt mayonnaise
  • ¼ pt sour cream
  • ¼ pt freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 anchovy fillet, mashed

Omit the anchovy if your guests include vegetarians!

Guacamole Sailing boats

You need:

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Guacamole
  • Tortilla chips

Halve the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds. Fill with a teaspoon of guacamole. Use a tortilla chip as the sail but don’t add until just before your guests arrive as they’ll go soggy if left too long.

Fish Eggs

You need:

  • 12 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 12 oz thinly sliced cold-smoked salmon, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup salmon caviar

Hard boil the eggs. Cool, shell and halve. Take out the yolks and place in a bowl with the chives, oil, lemon juice and salmon. Mix well. Gently stir in the caviar. Divide the mixture between the egg white halves. Serve sprinkled with finely chopped chives.

Nutty Pears

You need:

  • Conference pears (allow 1 per 2 guests)
  • Stilton cheese
  • Walnuts
  • Lemon juice

Peel the pears, cut into quarters and discard the core. Toss in lemon juice to prevent browning. Top each quarter with a scoop of stilton and a walnut, pressed down firmly.

Cheesy Balls

You need:

  • 4 oz softened butter
  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 1 lb mature Cheddar, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 190oC, gas mark 5. Grease a baking sheet.

Mix the butter and flour together. Beat in the cheese until you have well-mixed dough. Shape into walnut-sized balls and place on the baking sheet. Cook for about 10 minutes or until ready. Serve warm.

You can prepare these in advance and cover with clingfilm until ready to cook.

Cheese and Tomato Tarts

You need:

  • 1 lb goat’s cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons single cream
  • 1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • 4 oz sundried tomatoes, chopped

Shortcrust pastry made using 1 lb plain flour or 24 ready-made mini-tartlet pastry cases Pre-heat the oven to 220oC, gas mark 7.

Mix the cheese, salt, egg and cream together. Fold in the chives and sundried tomatoes. Divide between the tartlets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until well-risen and golden. Top with chives or tiny pieces of red pepper.

Round off the evening with strawberries dipped in chocolate, rich truffles and some crisp buttery shortbread.

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