SEO TextEnter keyword eg: chicken, entree, easy
Hot Topics on MSN NZ:
Election 2014 Quake near Wellington Dying wish
The Free Range Cook
The Free Range Cook

Breaking the ice

By Annabel Langbein
Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook
Related articles
When you're busy, entertaining guests can feel a pretty daunting prospect. I find the secret is to plan ahead and put together a menu that allows you to do most of the preparation ahead of time.

If I'm racing the clock, I'll often assemble a platter of deli nibbles to pass around when my guests arrive. This buys me extra time to focus on the main course and is always a welcome way to break the ice. It feels far more relaxed to have guests stand and mill around, rather than sitting them down in a formal living room.

You don't have to start from scratch to make great nibbles and finger foods. Buy ready-made snacks (as long as they taste really good) and give them your own signature with a drizzle of the best olive oil, a grating of lemon zest or parmesan, or a sprinkle of paprika or fresh herbs.

I like to have a range of "fridge fixings" on hand for last-minute entertaining or those occasions when friends drop by unexpectedly. These handy make-ahead sauces, dressing, flavourings and spreads can be kept on hand in the fridge or the pantry, then used to add a homemade touch to platters of store-bought offerings.

Finger food has a reputation for being fiddly but your efforts don't need to be complicated to ease everyone's hunger or make guests feel relaxed. Tip wasabi peas, pistachios and roasted nuts out of the packets and into bowls. Or try roasting your own nuts flavoured with soy or baking olives in oil with chillies and other fragrant flavours.

Buy dips or, better still, make things like pesto, salsa verde and hummus ahead of time and serve them with crisp cucumber wedges, green beans and asparagus plus a platter of artisan breads or your own home-baked crusty flat bread.

Lavosh, a thin, crunchy Middle Eastern bread, is the perfect pre-dinner nibble with blue cheese and dried fruit such as figs and pear. It will keep for weeks in an air-tight container and it lends a nice homemade touch to a platter of store-bought treats. You can cut it into any shapes you like - so long as the dough is very thin you'll get a fabulous crisp bread.

First impressions count. So focus on quality, attractive presentation and a good wine match and your guests will instantly feel special.

Note: you could make the Lavosh a link to the Sesame & Oregano Lavosh recipe

Annabel Langbein is the star of the new TV ONE series Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook (7pm Saturdays).

Watch more Annabel Langbein recipe videos.

Get Annabel Langbein's Sesame & Oregano Lavosh recipe.

Get all Annabel Langbein's cooking tips here.

See the cookbook Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook for all the recipes from the TV show.

Share on Facebook: Share

User comments

Write a comment
Email: *
Your email will not be shared with any third parties or published with your comment.
Nickname: *
Location: *

Maximum characters 1000

Comment guidelines
Avoid using:
  • Personal attacks
  • Irrelevant comments
  • HTML tags
  • Personal information
  • Offensive language
See full comment guidelines
Comment guidelines X
Thank you for sharing your opinions with other users of NineMSN. People will find your comments more helpful if you include relevant information and avoid some common pitfalls.
Please note: All reviews and comments submitted are subject to moderation, NineMSN reserves the right to alter and / or remove any content that does not comply with usage guidelines.
What to include in your comment:
  • A title that briefly summarizes the opinion expressed in the comment.
  • Additional comments adding more detail.
  • Comparisons to other similar products, if this is relevant.
  • To create a new paragraph, press the Enter key twice.
What not to include:
  • Information that will quickly go out of date.
  • Comments on other comments or commenters.
  • Language that other users may find offensive.
  • comments of one sentence or less. Provide information to support your opinion.
  • Personal information like your email address or telephone number.
  • HTML coding. Tags like <b> or <i> will not be recognized.

Not sure what you'd like to cook tonight? Why not browse our various categories to help you get inspired...

Chicken Seafood Taste recipes Dinner parties New Zealand Low-fat Easy Quick Baking Salmon Vegetarian Low-cost

The Food TruckMike van de Elzen from The Food Truck has shared some of his healthy international dishes.
Dinner partyWe can help you plan what to cook with our dinner party menu planner.