Whether you’re hosting a Christmas or birthday party or just cooking for a bunch of picky eaters, a buffet is a great way to cater to a variety of tastes.
And it doesn’t mean slaving over a hot stove all day, either. You just need to be clever about what – and how – you cook. For starters, maximise your time by creating oven-based dishes so you can overlap making each recipe. This is better than frying food, which needs your constant attention – and is less healthy too.
Get your kids to help you with washing and prepping any veg and don’t make a fuss over puddings. A plate of pretty cakes and a colourful spread of easily chopped fruits will go down well.
Another ideas is to simplify your buffet. Make different dishes based on one kind of meat, such as chicken, and one fish – smoked salmon is great as it needs little preparation – and then make a big bowl of pasta with Napoli sauce for the veggies. That way you can prepare all your meat and fish in one go.
As for recipes, read on for some tasty food bites that you can make just an hour before party time.
Tangy potato wedges: 40 minutes
These are an easy snacking option to serve alongside buffet mains with bowls of mayo and ketchup. Bake them while you get on with other things.
At a glance: wash and cut unpeeled Maris Piper potatoes lengthways into five or six wedges each. Coat in oil and bake for at least 30 mins (gas 6, 200ºC, 400ºF). Turn occasionally and add chilli oil, or sprinkle with paprika or tangy grated Parmesan when the wedges have 10 minutes left to cook.
Baked chicken nuggets: 20 minutes
At least if you make them at home you know they really are made of chicken…
At a glance: cut six boned, skinned chicken breasts into nuggets and coat with egg white mixed with water, then coat in seasoned breadcrumbs and bake for 15 mins (gas 6, 200°C, 400°F).
Chicken and pasta salad: 20 minutes
This works well served warm or cold. Boil up a double batch of pasta and use for pasta Napoli too (see below).
Method: toss four boned, skinned chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized chunks) in olive oil with strips of spring onion and red pepper. Grill on a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, turn so vegetables don’t burn and cook for another 5-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Toss in the boiled penne pasta and top with cherry tomatoes.
Effortless pasta Napoli: 10 minutes
Although this does require sitting down to eat, you can still gossip with a fork in one hand and a bowl of this in the other.
At a glance: finely chop onion and garlic (mushrooms or courgettes work well too if you like), lightly fry in a splash of olive oil with oregano. Add 400g chopped tomatoes and simmer until 300g penne or pasta shells have boiled, then toss together.
Easy-cheesy pies: 25 minutes
Little pies are easy and can be filled with anything you think will complement the rest of your buffet.
At a glance: cut 12 circles of rolled shortcrust pastry and press into a greased bun tray. Add cooked sweetcorn, peas or small chunks of cooked ham and pour over a mixture of whisked eggs, milk and grated mature cheese. Bake for 18-20 minutes (gas 6, 200ºC or 400ºF).
Mini toad in the holes: 25 minutes
These are almost too cute to eat – almost…
At a glance: cook a batch of Yorkshire puddings according to the instructions. Warm up a plate of cocktail sausages and place one or two in each cooked pudding, pouring a little onion gravy over each. Serve warm.
Do you have any time-savvy party buffet recipes to share? Let us know in the comments section below.