Appetizers whet the appetite. They are best called stimulating samples: a sample of something that is meant to stimulate an interest. A good start to a formal meal or a party could be a serving of these ‘ice breakers’ or starters and appetizers! These are finger foods usually served prior to a meal and may range from the very simple to the very complex, depending on the occasion and the time devoted to making them. Appetizers are perfect with aperitifs, cocktails served prior to a meal.
Appetizers are planned in a big way at weddings and also at long parties. In fact, there are some parties that serve a variety of appetizers in huge quantities because there is no main course to follow. Appetizers are an especially good idea when guests are consuming alcohol, since they help to cut down on alcohol absorption.
Ideally appetizers should be easy to handle with just a napkin and easy to eat in one to two bites. This way guests can continue to mingle without needing to carry around food laden plates.
• Try a simple plate of cheese and crackers
• Keep a tray with batons of crisp vegetables called crudités and serve it with a dip
• Canapé baskets filled with a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian stuffing
• Kababs are the epitome of Indian starters – these can be served hot from the grill or tandoor! Have a variety of chicken and fish as also vegetarian. Ensure that the cooking areas are different.
When you decide to serve appetizers, think about foods that will go well together, but vary in flavour and taste. For example, perhaps you would like to serve grilled prawns. This is a great choice, but some guests may be allergic to seafood or shellfish. In addition to the prawns, consider other appetizers such as stuffed mushroom caps, or small tikkis in easily handled sizes. Something on toothpicks like Angoori Paneer Tikka, Cheese and Vegetable Balls, Kumbh Shashlik are ideal. It is appropriate to serve both hot and cold appetizers, but perfectly fine to serve all cold or all hot dishes.
How does one know how many appetizers will be enough? Follow a simple rule: allow six to seven appetizers per person per hour. If you do not know all the food preferences of your guests, be sure that you have something substantial for vegetarians.
An extra touch:
• Garnish or line serving trays with lettuce leaves/shredded lettuce or cabbage leaves. You can also line bowls with cabbage leaves.
• Serve the dip in interesting containers like a hollowed out cabbage, or a hollowed loaf of uncut bread, pumpkins or watermelons.
• Place appetizers in multiple locations rather than having one table. This encourages your guests to move around more.
• Serve cold foods such as vegetables, prawns and cubed cheese in a ring of ice.
Prepare trays of appetizers before hand in the kitchen so you can quickly refill. Appetizers served before a buffet or full dinner are optional. But remember that they do reduce the intake of dinner food, but only about ten percent. If you do choose to serve an appetizer, remember there is a meal following immediately. And yes, try to select complementary foods.