There is nothing I like more than sharing food. (That seems a big statement – I’m sure there are lots of things I like more than sharing food, but it sounded like an effective way of starting this post).
When eating out in restaurants sharing helps eliminate that dreaded food envy which can ruin a meal. It means you get to taste a little bit of everything, helps to break the ice with people you don’t know that well and is just a fun way of enjoying a meal. When you make sharing plates at home, I think it saves a whole load of hassle. And hassle free cooking is what I am all about.
That can often be mistaken for laziness, but I can assure you it is a very different thing (honest). Entertaining your guests with food they can share just makes things a bit easier, for everyone involved. It means you can actually chat to your guests and enjoy yourself….not something that is always guaranteed when you are cooking, and people can choose to eat what they like the look of. I love making a big sharing plate as a starter, that way everyone can get stuck into it whilst they are standing around and chatting. It’s much more relaxed, and you can flit in and out of the kitchen keeping an eye on the main course.
This crudité plate with a twist is one of my current hassle-free favourites. You will need a big platter. Then, it consists of two dips; in this case humous and taramasalata. But I also love whipped ricotta, a beetroot and feta dip, guacamole or smoked mackerel pate. Then add a good mix of veggies; carrots, celery, tomatoes, radishes, baby corn, cucumber. I always love having olives, or artichoke hearts served with little cocktail sticks, so I whack these on the platter too. I then always like to add something with a bit of a crunch or a little bit crispy; here I’ve gone for some falafel and coconut baked prawns, but I also love a spring roll, a puff pastry twist, or a breadstick too. Genuinely anything goes.
Like all the best dishes, try and have a think about textures and tastes, so you should have a good mix of:
…and that way you should have a great tasting plate!
Now, I don’t want any sharp intakes of breath here, this blog is not a place of judgement, okay? What I am going to say may come as a surprise. BUT I speak the truth. I don’t think anyone makes homous that tastes as good as the homous you buy in the shops. It’s true! It’s also much cheaper to buy a pot of homous than faff around with the chickpeas, tahini, lemon, garlic etc etc. You don’t have to tell anyone you bought it, just decant it into a lovely pot and accept the compliments. Of course I do make my own and if you want to, here is the recipe, but I’m just saying if you want to buy it, that’s perfectly okay too.
- 200g canned chickpeas
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 100ml tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 4 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Drain the chickpeas and rinse.
- Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt, tahini, and water in a food processor, and blend to a creamy purée.
- Add more lemon juice, garlic, cumin or salt to taste.
The same can probably be said for taramasalata, by all means pick up a tub of the pink stuff. I can easily polish off a tub of this myself with lots of warm crusty bread. Complete and utter heaven. But it is surprisingly easy to make and everyone will be very impressed. My version isn’t traditional taramasalata, it’s a smoked salmon version which would probably have the Greek population running for the hills, but I love it.
- 100g smoked salmon
- 200g low-fat soft cheese
- 100g crème fraîche
- juice 1 lemon
- drizzle of olive oil
- Tip the salmon, soft cheese, crème fraîche and lemon juice into a food processor. Blitz everything until smooth, then stir in a very large pinch cracked pepper. Spoon the mix into a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil
I LOVE falafel. I eat them at least once a week and don’t think I have met one I didnt like. They can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and you can’t really go wrong but here is my favourite go to recipe:
To serve 4 you will need (always make this amount, no matter what the occasion as they keep for a good few days in the fridge and they freeze beautifully)
- 400g frozen soya beans
- 400g canned chickpeas, drained
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon harissa
- 1 bunch coriander
- 1 tablespoon of flour – this could be gluten free flour if you’d prefer
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- First, cook the soya beans in boiling water until lovely and tender, drain and pop into a food processor
- Add the chickpeas and the remaining ingredients
- Blitz until smooth, but stop before it resembles houmous. Now shape into 12 roughly equal sized balls. Then, heat some olive oil in a pan and cook falafel until the are gorgeously golden and crispy
- 450g medium shrimp, tails attached, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour (GF for me, not necessarily for you)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- salt, pepper, to taste
- vegetable or coconut oil for frying
- Place flour, salt and pepper in one bowl. Pop the beaten eggs in a second bowl.
- In a third bowl, combine breadcrumbs with shredded coconut and set aside.
- To butterfly your shrimp, simply cut almost entirely through the middle of them opening them out like a book. Flatten them out, and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat a pan with oil for frying them – either an inch or so to “deep fry” them, or just enough to stop them sticking for a lighter option.
- When ready, dip your shrimp in the flour mixture, then the eggs and then plonk in the coconutty crumb mixture and are sure its well coated
- Fry shrimp until golden brown on both sides. 2-3 minutes per side.
- Enjoy warm!