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Simple, stylish ideas for entertaining on New Year's Eve

Cocktails, nibbles and handy hints to make your party a success

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Cocktail and nibble ideas to help get your New Year's Eve party swinging 

29 DECEMBER 2008

Most of us mark the start of the New Year in one way or another. If you're planning to host your own bash to get the year off to a cracking start – here are some simple suggestions to make your party one to remember.

Cocktails

The New Year's Eve cocktail recipe we'll be sharing with you tomorrow is a perfect way to kick things off. It's packed with vitamin C, too, so you can feel slightly less guilty about indulging! Mixes based on fruit – lemons, oranges, kiwis, mangos – lots of ice and a white spirit usually go down well.

Simple but exotic cocktails can be made with a blender, ice, a tin of fruit and vodka. Just pop the fruit and a little syrup, plus ice and vodka, into the blender and puree until smooth. The result is a delicious frozen cocktail.

If there's time and you're feeling creative why not whip up your own flavoured syrups? Mix spices, fruits, equal quantities sugar and water and you're got the perfect base for a cocktail. Top up with a splash of champers or a shot of your favourite spirit and a dash of fruit juice – delicious.

Or how about alcoholic fruit smoothies. Just add whole fruit - preferably including a banana for body - and a dash of your favourite tipple for the sort of indulgent cocktail usually associated with lazy holidays in tropical climes.

Nibbles

If you're planning on going down the canapé route, here are some delicious suggestions.

Take some parma ham and place on a chopping board. Put a dried or half a fresh fig at one end, add some chopped walnuts, and fold up the parma ham into a little parcel. Place on a bed of rocket and drizzle with olive oil.

Parmesan crumbled into small-ish chunks and drizzled with honey and black pepper is another interesting and delicious combo, served on a large platter and enjoyed with your fingers.

Tinned artichokes are also a great standby. Simply drain and cook on griddle for a few minutes on each side until charred or, if you're pushed for time, just serve as they come, with pecorino or parmesan or any salty cheese grated on top. Alternatively, put artichokes on cocktail sticks and skewer a cube of cheese on, too, for that Eighties kitsch pineapple-and-cheese hedgehog effect. The same thing would work with Spanish manchego cheese and a cube of the delicious Spanish quince paste called membrillo.

Smoked salmon and cucumber are another good combo. Using a swivel peeler, shave long ribbons from the cucumber. Halve or quarter these and cut slices of salmon to the same length. Lay one on top of the other and then thread backwards and forwards on wooden skewers to achieve a wave effect. Serve accompanied by mayo with some horseradish mixed through.

Another easy plate is endive and goat's cheese. Separate the leaves of the endive and mix soft goat's cheese with whipped cream to form a smooth paste that will hold its shape. Mix sultanas, diced apple and chopped walnuts into the whipped goat's cheese, ready to be scooped up by the endive leaves.

Finally, use up any nuts left over from Christmas by toasting them lightly in a pan with a splash of olive oil until they darken slightly and become fragrant. Toss with sea salt flakes and cayenne pepper for a simple, stylish snack.

Dining options

If you are doing dinner, make sure you get some time for yourself. People love bangers and mash or a good chilli with baked sweet potatoes and a big dollop of sour cream. It's not haute cuisine, but you'll have a great time with your guests and won't end up in a fluster in the kitchen.

You may have fed your guests earlier in the evening, but it's a good idea to have some nibbles ready for just after midnight. Everyone seems to get peckish by then. Cheese on toast is always a winner. Buy a piece of good cheddar, some great bread, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and you're away.




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