Ditch the services and DIY next time. It might look like a bit of effort, but the pay off is big.

Catering for one's own events are always a point of stress. Minor or major. It's easy to cave in, and just delegate to the professionals. But then there are times where you want to add a more personal touch/inconsistent sizing/burnt pastry/"rustic" feel to things. 

As my lovely significant other can attest to, I myself am a natural disaster when it comes to the culinary arts, on par with Hurricane Irma. But here are five easy recipes even I couldn't bung up:

Smoked salmon on blini pancakes

cheese-and-dill-blini-with-smoked-salmon

Ingredients:

  • A pack of cocktail blinis (you can  also make your own but we're going for the easy way out here)
  • Smoked salmon 
  • Sour cream
  • Dijon mustard
  • Black pepper
  • Arbitrary amount of dill sprigs
  • Lemons

Method:

  1. Lets start off with the dressing. For every 24 pancakes, mix up 143ml of sour cream with two tablespoons of chopped dill and one tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Once that's out of the way, stick it in the fridge until you need them later.
  2. Heat up the blini pancakes according to what the packet instructions say. Usually, you can't go wrong with sticking them on a pan for a hot minute (low heat, of course).
  3. Now comes the fiddly part. Assembly: schmear a bit of sour cream mix/dressing on each pancake, followed by a not too overwhelming roll of salmon. Top it off with some black pepper, a sprig of dill, and a touch of lemon juice. Ea-sy.
    Note: creme fraiche is also a decent substitute for the dressing. 

Potato skins and dip

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Ingredients:

  • Six large potatoes (baking)
  • In terms of dip, go nuts with whatever store bought delights if you so choose, but here's some easy steps for a sour cream and chive dip, a guacamole variant dip, and a salsa dip-- all you need to do is mix it up
  • Sour cream and chive: one crushed garlic clove, large pinch of cayenne pepper, one tablespoon of chives, 142ml of sour cream
  • Guacamole variant: one crushed garlic clove, half a red chilli that has been de-seeded and diced up, two sliced up spring onions, handful of shredded coriander, lime juice to your own discretion, one tablespoon of olive oil, and one large avo
  • Salsa: half a red chilli that has been de-seeded and sliced up, a quarter of a red onion finely diced, one tablespoon of olive olive oil, and two tomatoes diced up
  • Salt & olive oil (season the dips to your own liking)

Method:

  1. Wash your six large 'taters.
  2. Stick some holes evenly around said 'taters and rub them down with olive oil.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
  4. Place your potatoes into the oven for roughly forty-five minutes, until they get a slightly soft outer. Cool for ten to fifteen minutes when that is achieved.
  5. Once cooled, cut the potatoes into halves lengthways, and then cut them in half once more.
  6. Scoop out the potatoey flesh, leaving only about half a centimetre to a centimetre lining (you can use the scooped out stuff for a dip or shovel it into your gullet, dealer's choice).
  7. Lightly coat with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper, before baking skin side down for another half hour. Or at least until crisp. Turn it over half way to get an even baking.
  8. Serve with dips of your choosing. 

Mushroom & polenta bites

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Ingredients:

  • Four half cups of water
  • One cup of boiling water
  • Half a cup of shredded Gruyère cheese
  • Quarter cup of shaved Gruyère cheese
  • One tablespoon of melted butter
  • One tablespoon of butter
  • One teaspoon of salt 
  • One quarter teaspoon of salt
  • Cooking spray
  • One half cup of quick-cooking polenta
  • Three teapsoons dried porcini mushrooms
  • One third cup of thinly sliced shallots
  • One eighth teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • One cup of sliced shiitake mushroom caps 
  • One cup of sliced cremini mushrooms 
  • Half a teaspoon of minced fresh thyme
  • One quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • One teaspoon of dry vermouth or dry white wine

Method:

  1. Prepare the polenta by bringing four and a half cups of water to boil in a saucepan.
  2. Slowly add the polenta and one teaspoon of salt while stirring regularly on a low heat. Cook until thick.
  3. Spoon the polenta into a baking pan coated with cooking spray evenly. Cover surface of polenta with plastic wrap and throw it into the refrigerator until firm. 
  4. Transfer polenta loaf onto a baking sheet with cooking spray and divide it into about thirty-six rectangles.
  5. Broil for five minutes before turning it over and brushing it with melted butter.
  6. Broil for another five minutes before sprinkling shredded cheese evenly over the top. Broil once more until melted.
  7. Set the rectangles aside to prepare the topping. Throw porcini mushrooms into a bowl with the boiling water and let it sit for fifteen minutes. Drain and chop afterwards.
  8. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots to pan and cook for four minutes until tender, stirring frequently. 
  9. Stir in red pepper and cook for thirty seconds
  10. Add porcini, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook until all liquid has evaporated. Stir occasionally. 
  11. Pour in the vermouth, thyme, quarter teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Stir frequently and let that cook for two minutes.
  12. Spoon a teaspoon of this mixture on top of each polenta rectangle. Add shaved cheese on top to your own discretion.

Arancini balls

parmesan-arancini-with-semi-dried-tomato-dip-12681-1

Ingredients:

  • Two tablespoons of butter
  • Two crushed garlic cloves
  • One (finely) diced onion
  • Half a cup of risotto rice
  • Half a cup of white wine (or substitute with broth/stock/water)
  • Three half cups of chicken broth/stock
  • One cup of milk
  • One egg
  • One cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • Three-quarters cup of grated mozzarella cheese
  • Two half tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • Two teaspoons of salt
  • Pepper
  • Half a cup of plain flour
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • Black pepper
  • Two eggs
  • Two cups of breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C .
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, before adding the garlic and onion. Cook for about five minutes until soft.
  3. Add the rice and stir until grains become clear. Now add the wine and turn up the heat to a medium high, allowing it to simmer. Cook until the wine has mostly evaporated.
  4. Add the chicken broth/stock and milk, and stir. Bring the mixture to a simmer simmer, and cover.
  5. Move it into an oven to baked (covered) for thirty to forty minutes until all liquid has disappeared and the rice is tender.
  6. Remove from oven and cool. Combine now with the egg, grated cheeses, parsley, half teaspoon of salt, and pepper. Mix 'em all up.
  7. Cover and throw into refrigerator to cool for few hours.
  8. Prepare the coating: mix flour, salt, and pepper in the first bowl bowl, beaten eggs in the second bowl, and breadcrumbs in the third bowl.
  9. Roll the rice mixture into balls, no larger than three tablespoons worth. If you really want to level up the experience, roll it into a ball and stick a cube of cheese in the centre. Though keep in mind you  might want to reduce the amount of cheese already mixed into the rice from earlier steps if you so choose to.
  10. Roll in flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs. Press to coat.
  11. Refrigerate until it's a bit more solid. Again, three hours is good, overnight is better. Unless you want them to fall apart during the frying process.
  12. Pour five to eight centimetres worth of oil into a pot over medium heat.
    Note: vegetable and canola oil is preferable. Do not use olive oil. It has a low smoke point and will burn easily, plus it's a waste.
  13. Carefully place no more than four at a time into the oil. Turn frequently so they cook evenly. 
  14. Remove once they get that golden brown look.
  15. Serve with marinara sauce.