Once the delectable Christmas quaffing is all over, we start to yearn for food that isn’t smothered in cream, or roasted in goose fat. Fun though these festive mealtimes are, the new year calls for lighter, more elegant dishes and provides the perfect excuse for a relaxed evening of hosting.
Canapés, finger food and fresh cheese boards can be just as celebratory as a sit-down meal. Here we offer some tips and light recipes you can throw together for an enjoyable, easy evening, leaving you plenty of time to don your sparkles and find a great spot to view the fireworks.
Meet and greet
After a season of being showered with glasses of champagne, New Year’s Eve is the chance to enjoy lighter versions of our favourite tipples.
Before guests arrive, arrange a selection of fresh, cold drinks in champagne coupes and tumblers on a silver tray, ready for them to help themselves. This will leave more time to get chatting to friends you haven’t seen for a while. We love adding soda water and a dash of fruit juice – such as cranberry or pear – to the usual prosecco for a refreshing version of a classic.
Instead of a formal three-course meal at the dining table, allow your guests to enjoy the beautiful decorations in your living room and to mingle more freely. Finger food and canapés not only mean that circulating is easier but that no-one leaves your house feeling too full at the end of the night.
Here are our three favourite recipes.
Prawn and Avocado Tartlets
Ingredients (makes 12):
- 1 sheet frozen shortcrust or puff pastry (thawed)
- ½ avocado
- 1 tbsp light crème fraiche
- Sprinkling of chilli powder
- 12 cooked and peeled prawns
- Heat your oven to 200°C/400°F /gas 6 and grease 12 holes of a mini muffin tin.
- Cut 12 circles from your sheet of pastry. Each circle should cover the base of each mini muffin hole. Place the pastry circles into the prepared holes of the mini muffin pan. If you are using puff pastry, prick the base of the pastry cups with a fork to stop them puffing up.
- Bake the pastry for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove the pastry tart bases from the pan and set aside on a wire rack to cool.
- Mash the avocado with the light crème fraîche and a sprinkling of chilli powder Divide between the tart bases.
- Top each tart with a prawn, then sprinkle over a little more chilli powder or top with a sprig of dill.
- Keep cool in the fridge, until ready to serve.
Smoked Salmon and Herbed Horseradish Cream Sandwiches
Ingredients (makes 12)
- 140g light cream cheese
- 1 ½ tbsp chopped chives
- 2 tsp horseradish
- Sprinkling of salt and pepper
- 2 tsp capers
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 6 slices organic pumpernickel bread
- Bunch of watercress
- 250g sliced smoked salmon
- In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, chopped chives, horseradish, salt and pepper, capers and lemon zest until smooth.
- Arrange the six slices of bread on the counter. Spread two tablespoons of the mixture over each slice, and lay the watercress in an even layer on top.
- Use a two-inch round cookie cutter to cut two to three discs out of each slice of bread.
- Top with smoked salmon, curling the slice of fish into a neat coil, like a flower bud.
- If desired, place a small dollop of the mixture on top of the salmon and top with a leaf or two of watercress.
- Arrange on a mirrored charger and set near candles to watch the colours come alive.
Mushroom pâté canapés
Ingredients (makes 12)
- 15g dried cep or porcini mushrooms
- ½ cup boiling water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter, divided
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 350g mixed French mushrooms
- 1 heaped teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra to serve
- 2 tbsp parsley
- A dash of port
- ¼ lemon, juiced
- Crème fraîche, to top (optional)
- 12 mini sablé biscuits, or toasted baguette
- Combine the dried mushrooms and boiling water in a small bowl and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
- Heat olive oil and one tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for seven to eight minutes, until they become soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a further two minutes.
- Raise heat to high and add the fresh mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper.
- Cook until mushrooms brown further and release their liquid. Continue to move the mushrooms in the pan until all of the liquid has evaporated, then add soaked mushrooms and their soaking liquid. Cook the liquid almost completely off. You want to be able to drag a spoon through the mushrooms and leave a path.
- Add a dash of port and continue to cook for a couple of minutes, until the alcohol evaporates. Season the mixture to taste. Stir through the last tbsp of butter and turn in to a bowl.
- Let mixture cool for 15 minutes, then blend in a food processor or blender, until the mushrooms reach the texture of a smooth pâté. Chill in fridge for a few hours before serving, giving the flavours a chance to settle.
The pâté will keep in the fridge for five days, in an airtight container so you can make this well ahead of your party. When ready to serve, place a heaped teaspoon of the pâté on each sablé biscuit. Finish with a grinding of black pepper, a few fresh thyme leaves and a little dollop of crème fraiche.
Finish off your evening with a generous cheese board and lay out plates of crudités, such as celery, sliced pepper and cucumber to accompany the cheese in place of heavier bread or crackers.
Recipes adapted from Gourmet Getaways, Food Network and Tess Ward: The Yes Chef