Although I absolutely love the process of planning a party (from choosing the theme through to devising the menu and making a killer playlist!) I must admit that some of the best nights of my life have been the result of impromptu gatherings. After-work drinks that turn into all night dancing, dinners that turn into late night karaoke sessions (don’t ask)…those times are always fun!
However, as a hostess, last minute parties can also be somewhat of a nightmare. I used to get really stressed out when people would just turn up at my house and I’d have nothing to serve them but stale chips. Sure we’d have a great time on the night but drinking on an empty stomach didn’t make for very ‘joyful’ mornings if you know what I mean…Finally, in the last couple of years, I decided to take my hosting responsibilities a bit more seriously and to start stocking my pantry for such events. The idea was to have a selection of food items that a) would keep for a reasonable amount of time and b) could be turned into quick and easy appetizers at a moment’s notice.
Here are 10 things that I now always have on hand for last minute guests:
Being that I’m a French girl you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I always have cheese in the fridge. Cheese’s not only great to make quick platters but it can also be the basis for a myriad of easy appetizers such as crostini, skewers, cheese balls, the list goes on! Even a simple block of cheddar can be easily jazzed up by being cut it into cubes, and tossed in a little black pepper, a touch of sea salt and some dried mixed herbs!
♥ Frozen puff pastry
I always try to make at least one hot appetizer for all my parties and it often involves puff pastry. Palmiers (or pinwheels) are some of my go-to nibbles, as you can stuff them with pretty much anything you have in your pantry from cheese, to sun-dried tomatoes, salami, or even just plain sugar. Also, I only use pre-rolled sheets because I’m lazy like that :)
♥ Cured meats
Cured meats such as salami, chorizo or smoked ham are always great to have on hand as they will fill people up and keep the meat-lovers happy. Again, you can offer them by themselves or as part of a platter, or you can also serve them on toasted bread, crackers or even rolled around fruit or cheese (melon and prosciutto are a match made in heaven).
Nothing screams ‘party’ like the popping sound of a champagne bottle being opened! It doesn’t have to be real champagne of course (sparkling wine would do just fine), but make sure that you always keep a bottle in the fridge so that it’s ready to go! However, if you ever need to chill a bottle in a hurry then use this simple trick: wrap the bottle of champagne in a wet tea towel and place it in the freezer for 15mins!
♥ Fresh Vegetables
I don’t know about you but more and more of my friends seem to be either vegetarian or vegan these days. When I have a little time to plan, I try to include a couple of vegan friendly appetizers in my party menu but when it’s a last minute shindig then I revert to the true and tested ‘veggie platter’. The good news is; everyone loves a good crudites platter!
These goes hand in hand with #5 of course but they’re also a great accompaniment to chips, crackers and bread. My favorite party dip is probably hummus but I’ll sometimes make my own by blitzing together a can of white beans, a little olive oil, a clove of garlic and some salt and pepper.
Olives may seem a bit boring and cliche but people really do love them! They work well with cocktails and I’m always amazed at how quickly they disappear at parties. I suppose they’re a classic for a reason.
In a perfect world, we’d always have a stash of freshly baked bread waiting in our pantry. In reality, good bread doesn’t last long in my house so it’s pretty often that I realize I’m completely out when people come over. Thankfully, crackers are a great alternative and can be stored in a cupboard for ages. Salted chips and Italian grissini are also great options.
♥ Dukkah (or mixed nuts)
You can never go wrong with a bowl of salted nuts of course but lately I’ve been replacing mine with a serving of dukkah. In case you’re not familiar with it, Dukkah is an Egyptian side dish which combines crushed nuts, spices and herbs. It’s really delicious and goes extremely well with extra virgin olive oil!
♥ Frozen Cookie Dough
Every party menu should include something sweet. Pre-made cookies are not only super easy to prepare (unless you’re Cher from Clueless and don’t know how to use an oven) but they’re also a crowd favorite. Extra points if you choose a chocolatey cookie…
I hope you found these tips useful! I’d love to know – what items do you always have on hand for last minute guests? Do you have any go-to last minute appetizers that you like to make for parties?