For most parties, an elegantly assembled cheese board and strategically positioned chips-and-dip station will do. But if you want to step it up, and throw together something to work the room with, these quick fixes will be ready to go with minimal effort.
Miso + butter + scallops
You might be using this compound butter for scallops, but do yourself a favour and make a big batch to keep in the freezer for melting over vegetables, steak or even just a slice of sourdough toast. David Chang's ratio of two parts butter (we use Pepe Saya's) to one part miso is bang on. Mash with a fork, form into a log, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Just before serving, top each scallop on its half shell with a round of butter and place under a hot grill until sizzling – about one minute. Serve hot and bubbling, and if the occasion permits, with a basket of bread nearby for mopping up leftover butter.
Oysters + champagne + sugar
Oyster purists, look away. Lemon and flaky salt are great, but if you want to fancy things up, make a quick champagne granita. Simmer one cup each of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Cool over an ice bath and carefully stir in half a bottle of bone-dry champagne or sparkling wine. Pour into a shallow tray. Freeze. Pull out and scrape with a fork to break up the ice and form granita crystals. Freeze again and repeat a few times. Spoon half a teaspoon of the granita onto cold oysters just before serving. Garnish with fresh lemon balm, if desired.
Raclette toasts (left), hot wings (centre) and endive boats (right). Photo: Neela Shearer
Raclette + pickles + toast
Mini cheese on toast = fun. Take some little toasts and top them with a slice or two of pickles (hello, Westmont Chilli pickles). A little dab of chunky chutney also works. Top with raclette and place in a warm oven until just melted. To serve, scorch the top of each toast with a blowtorch until the cheese starts to bubble and your guests swoon.
Chicken wings + butter + hot sauce
You know those honey soy-doused chicken nibbles in the supermarket meat cabinet? Your friends deserve better than that. Grab some cheap-as-chips wings, nix the wing tip and joint into two parts. Thoroughly pat dry with paper towel and rub with salt. Preheat your oven to 200C, rub a rack with a little oil to prevent sticking, and place over a roasting tray. Let wings bake for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Get your favourite hot sauce (Frank's Red Hot is an obvious choice) and mix two parts with one part melted butter. Make enough to liberally coat the straight-from-the-oven-wings and serve with plenty of napkins.
Endive + blue cheese + apple
Think of this as a canape version of traditional blue cheese and celery-stick side to hot wings. Carefully separate the endive leaves, julienne the apple and crumble on a creamy blue cheese of choice. Stilton works a treat.
Hot salami with honeycomb (bottom left), mussels on potato chips (top), and pâté toasts (right). Photo: Neela Shearer
Water cracker + hot salami + honeycomb
Disclaimer: this only works with a really hot salami. Our preference is Salumi Australia's 'nduja, a spreadable scorcher, but here we've used their salame inferno, a slightly tamer sliced version. Fold into quarters and stick to a water cracker with a little fresh honey and honeycomb. Hot, sweet and sticky.
Toast + pâté + pickled cherry
Fairly obvious, no? If you don't want to serve pâté plated, try this: warm little toasts in an oven or get your water crackers ready. Slice fat pickled cherries into quarters. Use a spoon to form neat quenelles of pâté. Top with cherry slices and coarse flakes of sea salt. Serve immediately.
Potato chip + pickled mussels + chilli
Inspired in equal parts by my grandfather's love of smoked oysters on Jatz, and Frank Camorra's fondness for serving his Cuca-branded Galician mussels in spicy sauce on potato chips, this something of a hybrid. Take good-quality smoked mussels (we used Harris Smokehouse's whopping big ones), whack on thick Kettle-style potato chips and top with pickled jalapeno slices.
Goat's cheese and raspberry (left) and coffee-mascarpone macaroons. Photo: Neela Shearer
Pistachio crisp bread + goat's cheese + fresh raspberries
A nice little riff that's part dessert, part cheese board, and a perfect way to use up this year's bumper berry crop. Leave your fresh goat's chevre out of the fridge for 10 minutes (it spreads better that way) and gently smear a little on a pistachio crisp bread and top with fresh raspberries. Feel free to sub in whatever berries you like, but avoid blueberries if they aren't bursting with flavour.
Macaroons + mascarpone + coffee liqueur
Procure some decent coconut macaroons. Take 125 grams of super-thick mascarpone and stir in 30ml of good-quality coffee liqueur (we used Mr Black Cold Drip coffee liqueur for punch and richness) until well incorporated and pop in the fridge till cold. Use a generous amount to sandwich the macaroons together and freeze until serving. The mascarpone will form a fudgey ice-cream-like consistency, and freezing will help everything hold together if not eaten immediately.