'Tis the season for unexpected visitors! Wow your festive drop-ins with Tesco's ideas for quick, simple bites and snack hacks.
1. Put anything in a smart pot
Seriously: if it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. So, have a few pretty bowls or upcycled jam jars and a bit of vintage cutlery to hand, and you can throw in just about anything – from colourful salads to roasted beef and new potatoes. The secret to turning it from so-so to sensational? See point two...
2. Pimp up leftovers with herbs
Keep fresh leaves to hand to sprinkle liberally over everything from leftovers to salads to canapés – they add cracking flavour and unbeatable colour (and make it look like you've made a real effort). Take this potato salad with herb dressing: it could be knocked up from scratch in minutes or you could use up last night's roasties for an even swifter solution.
3. Give cheese a workout
It keeps in the fridge for ages so what's not to like about stocking up on cheese, then serving it up any which way? You need ideas? There's your simple cheeseboard (zero effort, maximum satisfaction), camembert fondue and goat's cheese, honey and thyme bites (shock, horror, you'll have to put the oven on).
We all hate food waste – but if you've suddenly got to come up with a snack at a moment's notice on a bank holiday, you have to have something on stand-by. Which is why it makes sense to have an emergency food stock that will last well into the New Year if you don't eat it during the festive season. We're talking tins of comforting soup or the typical meat platter fare – and loads of ready-to-bake breads. With no effort whatsoever, you can conjure up something like these chorizo chipolatas.
5. Create a last-minute posh pud
Picture the scene: you're conjuring up an impromptu buffet but suddenly realise you haven't a thing in for dessert. Then, you remember that you froze last week's mulled wine left-overs and can create a rather impressive mulled wine granita in SECONDS (plus a bit of intermittent stirring). We hate waste and we love a boozy pudding: so far this is our favourite snack hack of all time.
6. Stock up on figs
They look restaurant-posh; they'll pep up sweets and savouries; and they'll keep in the fridge for a decent time frame – we literally can't get enough of these beauties. Perch yours on the side of a cheeseboard; create a posh-looking serrano ham, halloumi and fig salad using other ingredients with distant use-by dates (see point four if you missed it); bake them in the oven and serve with ice-cream for a quick dessert; even wrap them in bacon, flash under the grill and serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar as a stylish starter. Mouth-watering.
7. Make kebabs
Nothing but a couple of chicken breasts, a bit of halloumi and some root veg hanging about? Or perhaps a pile of fruit fast approaching its best before date? Here's a quick trick: cube everything; put it on skewers; sprinkle herbs and spices over savouries and pop them in the oven; drizzle fruit with melted chocolate or yoghurt. We'll call them fancy kebabs, but they're basically just fruit on a stick.
8. Shop for toppings
Take it from us: stocking up on would-be toppings is always a good move. Think crème fraiche; wasabi; slices of smoked salmon; whole grain mustard; pâté; cranberry sauce, herbs... anything you can cobble together with some of your other ingredients to make a quick but tasty bite. For every topping, there has to be a bottom, so keep some blinis, crackers and ready-to-bake bread to hand. Worst comes to worst, toasted bread that's getting a little stale will even do the trick.
9. Experiment with vol-au-vents
While you're shopping for crackers, blinis and bread, pick up some vol-au-vents. The staple of 1970s' cocktail parties, they're still an unbeatable, affordable, super-fast freezer-to-oven must-have that can be quickly stuffed with anything from egg mayo to salmon and chives to a fruity mince mix for instant mince pies. No freezer should be without them. Yum.
10. Become a mixologist
Everyone should have a couple of classic cocktails up their sleeves – or at least in the drinks' cabinet. So, make sure your cupboard is well-stocked with your chosen ingredients, that you've always got enough ice on the go, that there's the odd piece of fruit to slice, and (we said you'd need them) some fresh herbs to garnish. Cheers!
Find more Christmas recipes, hints, tips and advice at Tesco Real Food.