Unexpected guests? No need to dash to the shops with food writer Debora Robertson’s ingenious tips for feeding a crowd using store-cupboard staples
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Transform your houmous
Decant into a bowl and customise with a trickle of olive oil or chilli oil and a pinch of smoked paprika, cayenne or cumin, or some finely chopped parsley. For texture, toast sesame seeds or pine nuts in a dry frying pan, then sprinkle over the houmous.
Spice up some nibbles
Warm 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce and 1 tsp Tabasco. Add 250g of nuts and coat them well, then roast at 180°C/Gas 4 for 8-10 minutes until golden. Toss with 2 tsp light muscovado sugar, 2 tsp flaky sea salt and ¼ tsp smoked paprika.
Slice slightly stale baguettes into thin slices, brush with olive oil, season, place on a baking tray and roast at 180°C/Gas 4 for 8-10 minutes. Cooled, they keep in a tin for a week, ready to be topped: try soft goat’s cheese with sliced figs.
For tapenade palmiers, spread a 35cmx23cm sheet of ready-roll puff pastry evenly with tapenade. Roll the long sides to the middle, until they meet. Chill for an hour, cut into 7-8mm-thick slices, bake on a lined baking sheet at 200°C/Gas 6 for 18-20 minutes.
Cosiness in a cup
Welcome your friends in from the cold with a warming cup of mulled cider or hot buttered rum – they make delicious alternatives to mulled wine and feel so festive. Find the full recipes here
Upgrade your ice-cream
Transform vanilla ice-cream by sprinkling with chopped stem ginger, spoon over a little of the syrup from the ginger jar and serve with poached rhubarb; or try sprinkling with chopped pistachios and serve with Roses de Reims biscuits.
Rinse a tin of chickpeas, pat dry and scatter in a baking tin. Add 1 tsp olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 220°C/Gas 7 for 20-30 minutes, shaking every 10 minutes. Toss with ½ tsp cumin and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or ½ tsp curry powder.
Flavoured butter is a great secret weapon! For anchovy butter, whizz up 100g softened butter with 8 anchovies in olive oil, 2 grated garlic cloves, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of paprika until smooth. Serve with toast or radishes.
A bespoke cocktail table
Create a seasonal drink, and set the ingredients out with instructions for people to mix their own. Try this: 30ml vodka or gin, 15ml Cointreau and 100ml pomegranate juice, shake with ice and strain into a glass. Finish with a twist of orange peel.
An instant flavour hit
Whipped feta is delicious as a dip with roasted veg or spooned over lamb chops. Whizz 200g of feta with 2 tbsp cream or yoghurt until smooth. Serve as it is or season with black pepper, lemon zest, chopped chives or mint.