Not eating lunch until after dark? Keep the wolf from the door with these tasty morsels.

Given it’s the day when the fortunate typically consume more calories than on any other in the year, it seems absurd to imagine that we might need any precautionary extra snacks in the event of hunger. And yet, many of us don’t aim for lunch until it’s well after 4pm, so there is, bizarrely enough, a moment when we may feel a gnawing sense of festive ravenousness – especially if post bitingly cold Christmas Day walk.

Some, perhaps the sensible, may choose to ride it out and save themselves for the main event. But as anyone with children will know only too well, it pays to have a few snacks handy – or even Christmas lunch starters that you just happen to eat a couple of hours ahead of sitting down to the full repast. Plus, given that it’s the season for all-day drinking, a judiciously placed pig-in-blanket is never going to go amiss. And then there’s just plain old festive gluttony which, for a day or two, is good, right and perfectly proper. Here are a few grazing ideas.

Image credit: Anna Jones

Giant Champagne And Lemon Prawn Vol-Au-Vents


Olive Magazine


Are we alone in hearing ourselves eulogising the culinary throwbacks to the 1970s with increasing regularity? Despite languishing in the gastro wilderness for long, unloved years, the likes of prawn cocktail, lasagne and cheese straws are still beloved and as brilliant as ever – especially when given a contemporary twist. Vol-au-vents are a prime example, as evidenced here in this gorgeous giant champagne, prawn and lemon example. This is decadent and suitably luxe, while marrying the lightness of the prawns with the carby puff pastry. A showstopping starter to wolf down with a glass of fizz at your normal lunchtime.


Potted Duck With Pistachio


Delicious Magazine


One for those truly committed carnivores who feel that Christmas lunch doesn’t offer quite enough in the way of meat, this potted duck recipe works wonderfully as a starter, or as a snack for people to help themselves to. Very much in its favour are its French bistro vibes; the fact that it looks deeply impressive and yet is very simple to make; and that it can be made in advance and thus creates no extra faffing on the day.


Christmas Dinner Sausage Rolls


BBC Good Food


What sentient foodie doesn’t love some variant on a good old sausage roll? These festive little bites combine the best bits of Christmas lunch – turkey, stuffing, chipolatas – all wrapped up in a pastry casing. Which, in this case, comes in the form of the ready-rolled stuff, making the prep time just 20 minutes. We’d ditch the serving gravy and stick to just the (shop-bought) cranberry sauce, but each very much to their own. A great little snack that segues nicely to the main meal; is hearty enough to quell hunger pangs; and soaks up the sherry a treat.


Parmesan Shortbreads


Nigella


Nigella professes herself not one for Christmas starters, instead preferring to dot a few bite-sized snacks about the place for gobbling up. We’re more than on board with that, especially if said nibbles are as moreish as these beauties. With just four store-cupboard ingredients, they are so very simple to make and so very worth doing so. We recommend knocking them back with a glass of English sparkling. Of these little bites of savoury joy, Nigella writes: ‘This is an Italian-inspired recipe that comes to me from Australia via Brazil. To explain: a Brazilian friend, and the best cook I know, Helio Fenerich made it for me, and I had to keep (rudely) asking him to carry on making it for me. Eventually, I begged him for the recipe, which he told me he’d found in Australia. The journey was certainly worthwhile: it is a complete winner; I go into auto-Parmesan-shortbread mode whenever I have friends coming for supper, as not only is it perfect with drinks, but it can be made in advance.’


Smoked Salmon Horseradish And Cress Toasts


Jamie Oliver


Smoked salmon is almost as much a Christmas classic as the turkey itself. Whether you decide to sit round the table to tuck into these lovely toasts, or you see them more as a lovely portable snack while you sip a glass of sherry is entirely your call; they work perfectly either way. The horseradish is just the thing to give the taste buds an enlivening Christmas kick.


Merriment Tart


Anna Jones


Who could resist any dish going by the name of Merriment Tart? Anna Jones, queen of the vegetarian Christmas (and beyond), instructs how to cook up these gorgeous bites, which are ideal for devouring post present-giving while you cook, or for the kids to fill up on in front of their seventeenth viewing of Frozen/ The Gruffalo/ The Snowman. Sweet leeks, tangy cheddar, home-made pastry: in other words, small bites of heaven.

Four Quick And Easy Camembert Toppers


Olive Magazine


Four ideas for the price of one, this is such a clever quartet of ways to create something that looks dazzling and yet is in fact a very straightforward process of embellishing. The cranberry, port and thyme gets our vote for the most festive, while the maple pecans would be our top flavour choice thanks to the pure joy of sweet crunch with the soft gooey Camembert. Christmas is just as much the season of cheese as it is to be jolly (or perhaps the two ideas go hand in hand).

Grilled Scallops With ‘Nduja Butter


Olive Magazine


If anything is guaranteed to look pretty on your plate, it’s a scallop in the shell. This one marries that beautiful premise with spicy ‘nduja, which not only adds some serious punch, but couldn’t look more Christmassy if it tried. Light, delicious and, in short, the dream starter.


By Nancy Alsop
December 2020

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Nancy Alsop

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