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Hi I’m Ray

Come and learn to cook delicious, healthy and nutritious REAL FOOD with me. It’s #deadeasy.

Christmas is coming up.  Ideas for food with drinks.

Christmas is coming up.  Ideas for food with drinks.

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Christmas is coming up.  Ideas for food with drinks.

Inviting people for “drinks” is an effective way of repaying a raft of social obligations. But while responsible hosts are conscientious about providing food with alcohol, the thought of spending hours trying to imitate caterer’s “finger food” (bad term that, sounds unhygienic and is second only to “nibbles” which to me has connotations with rodents ), is enough to make even the keenest cook decide never to accept any invitation that needs repaying and welcome the role of social pariah. How many times have you worn yourself out processing food to make little mouthfuls to go on crackers on a tray only to realise all that effort has materialised into something that looks like cat food? And then you have to exhaust yourself serving it.

Buy the food and to keep it stationary in strategic areas of the party territory. Most people welcome the chance to move around and have something to “do”, especially in the early stages of any gathering.

Buying the food does mean you have to be prepared to pay for the convenience of not making it yourself, but with imagination the extra expenditure does not need be astronomical.

Food with drinks before a meal can be extremely simple, a bowl of delicious olives and some roasted almonds is often all that is necessary, after all your guests are going to eat later .

Food to go with a drinks “party” needs to be more substantial, although it is not a meal, and so-called adults should know how much alcohol to drink. If they do not, call a taxi, throw them into it and send them home.

Food with drinks for more than twenty people is to me a large undertaking and best left to a caterer. If that is impossible, serve a light supper later, this could be ham, bread and cheese, or merely ordered-in pizzas.

Buying food for a smaller number is easy. Often it is better to go overboard with one kind of dish rather than have numerous tiny amounts that have no impact. Here are some ideas.

-raid the freezers at your local Asian shop and buy a variety of Yum Cha dumplings and wontons. Steam them at home and serve with bowls of chilli and soy sauces for dipping.

-boned, flaked hot smoked salmon, a bowl of seasoned sour cream mixed with chopped dill, capers and lemon juice, and some thin sliced Italian bread or pumpernickel. Everyone will know what to do.

- brush some slices of Ciabatta with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and top with paper thin slices of raw, line caught yellow fin tuna, paper thin slices of lemon and a mint leaf.

- order uncut sushi rolls from your local sushi outlet , fresh-slice them yourself at home (with a wet knife) and serve on a huge flat platter with pickled ginger, soy and wasabi.

-grill or barbecue plenty of small, pure pork breakfast sausages and serve them with a bowl of Indian chutney from your local Asian food shop for dipping.

-buy a large wedge of gorgonzola and a large bunch of black grapes and serve them on a large white platter, (no bread, it distracts your tastebuds from the cheese), do the same with some parmesan and some sliced pears, or a brie and fresh dates.

-order in from your local Indian restaurant, pakoras (deepfried vegetables in spicy batter), vadas (dhal fritters), bhuja mixes ( spicy fried peas, Indian noodles etc. ) and serve with a stack of home fried poppadoms and tamarind chutney.

-serve a large platter of oysters on the half shell, loosen first  them so they slip off the shell, sprinkle them with tobacco and very thin peeled cucumber matchsticks and serve with lime wedges.

-even more deluxe, poach some tiger prawns in boiling salted water with a large slice of ginger, serve with a bowl of Thai sweet chilli sauce, and freshly fried prawn crackers.

-when all avenues are exhausted, order in gourmet pizza, choose the more extravagant toppings, slice into thin wedges.

- your local deli can usually provide a selection of comestibles so you can theme your biggest platter to be antipasto (Italian), mezes (Greek/Middle Eastern), hors d’oeuvres (French), tapas (Spanish) or if that is too hard, cosmo (everything).

-prosaic as it may sound, everyone loves club sandwiches, whether expensive ones made with such things as smoked salmon, or inexpensive ones made with thin sliced cucumber and cream cheese, make them yourself or order from somewhere you trust, they have to be perfect.

-no one ever turned their nose up at melon slices wrapped in prosciutto.

-barbecue bite-sized mushrooms which have been brushed with oil and sprinkled with garlic, then roll in freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley, serve with garlic bread, serviettes and toothpicks.

-make Vietnamese rice paper rolls, (like tiny unfried spring rolls, yes, you actually assemble them yourself, store under a damp teatowel until served,) fill with bought shredded  Chinese barbecue pork or duck, sliced lettuce, chopped gherkins and water chestnuts, serve with a bowl of sweet chilli or soy sauce.

-order in satés and peanut sauce from your local Malaysian or Indonesian restaurant, serve on lettuce with cucumber and carrot sticks and another small bowl of Kecap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce) mixed with fine sliced red chillis.

-set up the make-your-own crostini station, you make the crostini (sliced French Bread,brushed with olive oil and baked in a hot oven until golden), and small bowls of toppings from the deli, eg, roasted peppers, patés, cold cuts, pickles, feta, etc, the ultimate icebreaking therapy for timid guests.

-do the retro thing, curried eggs in lettuce leaves, asparagus rolls, sausage rolls, sliced Scotch eggs, mince savouries and quiche, buy it all and serve with pitchers of Pimms.

Sour Cream Strawberry Tart

Sour Cream Strawberry Tart