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PARTY PIECES

My friends will agree with me — I’ve always loved parties. And there’s something in my blood that inspires me to entertain. I love creating food that friends will enjoy. There’s nothing better than good company, good food and good wine.

So for me the coming festive season is the time I love the best.

I have a little secret. It’s not all about good food, it’s also how it is presented. That’s why I have a cupboard full of old sherry glasses I can serve mini salads in or cold soup as in gazpacho; small bowls to hold individual spicy meatballs; three dozen Chinese soup spoons for marinated fish or thinly sliced pink venison and tamarillo chutney; and an assortment of little plates and forks for guests to help themselves to antipasto platters.

So although the presentation is different some of the dishes are almost everyday — ever tried potato salad served in a sherry glass topped with a prawn?

Preparation needn’t take all day. Bread cases, toasted crostini, fragrant meatballs, olives baked in cheese pastry and mini Thai green curry chicken pies can be frozen in readiness.

Pâtés — either vegetarian or meat — are also good standbys. They can be made in bulk and frozen in individual ramekins. Thaw in the refrigerator and serve with a good dollop of chutney on the side.

LEMON CHICKEN BITES

If dill is unavailable use dill stir-in paste available from your supermarket produce department.

Dill Sauce: 3/4 cup plain Greek-style yoghurt
1 tablespoon each: finely grated lemon rind, lemon juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons each: chopped mint, dill
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
Chicken Bites: 500g minced chicken
2 tablespoons each: finely grated lemon rind, lemon juice, chopped parsley
4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon each: dried oregano, basil
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
1-2 tablespoons canola oil

Combine the ingredients for the sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Combine the ingredients for the chicken bites — except the canola oil — until well mixed. Roll into walnut-sized balls.

Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Pan-fry half the bites, shaking the pan to turn them over so they brown evenly. Pan-fry for about 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove with tongs to a paper towel lined oven-proof dish. Keep warm in the oven while the remainder are cooked.

Serve with the sauce in a bowl on the side for dipping. Makes 24 chicken bites and about 1 1/4 cups sauce.

SPINACH & FETA MINI BREAD CASES

Mini Bread Cases: 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
9 slices white sandwich bread
Filling:1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
120g bag baby spinach leaves
125g feta crumbled
1/4 cup Greek-style yoghurt
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Lightly oil three 12-hole mini muffin pans or similar.

Trim the crusts from the bread. Cut each slice into quarters, about 5cm squares. Lightly oil the tops then press — oil-side up— into the holes. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden and crisp. These can be prepared ahead and stored in an airtight container.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Sauté the shallot, until softened. Add the garlic then the spinach leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is limp.

Place in a food processor. Add the other ingredients and pulse until well combined.

Chill, if required, for up to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Spoon the filling into the mini bread cases. Bake for 15 minutes or until the mixture is just set. Serve immediately. Makes 36.

KUMARA & PRAWN FRITTERS

Add chopped chilli to increase the heat, if preferred.

1 medium orange kumara, peeled and shredded
250g shelled raw prawns, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons each: self-raising flour, finely chopped coriander
finely grated rind 1 kaffir lime or Tahitian lime
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup milk or coconut milk
rice bran oil for frying

Combine all the ingredients — except the oil — adding enough milk or coconut milk to combine.

Heat the rice bran oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add tablespoons of the mixture in batches, cooking for 1-2 minutes each side on medium heat. Remove and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remainder.

Great served with chilli sauce or sour cream. Makes 16.

CHEESE & BACON MELTS

A hearty snack. The sundried tomatoes could be exchanged for tapenade, or sliced dill pickles.

4 rashers streaky bacon
4 generous slices French bread cut on the diagonal
4-6 sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
100g harvati cheese, thinly sliced
chopped fresh herbs to garnish

Grill or microwave the bacon, until crisp.

Toast the bread. Top with the chopped bacon, sundried tomatoes and cheese. Grill until the cheese is melted. Garnish with herbs. Serves 4.