If you're planning a party this Saturday, take care of your canapés, finger food and mocktails the easy way by preparing them in advance. These six simple recipes can all be made well before your guests arrive.
Ginger cordial with star anise ice cubes
Refreshing and aromatic, this ginger cordial is a good thirst quencher and also accompanies Asian foods extremely well. Serves 10
20 star anise
225g stem ginger in syrup
2.25l sparkling mineral water
Freeze the star anise with water in ice cube trays for four to six hours.
Blend the stem ginger with all the syrup and a little of the mineral water until really well puréed, for about one minute. Divide between glasses, top up with the remaining water and stir well. Add some star anise ice cubes to each and serve.
Advance preparation: purée the ginger, cover and chill up to seven days ahead. Dilute to order.
When time is short, this is a recipe where you can buy all the basics ready to do a quick assembly line job. If you want to speed things up, use shop-bought pesto and tapenade. Makes 30
400g puff pastry
Flour, for rolling
Butter, for greasing
1 small egg yolk
1 tsp water
2 tsp poppy seeds
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 x the basic chunky pesto recipe (see below)
1 x the basic chunky tapenade recipe (see below)
50g sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
75g Parmesan grated
75g cheddar, grated
You will also need a 5cm fluted cutter
For the chunky basil or coriander pesto
125g basil or coriander leaves
125g pine nuts, toasted
5 small cloves garlic, crushed
5 tbsp olive oil
125g Parmesan grates
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Make the chunky pesto by roughly chopping the basil or coriander together. Put into a bowl with the pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan and seasoning and mix together. Make the pesto no more then one hour before using, otherwise the basil or coriander will discolour.
For the chunky tapenade
125g pitted black olives
2 heaped tbsp fresh parsley leaves
2 tbsp capers, drained
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Roughly chop the olives, parsley and capers together. Put them in a bowl with the mustard, olive oil and seasoning and mix together.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to make an oblong 30cm x 36cm x 5mm thick.
Stamp out 30 discs using the cutter. Lift onto lightly greased baking trays, leaving space between each to allow them to rise. Do not re-roll the off-cuts as they will not rise evenly.
Mix the egg yolk, water and salt together, brush the tops of the pastries with this glaze and sprinkle with the poppy and mustard seeds. Don't let the egg drip over the sides as this will stop the pastry from rising. Chill for 30 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for 10-15 minutes until well risen and a rich golden colour. Cool on a wire rack.
Put the pesto, tapenade and sun-dried tomato mixtures into three bowls, divide the Parmesan and cheddar between them and then separately pulse each in a blender until you have a thickish paste.
Split the pastries in half, fill 10 of each with the different mixtures, put onto baking trays and reheat at gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for 10 minutes or until hot. Serve.
Advance preparation: stamp out the pastries, cover and refrigerate up to one day ahead. On the day, glaze, bake and then fill up to six hours before. Reheat to order.
Freezing: freeze either uncooked and unfilled up to four weeks before, or cooked and unfilled for up to three weeks before.
Mozzarella salad with olives, anchovies & parsley
Mozzarella should be teamed with distinctive tasting ingredients. This olive-parsley salad has that in abundance. Serves 10
For the olive-parsley salad
50g pitted black olives, chopped
2 rounded tbsp diced red onion
2 rounded tbsp chopped parsley
2 dessert spoons olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
25g anchovies, roughly chopped
40g sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 mozzarella, each sliced into 5
2 tbsp olive oil
Toss all the ingredients together for the olive-parsley salad, add the anchovies and sun dried tomatoes and mix well.
Put the mozzarella on a platter, spoon over the olive mixture and drizzle over the oil. Serve.
Advance preparation: Crush the garlic, chop the olives, onion and parsley and store separately, covered in the fridge up to one day before. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and anchovies and store separately, covered in the fridge, up to one day before. Combine the olive-parsley salad up to four hours ahead and assemble the salad up to 30 minutes before, cover and chill.
Sticky red curry chicken wings
Sticky, shiny fire-engine red and Thai-flavoured, these chicken wings can be barbecued or roasted. Makes 10
110g palm sugar, or dark brown sugar
110g tomato purée
50g Thai red curry paste
2 tsp salt
10 chicken wings
Vegetable oil, for greasing
Heat the tomato puree and palm sugar together in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, for about four to five minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the curry paste and salt. Cool, pour over the chicken wings and toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate and allow to marinate for a minimum of four hours.
Transfer the chicken to a lightly oiled roasting tin and spread them out. Roast in a preheated oven at gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for 35-40 minutes until cooked and slightly charred.
Alternatively, place the chicken wings on an oiled barbecue rack 10cm to 15cm above medium-hot coals and cook for about 12-15 minutes, turning once. Serve hot or cold.
Advance preparation: cook, cover and chill up to one day before. If serving hot, reheat at gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for 20 minutes until piping hot.
Scented edible flowers and herbs, such as jasmine, borage, elderflower and applemint, can be used to make this delicate infusion. Use sugar-encrusted swizzle sticks as decorative stirrers. Serves 10
Handful of unsprayed jasmine flowers, plus a few extra for decoration
1.5l boiling water
10 sugar swizzle sticks
Put the jasmine flowers in a cafetière, pour over the boiling water and allow to infuse for five minutes before plunging. Pour into glasses, add a jasmine flower for decoration and serve with the sugar swizzle sticks.
Seared salmon, asparagus & potato salad
Ideally serve this slightly warm, but if that's not possible, serve it cold and make sure that you take it out of the fridge a good 30 minutes before serving. Serves 10
For the mustard dressing
1 tbsp sweet mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp caster sugar
1kg small new waxy potatoes, left unpeeled
750g skinned salmon fillet
1 tbsp olive oil + extra for greasing
2 tsp Maldon, or flaked sea salt
350g asparagus, each spear cut diagonally into 3
1 rounded tbsp chervil (if unavailable, substitute with parsley)
1 rounded tbsp mint leaves
1 rounded tbsp basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and season.
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Drain, cool a little, cut in half and then pour over half of the mustard dressing and toss well. The potatoes will absorb more flavour if you do this whilst they are still hot.
Rub the salmon on both sides, first with the oil and then with a mixture of the salt and paprika. Sear it on a very hot preheated, oiled chargrill on either side, for about eight to 10 minutes in total, until crisp and golden on the outside and still slightly pink on the inside. Transfer to a tray to cool and break into neat, forkable pieces.
Boil the asparagus for about three minutes in a pan of salted water until al dente, drain in a colander under running cold water to preserve the colour. Dry on kitchen paper. Alternatively, cook on the char-grill for four to five minutes.
Arrange the potatoes, salmon and asparagus in a dish. Drizzle over the remaining dressing and then scatter over a mixture of herbs. Serve.
Advance preparation: make the dressing up to two days before; cook the salmon, potatoes and asparagus up to one day ahead, cover and chill.
Assemble up to four hours before, except for the herbs, cover and chill. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving and scatter over the herbs.