Every year my husband and I throw a party around Christmas time. It’s a great way to catch up with our friends before Christmas and share some festive hospitality. Continuing this tradition, last weekend we hosted 40+ of our closest friends.  It was a warm summer evening, drinks were flowing, food disappeared before I could refill the platters and everyone was in good spirits.  My type of party! 

Friends enjoying a Christmas drink
Friends enjoying a Christmas drink

As I am a passionate cook and have catered for these numbers many times before, I prepare pretty much everything from scratch. However, for the novice, I would not recommend this approach! I began the planning 3 or 4 weeks in advance, and the food preparation commenced 3 days prior.  The food theme was cocktail food – attractive and appetising bite-sized pieces passed around on platters. This works really well for a crowd of this size, and means people will be more inclined to mingle, rather than remain in one place if they were having a sit-down meal. I also find that guests enjoy the variety cocktail food brings, and are in anticipation to see what the next next platter will bring!

 roast beef & horseradish cups
Beef and Horseradish Cream Cups
(click on photo to view larger image)

I chose a variety of dishes that were visually appealing, with varying colours, textures, flavours and temperatures. An essential criteria was that each dish required minimal last minute preparation, as I like to enjoy myself and the company of my guests at my parties (this is the philosophy behind my business, life’s a feast). 

Caprice Skewers
Caprice Skewers
(click on photo to view larger image)

Here is the menu from Saturday night:

Homemade Dips:
Herbed Feta Dip
Creamy Pesto Dip
Tuna Dip

Tuna Dip
Tuna Dip

Caprese Skewers
Bacon and Zucchini Frittata
Spiced Almonds
Dukkah with Turkish Bread and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Black Olive Tapenade on Mini-Toasts
Roast Beef & Horseradish Cream Cups
Cheese Biscuits
Smoked Salmon Pinwheels
Zatar Pita Crisps

Cheese Biscuits
Cheese Biscuits
(click on photo to view larger image)

Greek-Style Cocktail Meatballs with Tzatziki
Gongonzola Stuffed Mushrooms
BBQ’d Chorizo
BBQ’d Chipolatas
Slow Smoked Spicy Pork Ribs 

barbequed chorizo
Barbequed Chorizo

Fruit Mince Pastry Stars
Passionfruit Slice
Coconut and Cardamom Balls


Fruit Mince Pastry Stars
Fruit Mince Pastry Stars
(click on photo to view larger image)

The homemade food was supplemented with store-bought nibbles, such as olives, crackers, wasabi peas, etc.

The last minute preparation was confined to assembling the platters, which meant my time in the kitchen at party time was minimal. I had a number of willing helpers to help put the platters together and pass them around. Hubbie is a barbeque fanatic, so was happy to be responsible for cooking the BBQ food.  For drinks we set up a bar area with drinks, glasses and ice, where guests could help themselves.

Slow-Cooking Pork Ribs
Slow-Cooking Pork Ribs

During the course of the evening, a number of my guests asked me how I manage to prepare everything, be a great host and still have time to enjoy myself at my party. The key is preparation and organisation! Here are my tips to success:

  • Choose dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and require minimal last-minute preparation.
  • Know your limitations – both cooking skills and time available.
  • Cheat a little – it’s perfectly okay to buy quality store-bought
  • Have a running sheet of everying that needs to be done after your guests arrive, including times. 
  • Accept your guests’ offers to give you a hand assisting in the kitchen or passing food around.
  • Be a gracious host and enjoy yourself, even if things don’t go exactly according to plan. 

Good luck with your entertaining, and I would love to hear about your experiences!

Friends enjoying the evening
Friends enjoying the evening




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  1. Janet Byrne says:

    Wish we were there!!

  2. We are soooo sorry not to have been with you……
    Laurel and Tom

  3. I missed Gail’s party due to ill health but boy, how mouth watering does the fayre look! I have been to many of Gail’s parties and can vouch for both her passion for cooking and her 3 Stars in the Kitchen!

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