TEN of the BEST make-ahead party foods

February 01, 2015

TEN of the BEST make-ahead party foods

At The Kit Source, we're all about taking the stress out of partying! What better way to do this than to plan and make it all ahead of time. On the day of the party, you're always going to have a million and one things to think about - proper planning and time management will ensure you don't tear your hair out AND that no one goes hungry (including yourself).

Below are some of my favourites; some tried and tested recipes and ideas there to suit almost every event.

1. Tiramisu
This is my all-time favourite dessert. It's so easy and absolutely luscious. You can substitute the liqueur for any other sort of flavouring, and I've known people to use fruit liqueurs if they don't fancy coffee. But me - give me the marsala, Kahlua or Tia Maria. This version has raw egg in it, so if you're preggers or iffy about that stuff, this may not be for you. 

2. Palmiers (a.k.a. awesome cheesy pastry scrolls)
If you want to be fancy, you can make use olives and fancy cheese and fashion them into Palmier shapes, but they also work as 'Pastry scrolls' for kiddies' birthdays. Simple, tasty, made the morning of the party, I guarantee there'll only be pastry crumbs left! Here's a tried and tested recipe.

3. Nachos
Make it simple, or make it gourmet, but either way, you can make it ahead. The filling and guac can be prepped the night before, then everything just needs assembling on the day. Always a hit, this dish can be served in a lovely large family-style bowl, in the pan (like this recipe) or in individual boxes for something more 'up market'. To jazz it up, use some snowpea sprouts or micro-herbs. And if you can get your hands on black beans instead of kidney beans, mmmm....

4. Summer rolls
Somewhat fiddly, but extra tasty. Summer rolls (fresh spring rolls) should me made only a couple of hours before eating, but they can be filled with almost anything! The traditional ones have pork and prawns and great for the summer months, they're fresh, crunchy and appeal to almost everyone. Here's a lovely recipe!

5. Chicken wings
Buying a big batch of wings, lathering them in sauce and baking or BBQing them isn't too much effort, is it? Marinate overnight, chuck them in an oven a while before guests arrive and then serve them once they've cooled a little. Easy, popular, delicious! Just make sure you have somewhere for guests to pop the bones. I especially love any marinade with honey in it (like this one), it's like a match made in heaven.

6. Dips
Who doesn't love dip and crackers? A good ol' guac, or happy hommous will get gobbled up easy! For fancier events, try making some white bean dip, or baba ganoush and if you're not into crackers, there's always toasted lebanese bread, lavosh or crudites (veggie sticks).

7. Pulled pork anything
One of the trendiest menu items wherever you go, pulled pork is a true favourite of mine (we had it for Christmas lunch!). Anyway, make pork sliders (mini burgers), or you could even use them in Summer Rolls... (?) You can make the pork hours and hours ahead and serve it warm or room-temp. Here are a couple of recipes, depending on your preferred cooking method.

8. Bruschetta
I hate raw tomato. But everyone I know loves the traditional fresh tomato bruschetta. If you're after some alternatives, you have to check out some of the combinations from one of my favourite cook books 'River Cafe Two Easy'. Ever tried zucchini? Cannelini beans? Prosciutto? Just prep your toppings ahead of time, grill your bread, top and serve. Delizioso!!

9. Pizza
No, I'm not talking Dominos, make your own! Just like the bruschetta above, there are a multitude of gourmet toppings to take advantage of... Khai's favourite? Anchovy and bocconcini. Mine? Prosciutto and rocket. Gosh, I love prosciutto! Here's a scrummy looking prosciutto and potato pizza recipe. You could prepare any number of pizzas a few hours ahead, then bung 'em in the oven before your guests arrive. I guarantee they'll please everyone!

10. Cake, cake and cake!
I think this is all too obvious - cake is a perfect make ahead dessert! There are millions of recipes out there! Whether you're a beginner baker or a pro, you can make your cake the day/s before and have it ready to serve on command. I'm a lover of simple cakes - a simple butter cake, or fudgy chocolate cake. MMMMmmm. Here's a butter cake recipe we tried a couple of weeks ago for the Socceroos v. Kuwait game. It was moist, but dense enough that you could layer it - WIN!

Honourable mentions:

  • BBQ foods - marinate meats, veggies, even cheese (like haloumi) the night before and cook DURING the party. Yum! Definitely suitable for the last of those summer BBQs coming up.
  • The 70's cheese board - I'm talking cabanossi, pickles, crackers & cheese, oh yeah!
  • Empanadas - Actually, almost anything that's pastry encased can be prepped ahead of time and cooked just before the party. My favourites are black bean and chorizo empanadas. But you could also do curry puffs, samosas, chicken pies, spinach pastizzi, or even fancy Canberry and Brie pastry pops.
  • Frittata - another versatile dish, whereby you can add almost anything you like. Make it in a big baking dish or in a cupcake tin for easy serving. A great combination is chicken, feta and baby spinach.

Do you have anything else I could add to the list?

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