Chef Melissa Phair knows how to prepare an impressive feast in a tight space – she serves her creations on board some of the world’s finest private yachts. Here, she shares her top tips for your Holiday parties…
1 Keep things organised and clean. I’d recommend canapés that only require small napkins and not cutlery, like classic pigs in blankets with toothpicks, Stilton gougères, or filo tarts stuffed with goat’s cheese and fig.
2 My favourite wintry canapés are mini Yorkshire puddings filled with roast beef and horseradish with whole grain mustard and rocket. I also love foie gras and pâtés with chutneys. You can make your own chutneys months in advance and store in sterilised jars in the fridge, and it’s such an easy quick fix for a canapé. You can also make your own simple crostini toasts. Stamp out white bread with a small wine glass and toast – you can then store them in an airtight container. If you are thinking of sweet canapés, chocolate truffles are always my go-to. Try some with Grand Marnier and a touch of cinnamon for a Christmassy feel.
3 I trained as a cocktail bartender before I embarked on Lynda Booth’s cookery course, and I took a wine qualification as part of the twelve-week course. For a pre-Christmas drinks party, you always need nibbles – nothing major, but everyone wants a little snack with their cocktail. I love roasting my own nuts. Try a mixture of macadamias, cashews, pistachios, and almonds and mix with some maple, salt, black pepper, and some dried herbs and chilli flakes and bake in the oven at around 150°C/gas mark 2 for about 25 minutes. Store in an airtight container until needed.
With drinks, you’ll want to cover all bases – beers, ales and ciders as well as prosecco and champagne. Try mixing with crème de cassis – blackcurrant liqueur – or Chambord (one of my personal favourites), which is a black raspberry liqueur, for something a little extra special.
You can make vin chaud or mulled wine in a large saucepan ahead of time, so it’s hassle-free when your guests arrive and tastes amazing! Try a basic recipe of 3 bottles of red wine, 1 litre of orange juice, 5 shots of brandy, 2 cinnamon sticks, some sugar syrup, and I put some slits in a whole orange and then stud it with ten or so cloves. A good alternative is hot cranberry juice and a double shot of amaretto – it tastes like hot cherry pie!
If you want to go all-out, then prep a few cocktails. You might want a non-alcoholic option as well. I love a good gin fizz – add a touch of cloves, cinnamon and Grand Marnier
for a Christmassy twist. For the non-drinkers, try a snowman mocktail, which is vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, a shot of espresso and some cinnamon in a blender.
4 For a Christmas dinner in a small space, try chicken liver pâté as a starter – it’s so easy to make, and you can make it well ahead of time so it’s all ready to be sliced and served. Cover with fat or butter and it will keep for a week in the fridge. Caramelise your own red onion for a quick chutney, add some capers, cornichons, and some brushed garlic homemade crostinis and you are set.