Cocktails and nibbles – here’s our recipe for a fun party (with a relaxed hostess) …
Are you feeling a little nervous about hosting this December? If cooking and entertaining skills are a little rusty, may we suggest a clever idea which eliminates cocktail hour jitters and encourages guests to mingle from the off? Grazing boards! To be precise, two-course grazing boards. Create two generous grazing boards, one savoury, one sweet, both a feast for the eyes, and both guaranteed to fulfil your guests’ need for a nibble without getting tied up in overly fancy food preparations. Who has the time! Grazing boards are more than the sum of their delicious parts because they look so very good and get people talking. All it takes are delicious, top-quality ingredients and a modicum of styling skills.
Grazing boards can be cheese or charcuterie-centred, or a mix of both; they can also be vegetarian or even vegan. Make sure you make a good list before you go shopping: you want to have variety but not overdo it so that it looks like a jumble. Assemble the savoury grazing board just before serving so everything is fresh. Have everything unwrapped and ready to go – it should only be the work of minutes. Don’t forget to have a pile of pretty linen or cotton napkins beside the board. Light the candles, pop on the music, serve everyone a seasonal tipple and invite them to start grazing.
Savoury Grazing Board
Start with a smart board – round or rectangular. Then add the cheese, the cornerstone of most grazing boards. These three types are an absolute must: a creamy brie, a salty Manchego or Comte and an aromatic blue cheese like Roquefort, add two or three different charcuterie styles, and a few varieties of fruits – figs or clementines – almonds, salted and natural, and olives, black and green. Include crackers, breadsticks or bread, dips relishes and chutneys in nice little ramekins. Fill gaps on your board with bay leaves or sprigs of rosemary. Make sure your board is big enough to feed the gang. Make two if required!
Chocolate Grazing Board
Now comes the best bit. While everyone loosens up and chats over a seasonal cocktail, you can assemble your chocolate grazing board for later. Start with delicious Butlers Chocolates Tasty Pieces: we love Coconut & Almond and Salted Almond & Butterscotch. Then add some classics: Butlers Chocolate Truffles in tempting varieties (luscious Chocolate Flake, Milk Truffle, luxurious Dark Chocolate Truffle, indulgent White Chocolate Flake, melt in your mouth Milk Caramel, glorious Coffee Truffle and devilishly good 70% Dark Chocolate Truffle) and Butlers The Cocktail Menu, a collection of eight varieties of cocktail chocolate with Gin, Cointreau, Whiskey, Rum and Vodka as well as Espresso Martini, Raspberry Cosmopolitan and Passionfruit Margarita. We can’t resist Butlers’ 58% Dark Chocolate with almonds and delicate orange pieces. Another essential for a sweet grazing board is Butlers’ Assorted Handmade Fudge, made with Irish butter, milk, cream and sugar. Flavours include vanilla, chocolate and rum and raisin. We love to add crystallised fruit which looks so festive and pretty. Serve with tiny cups of strong espresso – just what the doctor ordered at this stage in the proceedings.
The genius of the two-course grazing board cocktail party is that you have savoury, sweet, cocktail and coffee, a marvellous meal in miniature, in other words, within just a couple of hours. Then, when the party’s over, it’s feet up for you … there isn’t even any washing up to do. We told you it was genius.