It’s party season — time for some festive frolics with friends and family and providing those essential finger foods does not have to be stressful or time consuming. Just plan ahead and remember it’s important to provide some choices that are dairy, meat and gluten-free.

Many party nibbles can be prepared ahead. For example, chicken liver pâté can be prepared up to three months in advance, frozen in small bowls then thawed in the fridge for 6 hours. It can be made with an olive-oil based spread to make it dairy and gluten-free. And there is a great choice of GF crackers to serve it on.

Canned beans such as kidney and cannellini also make great spreads or dips: drain and purée, then combine with chopped fresh herbs, lemon juice, crushed garlic and freshly ground black pepper. Or for a zany dip, mix generous amounts of piccalilli into sour cream.

Although dips are great served as ‘dips’ they can also double as toppers for crostini (use generous amounts) or as fillers for hot mini vol-au-vent cases. Add some diced crisp vegetables or salami for interest.

And you can augment your home-made goodies with some store-bought treats. I’ve fallen for Barkers gluten-free and vegan Artichoke Antipasto Spread — excellent dolloped on fresh ciabatta.


A couple of my friends taste-tested this dip and immediately asked for the recipe. I hope you enjoy it too. If you don’t want to serve the dip in the shell, just peel the eggplants and use all the flesh. Add a little canola oil to make it more spreadable if you wish.

600g or 2 x 300g eggplants 
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 each: small onion, red capsicum, carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons each: tomato paste, cider vinegar
4 tablespoons water
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
 freshly ground black pepper to taste

With a sharp knife cut a slice off the side of the eggplant. Using a spoon or sharp knife remove the pulp from the inside leaving a 1cm-thick shell. Place aside. 

Chop the flesh finely and sprinkle with salt. Stand for 30 minutes, then drain.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the chopped eggplant, onion, capsicum, carrot and garlic, until tender. Stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, water, curry powder and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes until well combined. 

Purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. May be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. To serve, spoon the mixture back into the shell. Serve with potato chippies or crisp vegetable sticks as dippers. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


1 ciabatta or poppy seed loaf
butter or table spread
1 cup smooth sundried tomato antipasto or tomato-based chutney
1 small onion, diced
50g pancetta, chopped
2 large gherkins, diced
1/2 each: large red, yellow, capsicum, diced
1 cup grated tasty cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Slice the bread then cut each slice into four pieces. Butter each piece and spread with antipasto or chutney. 

Top with the onion, pancetta, gherkin and capsicums then sprinkle with a little cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes on an oven tray, or until crispy. Makes approximately 40.


Prepare ahead and serve at room temperature or warm through in the microwave.

1/2 cup orange juice
12 plump dried apricots
75g camembert
4-5 rashers streaky bacon
1/2 cup spicy tomato relish or chutney

Place the orange juice and apricots in a bowl. Cover and microwave for about 2 minutes, until softened. Stand, until cool. Cut the camembert into 1cm cubes.

Brush each bacon rasher with relish. Cut into pieces long enough to wrap around each drained apricot together with a cube of camembert. Secure with small skewers.

Grill for 2-3 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking. Brush with more relish and serve. Makes 12.


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