Super-easy finger foods to wow your guests this holiday season

Watermelon with feta, spinach rolls, salmon cakes and more

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It’s party time, folks. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the holidays will soon be upon us and you’re probably getting friends or family over for a celebration. On New Year’s Eve, perhaps.

This fortnight I present to you my favourite finger foods. Tested time and again, these come out great as appetizers. True to my trademark anthem – Minimum Effort for Maximum Effect –  most of these are no-fuss recipes. You won’t find a deep-fried snack here (or puff pastry based dishes). Who’s got the time? Plus the seasonal produce is wonderful this time of year, so why not retain original flavours and textures, I ask you.

Watermelon with Feta

~Seedless watermelon
~Danish Feta cheese
~Basil leaves for garnish
~Freshly ground pepper
~Extra virgin olive oil.

Summer Starters.Indian Link

Cut up watermelon into neat bite-sized rectangles. Arrange on a white platter. Place a basil leaf on each – keep the leaf whole or tear up. Crumble the Danish feta and arrange on top of the leaf. Drizzle some good quality olive oil over, allowing some to splash on the platter. Grind fresh pepper over the top.

Great as a starter.

Spinach Wrapped Chicken Rolls

~500 gms chicken breast fillets
~1 small onion, chopped
~2 cups yoghurt
~1 egg white
~2 slices bread, crusts removed
~1 tbsp soy sauce
~Red chilli powder to taste
~Large spinach leaves, white stalks removed
~1 cup white wine

Put into a food processor chicken, onion, yoghurt, egg white, bread soy sauce and red chilli powder. Blend till smooth. (There’s no need for salt if you’re using soy sauce, but do a taste test regardless, and add some if you feel it is needed).

Spread out spinach leaves on bench top, underside facing up. Flatten as much as possible without tearing. Spread mixture thickly over each leaf. Wet your palms and roll the leaf up gently.

Summer Starters.Indian Link

In a large flat bottomed pan, bring the wine to a gently boil. Put the rolls in one by one, flap side down. Cover and cook for about ten minutes. Keep checking to see liquid does not evaporate completely. Take out and cool completely.

Slice gently into circles. To serve, put a toothpick on each, and serve with a sauce of your choice.

(You can substitute chicken stock for wine).

Cheesy Pita Bread Spikes

~2 rounds pita bread
~¼ cup olive oil
~1 clove garlic crushed
~¼ tsp red chilli powder
~Plenty of shredded cheese
~Fresh parsley, chopped

Mix garlic and red chilli powder into olive oil. Spread over the pita bread. Sprinkle cheese over, and then the parsley. Cut into thin wedges using a pizza cutter. Gently pick each one up and arrange on lined oven tray. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Tomato and Basil Muffins

~2 cups plain flour
~3 tsp baking powder
~½ tsp salt
~1 tsp sugar
~¼ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, oil drained
~3 tbsp oil from the sundried tomatoes
~2 eggs
~1 cup milk
~2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
~Red chilli powder to taste
~Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add in sugar and red chilli powder and mix.
~Chop up sundried tomatoes.

Summer Starters.Indian Link

Beat oil, milk and eggs together until combined. Pour into dry ingredients. Add in sundried tomatoes and basil. Mix well.

Grease a mini muffin pan. Put mixture in up to the three-quarters mark. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Serve hot or cold with a good mayonnaise and chilli jam.

Salmon Cakes

~210 gms can salmon, drained, forked down and skin and bones removed
~4 eggs
~½ cup each red, yellow and green capsicum, chopped
~½ bunch dill, finely chopped OR chopped shallots
~½ cup shredded tasty cheese
~Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together. Grease a mini muffin tray and spoon egg mixture in. Bake in a 180 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot or cold with a good mayonnaise and chilli jam.

Sausage Discs

~3 large kransky sausages
~½ cup parmesan cheese
~½ cup grated cheddar cheese
~2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
~2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
~¼ cup breadcrumbs
~1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix cheese, herbs, breadcrumbs and egg in bowl.

Cut kransky sausages diagonally into 1-cm thick rounds. Put 1 tsp mixture onto each sausage slice and smoothen. Cook under hot grill until lightly browned.

(Best warn the guests what they’re eating. Indian vegetarian guests often mistake the red of the sausage for tomato).

Vegetable Bites

Salad vegetables
~Cherry tomatoes
~Cucumbers
~Celery (for filling)
~375 gms cream cheese
~200 gms plain yoghurt
~Red pesto sauce
~Green pesto sauce

For garnish
~Fresh herbs such as basil, mint, dill and chives
~Walnut halves
~Red caviar
~Sliced olives
~Sliced red capsicum

Summer Starters.Indian Link

To prepare fillings, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in yoghurt and whisk till smooth. Put into three separate bowls. To one bowl add green pesto sauce, and to the second red pesto sauce. Keep the third bowl as is. You now have three different colours of filling.

To prepare vegetables, wash and dry. Slice tops from cherry tomatoes (take a thin slice off the bottoms too, so they can have a base to sit on). Slice cucumbers thickly (or, you can cut into thick batons and scoop the centre out to make a hole for filling). String celery and cut into 2.5 cm lengths (slice at an angle).

To prepare garnishes, wash and shake dry herbs, slice olives and capsicum thinly and cut up walnut neatly.

To assemble, arrange vegetables on platter, spoon filling over and arrange garnishes on top. Mix and match for colour, the vegetables filling and garnish – presentation is important here.

You could use other vegetables, such as button mushrooms: remove stalk and place on platter like a boat, and then fill in.