How to host the perfect New Year’s Eve party

by Great British Chefs 30 December 2018

Throwing a soirée to see in the New Year? Read our top tips for stress-free hosting and how to wow your guests with homemade canapés.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Planning a party can be a fairly stressful undertaking as it is. Throw the pressures of the festive season and the biggest night of the year into the mix, and it can all seem a bit daunting. But by planning ahead you can make sure everyone has a good time – yourself included. Whether you’re looking to host a gala-style banquet with all the glitz and glamour that goes with it or just want to bring a small gathering of friends and family together, it’s the food and drink you serve that will make all the difference.

New Year’s Eve is a tricky one when it comes to food – it’s one last chance for a proper blow-out before the January health-kicks kick in, but the indulgences of Christmas have also started to take their toll slightly. Opting for a mix of canapés and nibbles gives the most freedom of choice (you can’t be to blame if your guests eat too many!) and should keep everyone going through the evening. Here are some party food ideas and tips to help you sit back and enjoy the festivities before the big midnight countdown.

Serving space

Throwing a party at home has definite benefits which can take some of the stress out of entertaining – knowing where the fridge is, how the oven works and where the extra napkins are stashed to name a few.

Organise your potential spaces: the aim is to encourage mingling and to try and avoid everyone congregating around one point. Arrange tables for food and a drinks serving station away from the kitchen and main entrance – you will need clear access to the fridge, potentially the oven and a work surface within the kitchen, and there’s nothing worse than a bottleneck around the front door. Dining tables can be pushed back against walls to create a serving area, and the chairs redistributed to create more inclusive seating hubs.

Impress your guests with homemade crisps rather than the packet variety and use up leftover root veg buried in the bottom of the fridge.

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Practical nibbles

A perfect example of practicality and deliciousness, the recipe for Pascal Aussignac’s Roquefort pie with aromatic apricots is actually a very quick assembly job, using filo pastry for a crispy base. It’s also a perfect way to use any leftover blue cheese from the Christmas cheeseboard, and has the bonus of being vegetarian. For something a little more meaty, Simon Rogan’s Goose and chestnut chipolatas can be piped in advance, then fried and cut just before serving.

Another such example is Shaun Rankin’s Curry salted parsnip crisps. Impress your guests with homemade crisps rather than the packet variety and use up leftover root veg buried in the bottom of the fridge – the humble parsnip is given a new lease of life with a simple spiced salt, and this method would easily work for other vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, beetroot and butternut squash.

Just desserts

At the sweeter end of the scale, many ‘normal’ desserts can be adapted for party size servings, and petits fours make for a delicious finish. From the dessert spectrum, tarts and pastries are a good starting point as the pastry gives a sturdy base making them suitable for the finger food category. Individual glasses are also a host’s best friend – mousses, possets and trifles can be made ahead and chilled in dainty portions; just serve with a spoon. Paul Heathcote’s Simple chocolate pots look elegant in little coffee cups, while a glass allows you to see the layers in Alyn William’s Clementine trifle recipe, which is bursting with festive flavour.

Homemade chocolate truffles make a welcome change to the many generic boxes given and received over Christmas, and can be adapted to suit your own tastes. Chocolatier Paul A Young flavours his recipes with anything from tea to Port and Stilton, while Shaun Rankin opts for a simpler, more fun take on the chocolate theme with his White chocolate lollies. If you’ve managed to overdose on chocolate then fruit or nut options are an excellent choice: Robert Thompson’s Clementine jellies would add a splash of colour while Martin Wishart’s Nougat recipe is a seasonal classic. For something a little less sweet, try these sticky figs and see if your guests can guess what the secret ingredient is.

And to toast...

Catering for all tastes and ages can result in a multitude of drinks choices that will only confuse both you and your guests. Keeping things simple is the key; let’s start with water. Often overlooked in favour of mocktails and mixers, several big jugs of iced still or sparkling water flavoured with a few fresh ingredients will tick all the boxes – add sprigs of mint, jewel-like pomegranate seeds, wedges of fresh lemon, lime or orange and you’ve got a deliciously refreshing drink suitable for all ages.

Cocktails can be a great way to use up leftover spirits from Christmas and to show off some impressive flare. However, unless they can be made in bulk, they can become time-consuming and a little impractical, which is why a lot of people stick to beer and wine. If you still fancy mixing your own drinks but don't want to be stuck with a cocktail shaker in your hands all night, you could pair a favourite liqueur, cordial or fruit juice with some bubbly for something quick and easy. Start with peach for an easy Bellini, or try Chambord for something that looks as good as it tastes. The options are endless and all only require a little in the bottom of a glass, topped up with whatever you fancy. Cheers!