An essential to a great party is great party food, and whatever the occasion, there is never the need to compromise food quality for quantity. I am a big fan of serving home cooked meals, which then means that I have to slave for hours or even days getting the menu together, just so that all my guests have a great time.
Over the years, one easy fix for this problem has been to plan an interactive menu – give your guests the chance to assemble their own meals, and as long as each individual flavour is carefully sourced, you can be sure that every plate of your party food is going to be as delicious as it is unique. This also makes it so much easier to plan a party, and everybody always has a great time. Here are a few easy ideas for an interactive party menu, as well as a great tip for fixing a classic tomato sauce for a pizza base!
An outdoor barbeque Come dry weather and everybody longs to be hanging around outoors, and nothing better to match the mood than a barbeque. Have a variety of marinated meats and vegetables and allow people to assemble their own skewers! People can also get creative with potato skins, and try a spin on the kinds of fillings they would like in theirs! This is the quintessential interactive meal that has been tried and tested, which makes it an easy fix for a fun event!
Make it chaaty
Indian chaats are savoury, sweet, spicy, sour and fresh all at once. The trick is to have the perfect combination of ingredients so that you have the flavour riot your are looking for while you eat. Prepare a few kinds of chutneys – sour chutney with tamarind, sweet date chutney, spicy chilli and coriander – make sure you have crunchies on the side, some puffed rice, and chopped tomatoes, onions, chillies and boiled potatoes. All you need to do is keep enough mixing bowls available, and encourage your guests to mix their own signature batch of mouth watering chaat!
Pizzas to order
To do this, you need to have a large enough oven so you can pop in a few individual pizzas at a time. Keep the pizza bases ready, as well as really good tomato sauce base that is essentially the key ingredient to a great pizza. Keep a range of toppings and cheese, and allow each person to pick and choose their favourite combination and assemble their own pizzas! Even if they have to wait a few minutes while their pizza bakes, the anticipation only makes the food more delicious!
Wraps, burritos and tacos
Mexican flavours are also great to play with when you are planning an interactive menu. Stock up on burrito wraps or tacos, and lay out the fillings for everybody to assemble themselves. You need to make sure there is enough sour cream, beans, fresh peppers, guacamole, grated cheese and herbs like coriander, which essentially accentuates the mexican flavour. Add to that a base flavour like a capsicum rice for the burritos, and you can leave the rest to your guests!
This Burmese dish is normally best served over a dining table, but I have discovered it also works excellently as party food too! Keep a stock of soft and crispy noodles, a coconut gravy, and a variety of topping including burnt garlic, caramelized onions, sping onions, roasted peanuts and some chilli flakes. Your guests will be thrilled to get their own plates together, an all the credit for the great flavour still goes to you!
Recipe: Roasted Tomato Pizza Sauce
What you need:
50ml olive oil
6-10 cloves of garlic, crushed
6-8 red tomatoes, peeled
2-3 red birdy chillies, chopped fine
1/2 onion, chopped fine
a handful of fresh oregano, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Put the peeled tomatoes onto an oven tray, and bake at 200 degrees Celcius for about 30-40 minuts until the tomatoes begin to brown on the surface. Now blend the roasted tomatoes to form a puree.
Heat some oil in a skillet, cook off the onions until translucent, then add the chillies and garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the tomato puree and fresh oregano, stir gently till all the ingredients are well blended, and then simmer for 6-7 minutes till the sauce thickens. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.
Written bySurabhi Ganguly
Surabhi, is an engineer turned food professional, who quit a decade-long corporate career to set up her own venture, Slyly Simple Gourmet Kitchen. Surabhi loves travel and exploring new cultures, and wherever she goes, she brings back a food memory that influences her cooking. Her unusual and easy recipes use unique ingredient combinations and strong, distinct flavours.