Tag Archives: entertaining

Entertaining a crowd

We’ve all been there. You’ve decided to have guests round for a mid-week gathering and you need some form of dip selection, appetiser, or clever coffee table snack to keep them sated.

Browsing your local supermarket, you inevitably opt for the requisite ‘3-of-a-kind’ packaged dip trio: sour cream and chive, guacamole and chilli salsa, all laden with salt and sugar and not a lot else. After a brief flurry or munching and nibbles when your guests arrive, each of the little pots become somewhat more and more neglected as the evening wears on; the sour cream forms a skin and then goes stale; the guacamole ends up in the bin; and the leftover salsa might, if you’re lucky, survive ’till the next day, makinh it onto a pizza base or alongside a steak or chicken breast.


Esquire’s handbook for hosts

I do occasionally like to host a small party of close friends myself. Now, I’m no Pippa Middleton (interpret that as you please), but I have a few tried and tested ‘finger foods’ which I think are good to have around for you need them most. Pretzels and salted peanuts are nice, if a litte bit unimaginative and cliche – try mixing it up with a medley of cashews, roasted almonds or pecans, tossed them in a sticky dark-brown sugar glaze and some spicy cayenne pepper. For dips, you could opt for a punchy home-made Mediterranean concoction like a tapenade (black olive) or bagna cauda (anchovy and garlic), or engineer a quick Baba Ghanoush by roasting and mashing an aubergine, before whizzing it up with some olive oil and chickpeas. Failing that, adding some chopped fresh herbs to some plain yoghurt can be great as a party dip.

For me, though, hummus is definitely where it’s at. This Middle Eastern chickpea and sesame creation has many guises; from the vibrant roasted red pepper and goat’s cheese to the more muted broad bean and herb hummus. All finished off with a swirl of extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon for sharpness and some chopped parsley. For a really good ‘themed’ casual dining scene with excellent food I recommend The Hummus Bros in London’s Soho district.

If you’re really struggling for inspiration (and not only on the food front) then Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts (image above), a publication from the United States, offers some pointers for cocktails, party games, conversation topics.

For the dip recipes I’ve chosen below, the ingredients speak for themselves. They’re also perfect for breaking the ice and getting people in the mood.

Recipes: Trio of dips

Feast your eyes on these dip combinations, great for any occasion and made with quality ingredients (recipes below).

Trio of dips with platter

Clockwise from left to right: platter (tortilla chips, grilled ciabatta and vegetable sticks), beetroot hummus dip, spinach and artichoke dip, guacamole with chilli and spring onion dip.

For the platter (suggestions):

  • Crostini or sliced ciabatta, toasted.
  • Breadsticks, potato crisps, vegetable crisps, baked pitta chips, brown bread, sourdough, flatbread, homemade baked potato skins
  • Hard boiled eggs, radishes, celery sticks, carrot sticks

1. Guacamole with chilli and spring onion


  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • ½ tsp salt


  • In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lemon juice.
  • Mix the avocado with the lemon juice to coat. This prevents discolouration of the avocado flesh.
  • Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the avocado together with the salt, chilli, and spring onions.

2. Beetroot Hummous


  • 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 200g cooked beetroot, roughly chopped
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil


  • Blitz half of the chickpeas and beetroot with the remaining ingredients in a food processor, blending into a smooth paste.
  • Fold in the remaining chickpeas and beetroot.
  • Garnish with a few springs of dill or thyme (optional)

3. Spinach and Artichoke dip


  • 300g fresh, canned or frozen spinach
  • 400g tin artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 2tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts (optional)


  • Combine half of the spinach and artichoke hearts with the other ingredients in a food processor and blitz into a fine paste.
  • Fold in the remaining half of the spinach and artichoke hearts.
  • If using, sprinkle the pine nuts on top of the dip for garnish