Grown-Up Party Food

Image of prawn shots and mixed canapes

Christmas is almost upon us and if you’re having a party, it’s tempting to throw up your hands and buy canapés from the shops. But if you do feel like making your own, here are a few quick and easy ideas. (And some more here and here.)

The inspiration for the tandoori biscuits came from David Wicks, chef patron of the 7.45pm restaurant up the road from us (although I should say the recipe is my own). I also pinched his idea for dipping the peppers in onion seeds. Sadly the restaurant is closing at Christmas so unless he writes a cookery book the opportunities for blatant plagiarism or as I prefer to call it, Homage To The Maestro, are at an end. Boo.

Tabasco Prawn Vodka Shots

  • Servings: 1 per person is probably enough
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Image of spicy prawn vodka and Bloody Marys

Kick-start your party with a tray full of these. If you can get past the fact that they look a bit like pickled body parts they’re one heck of an icebreaker. Alternatively make up a Bloody Mary mix, or a Virgin Mary for the non-drinkers, pour into shot glasses and hang a spicy prawn over the edge.


Small cooked prawns

Lots of Tabasco

The juice of 1/2 to 1 lime, depending on quantity

Ice-cold vodka


Pat the prawns dry, put them in a bowl with the lime juice and a good shake of Tabasco. Stir and leave to marinate in the fridge. To serve, put a spicy prawn at the bottom of each shot glass and top up with the icy vodka. Add more Tabasco if you like the hot stuff but don’t overdo it or they’ll go cloudy. Drink immediately.

Stuffed Spicy Peppers

  • Servings: A big plateful
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Image of stuffed spicy peppers


A jar of Pepperdew mild piquante peppers, well drained

About 350g cream cheese, seasoned with salt and pepper

A few black onion seeds


Pipe the cream cheese into the mini peppers and run a knife over the top so the filling is level with the top of the peppers. Sprinkle the onion seeds on a flat plate and press the cheesy end of the peppers into the seeds to coat lightly.

Rye Toasts with Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon

  • Servings: As many as you need
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Image of rye toasts with dill cream cheese and smoked salmon

I haven’t given quantities for this – just make as many as you need. Cut thin slices from a light rye loaf (halve them if they’re huge) and bake them in in an oven pre-heated to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 for about 10 minutes or until golden, turning once. Allow to cool.

Mix cream cheese with chopped fresh dill and season with salt and pepper. Just before serving spread the cream cheese mixture on the toasts and top with curls of smoked salmon. Thinly-sliced gravadlax, smoked trout or smoked eel would also work. Garnish with dill fronds.

Tandoori Shortbreads

Image of tandoori shortbreads with prawns


175 g plain flour

About 1 tbsp tandoori spice mix (buy ready-made or check online for recipe) or to taste

A pinch of salt (unless your tandoori mix already contains it)

100g butter

1 egg yolk lightly whisked with 1 tbsp cold water

Plus: the toppings of your choice (see below)


Sift the flour into a bowl, add the tandoori spice mix and a pinch of salt (if needed, see above). Add the butter in pieces and rub it in. Pour into the egg/water and mix and stir to a rough dough. Tip onto a lightly floured board and knead briefly to remove any cracks. Form into a roll about 5cm in diameter, wrap in cling film and chill until firm.

Image of tandoori shortbread dough rolled into a sausage

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Unwrap the dough and slice with a sharp knife into rounds 5mm thick. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. These can be made in advance and stored for up to a week in an air-tight tin.

Image of tandoori shortbreads

Just before serving top with chopped prawns or crab meat or if you’re making this after Christmas, leftover turkey, lightly dressed with a 50-50 mix of mayo and Greek yoghurt. Sprinkle with cayenne (hot) or sweet paprika (not).

9 thoughts on “Grown-Up Party Food

  1. Thanks for that! Just in time for tomorrow! And I see you like tandoori spice mix too. We use it for our go-to easy ingredient to have with a plate of good bangers. Cut up spuds as for chips, and toss them in a mix of rapeseed oil (or whatever), crushed garlic and tandoori spice. Spread over a lined baking tray and bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so – depending on how chunky you like your chips.

  2. I avoid the neighbour entertainment type functions as best I can. I have a bold streak in me that always causes me to stir up trouble between others at these events. It’s either that or talk house prices and time to retirement. The thought of it all makes me feel rather unwell.

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