A good dinner party calls for thorough preparation, and you certainly shouldn’t skimp on the starters, which can help to fuel all of the attendees’ excitement for the rest of the party. So, whether you are preparing for your own party or someone else’s, perhaps because you run a B&B that has been booked for the occasion, here are some quick recipes.
Melty onion toasts
For this gastropub-style starter, begin by adding 6 sliced onions to heated butter in a sauté pan before sprinkling 2 teaspoons of golden caster sugar on top. Keep the onions at medium heat for 20 minutes and, once they are sticky and golden, add some brandy. This is the onion topping; now, toast 6 slices of sourdough bread, spread the onions across them, and add cheese slices. Bake the toasts on a baking tray for 15 minutes.
Hot and sour broth with prawns
This takes a mere 15 minutes to prepare – ideal if you run a venue that can be readily and regularly booked for dinner parties and you are rushed off your feet. This starter involves putting 3 teaspoons of vinegar, 500ml of chicken stock, a teaspoon of golden caster sugar, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a small piece of ginger, 2 small hot red chillies and 3 spring onions in a saucepan, before simmering and cooking, then adding prawns.
Mini Swedish meatballs with cranberry sauce
Put meat, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, allspice and some seasoning into a bowl, thoroughly mix and form into meatballs, and then brown and cook those using heated oil. Serve with a bowl of cranberry sauce. The full, more detailed recipe is available from BBC Good Food.
A long-established favourite! Peel, rinse and dry 200g of cooked and peeled prawns, before chopping 100g of cucumber into small dice and tipping them into a dish. Add some vinegar, dill and pepper, then set aside before you halve, stone, peel and dice a small, ripe avocado. You can make the sauce by mixing together mayonnaise, fromage frais and ketchup; when serving the cocktail, place a spoonful of the sauce into each cocktail glass.
Smoked trout pâté and pitta crisps
After heating the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 8, halve 4 pieces of pitta bread before cutting them into wedges. Brush those wedges with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then sprinkle with salt and chopped dill before cooking the wedges for 10-12 minutes. Once they’re crisp, serve them with flaked hot-smoked trout fillets mixed with 200ml of soured cream, a tablespoon of chopped gherkin and 2 tablespoons of chopped dill.
Salmon and prawns with dill and lime aioli
Arrange 400g of cooked king prawns - shelled apart from the tail - and 400g smoked salmon on plates. Then, mix 140g of mayonnaise, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill, before adding juice squeezed from half a lime. Place a spoonful of the mixture onto each plate, along with dill leaves, a lime wedge and a grinding of pepper.
Celeriac tartare with smoked trout
First, make the tartare dressing by combining some mayonnaise, capers, lemon juice, cornichons and parsley leaves. Then, peel and slice a small celeriac before cutting it into matchsticks. Mix and combine the celeriac and dressing, then place piles of smoked trout, celeriac and rocket onto plates. Before serving, drizzle all of the food with olive oil.
Creamy smoked salmon, leek and potato soup
Heat a large knob of butter in a saucepan, add 2 large leeks and a bay leaf, and then spend 8-10 minutes cooking over a low heat. Now, stir through 1kg of diced and floury potatoes until butter-coated. Pour over a litre of chicken or vegetable stock, simmer, gently bubble for 10-15 minutes, and then add 2 thirds of 200g of smoked salmon strips before stirring through and seasoning. Put the remaining salmon on top of the soup.
Cream of wild mushroom soup
Pour boiled water over 25g of dried porcini, heat 25g of butter in a saucepan, and then sizzle a chopped onion, sliced garlic clove and thyme sprigs until they start browning. Add the porcini to the onion with 400g of mixed wild mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes, pour over 850ml of vegetable stock, plus juice drained from the porcini, and then bring to the boil before simmering for 20 minutes. Stir in crème fraîche and simmer for a few minutes.
Classic potted shrimps
Melt 100g of unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat, add some cayenne pepper and nutmeg, and then stir through prawns or shrimps before seasoning. Remove the prawns and press them into your serving dish. Chill until they set, then pour the remaining butter over the prawns. Leave them to set in the fridge overnight. Before serving, toast on a tray in an oven heated to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.