quick bites for a hungry crowd

mainpictureIt tends to happen when you least expect it. "I'll invite some people over for dinner and some quiet drinks" you may think to yourself, one quiet Monday evening. "Maybe this one, and this one's girlfriend, and then that one. Oh! And I have to invite so-and-so because I've been promising to for so long..." So you tally up names and count out invites, always leaving room for a 20% no-can-do rate. You send your invites out exactly (and only) one week before, so that the chances of everybody turning up to your little party are at 70%, and then everybody says yes. And you're suddenly feeding 20.

And you're thrilled! Because just about everybody can come! And then you're freaking. out. because. everybody. can. come.

So here's some little things you can throw together that will make it look like you've gone to a whole heap of effort, when really, it wasn't all that bad.

figgy ricotta & honey pancakes

These are a treat. All you need to do is make a standard pancake recipe (there's a good one right here), but little. So instead of making standard 10-15cm across pancakes, make them 5-7cm across. Small spoonfuls should do it.

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plate of pancakes

Once the pancakes are done and cooled (or even while they are cooling), mush the ricotta up with some cinnamon. All you need to do now, is dollop on the ricotta, squish a quarter of a fig on top and drizzle with honey.

Instant crowd pleaser.

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drizzling the honey on top

smoky eggplant dip

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This one is just lovely as well, and good to serve with chunks of bread for hungry hungry hippos. The other thing that's good? The price! For the same price as one sad and lonely container of supermarket dip, you'll have two cups of eggplanty goodness to share around.

First, prick your eggplants all over with a fork & stick them under the grill at 200C for about 20 minutes, or until they feel squishy. Turn them over every now and then while they're grilling. They'll end up looking as below.

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grilled eggplants

Let them cool until you can handle them (Beyonce, can you handle it? I don't think they can handle this. Wooooo!) and rip the skins off. They will be mushy.

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easy peel

Let the peeled eggplants drain in a colander for about 10 mins to get rid of excess liquid, then chop & whiz them in a food processor with a clove of garlic, a splash of olive oil and some salt. If you like, throw in a teaspoon of tahini and some chilli. Totally optional though. That's it. Simple.

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eggplants draining

new roasted potatoes

The trick to quick and easy roast potatoes is boiling them first. Stick 'em in a pot with some salted water and let go crazy while you're preparing your other food.

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boiling the 'taters

Once they're cooked (and perhaps a touch overcooked), cut them into quarters, rough the edges up a bit and add salt, butter & some rosemary. Grill at 200C until the edges are crispy. Doneskis.

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boiled potatoes

couscous with raisins & almonds

Couscous is so versatile it's almost embarrassing. I like to add a lump of butter and some sultanas or raisins to the mix before adding the hot water to it (just follow the packet instructions, or take a squiz at one of my previous recipes for ideas).

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couscous, ready for wa-ter!

Later on, I stirred some slivered almonds, chopped parsley and roasted pumpkin into the mix. Salted well, pepper a touch. Absolutely divine.

So, what are your quick & easies (but oh-so-impressives) for big groups or gatherings?

11 bites more:

Mouth-closed Cat said...

those pancakes were the bomb!

chocolatesuze said...

*laughs* "a lump" of butter?! omg that is one freaking huge lump! (can ya handle it?)

jesse said...

Whoaaa, I would be freaaaaaking out! Looks like you threw a wonderful get-together with amazing food though! That smoky eggplant dip sounds MMMMM!

Arwen from Hogelt K said...

The pancakes look beautiful! You make the eggplant dip sound easy too. I'll have to try it.

Y said...

What great ideas. I always freak out when it comes to feeding big groups, mostly because I try to cook too many things! Rice paper spring rolls are always a favourite, even if they're slightly labour intensive.

Simon said...

Great work with the spread! :)

Have you tried grilling the eggplants on a charcoal grill. If done right, they render down to a mahogany-like colour which brings a wonderfully sublime flavour and smokiness to the dip. It's a bit of effort but I think it's well worth it.

FFichiban said...

Ooh yummmm everything sound simple yet tasty mmm ^^!

shez said...

Mouth-closed Cat: glad you liked em :) your sher-ducken was a work of art.

chocolatesuze: butter = flavour. hence lump of butter. it's not as thick as it looks!

jesse: thankyou! i quite like having people over so not so big a deal - and when just about everything can be preprepared, it's not so hard at all.

Arwen: thanks :) i accidentally put too much garlic in the eggplant dip ('twas quite spicy after that) so have toned the receipe down accordingly...

Y: me too! tried to be sensible this time around though. rice paper rolls are a great crowd pleaser, but i'm way too lazy to do all that chopping & prep work.

Simon: i have, but what with the other stuff i had to prepare (this is only half of it) just didn't have the time. it is lovely though.

FFichiban: *bows* hehe - quite good for a saturday cook up no? ;)

Simon said...

What did the other half end up being? Perhaps another post?

shez said...

Simon: nah... it got eaten too quickly. also, i'd done some of the recipes previously. it consisted of chicken satay, sticky rice, baducken, bocconcini/tomato/rocket/mango salad, chips & fresh salsa and a chocolate&pear pudding (for dessert). went down a treat :)

Babydoll's Project 365 said...

the couscous (so good, they had to name it twice) and almonds and sultanas sounds divine i've written it into my diary! :)

will omit roast pumpkin and chopped parsley to make it sweet not savoury :)

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