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Stop the Christmas ‘party food’ madness

Pub party food platter 2

Mmmmmm. Grease.

I’ve been at a couple of Christmas events in pubs recently where party food was served. You’ll all be familiar with what we got: large platters of food all the colours of the beige rainbow. Sausages, wedges, onion bhajis, chicken goujons, chips, garlic mushrooms. Everything was deep fried.

One particularly dreadful platter came accompanied with a gravy boat full of sweet chilli sauce, an over-rated and over-used condiment which could do with being retired for many years (until the inevitable ironic revival of course).

I know that finger food is a tricky one for chefs. A few years ago, a trend took off in the UK for canapes that were tiny versions of main meals – little cups of chowder, tiny burgers, miniature fish and chips. Adorable, except a friend of mine who has worked in catering says that they are a nightmare to serve hot. You can see why pubs opt for the deep fried option – they’re easy to prepare and easy to keep warm, and go well with a variety of booze. But at the last event, I really noticed how many people said that this type of food made them feel horrible afterwards, and how it’s so difficult to stop picking at these things even when you’re not enjoying them.

I’m not being a food snob here, honest: all the foods I mention above can be great (especially cocktail sausages), but the unrelenting greasiness of them all served together is very offputting. Would it really be that difficult to mix in a few vegetable and non-fried snacks among all the glistening breadcrumbs?

Pubs might not be willing to do more than transfer food from the freezer to the frier to the tray, but it doesn’t have to be like that when you’re preparing party food at home.  Here’s a few suggestions for easy to make party food that include some colour, and utilise techniques other than deep-frying:

  • A ball of mozzarella with a sundried or cherry tomato and a basil leaf, speared on a cocktail stick
  • Vegetable crudites – carrots and cucumbers chopped into sticks and served with hummus
  • A chunk of melon wrapped in a thin strip of proscuitto
  • Brown bread with smoked salmon, or smoked mackerel with horseradish
  • Bruschetta – can be piled high with pesto, tapenade, grilled peppers, artichoke hearts or something as simple as fresh chopped tomatoes.
  • A frittata or Spanish omelette chopped into tiny bite-size chunks
  • Rice paper spring rolls – much lighter and more delicate than the deep fried variety. They’re easy to make and are a good way of using up leftover meat – throw in some strips of pork or a few prawns along with shredded spring onions, skinny sticks of cucumber and grated carrot. You could use plum sauce or even just a few drops of soy as the seasoning.

What are your favourite easy and non-greasy party foods?


  1. I totally agree: sweet chilli sauce should be ILLEGAL. I have no idea why it’s so popular. Gross gross gross.

  2. When work parties advertise “finger food supplied”, I always have something to eat before I go. Or I stick to a bag of peanuts. Anything but deep fried mushrooms in batter or sticky chili chicken wings.

  3. +1

    I feel ill just reading “beige rainbow”.

  4. I feel obliged to defend sweet chilli sauce, it can be awesome, especially with mayonaise, but certainly there do need to be more options available.
    Maybe little cups of soup, nom nom nom

  5. For shame, but two things I do only twice a year are eat deep fried beige crap and drink beer. Both of these things happen at Christmas and I cant wait for my first taste of breaded goo that I can’t quite identify. (The other ocassion is the Electric Picnic 😀 )

    Sweet chili sauce is disgusting all year round though.

  6. The best use for sweet chilli sauce is with some grilled, melting, strong cheddar cheese on toast. There, it’s actually rather good.