Thanks to our extraordinarily multicultural society, Australians have adopted a wide variety of international food into their daily lives – think Thai chicken curries, creamy laksas, Indian tandoori, Middle Eastern pides, Mexican everything! But there’s no rule that says those same exotic flavours can’t be added to your festive entertaining, too, whether it be nibbles on Christmas Day or a New Year’s Eve cocktail party. Try this batch of inspiring international ideas.
Stick it to ’em
Take a traditional Italian combination and give it new life by threading balls of rockmelon, folded pieces of prosciutto and baby bocconcini onto wooden skewers. For a meaty variety, marinate small cubes of chicken in kecap manis, finely chopped red chilli, ginger and garlic and a little lemon juice, then thread onto wooden skewers, cook on the barbecue and drizzle with a little more kecap manis. Serve with store-bought satay sauce. Also delicious are mouth-sized chunks of grilled Mediterranean vegetables – eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, mushroom – skewered with cubes of fried halloumi.
Dips and sips
Try adding a little ground cumin, finely chopped fresh chilli, chopped coriander and lemon juice to chunky avocado for an Indian-flavoured dip, and serve with naan. Or think Middle Eastern with kiz güzeli, made from pureed cooked beetroot, plain yoghurt and a little cumin and salt, then drizzled with olive oil. Perfect with fresh hot pide. For a liquid snack with bite, fill shot glasses with chilled Spanish gazpacho soup. Or add a fresh oyster to each glass, and top with a little light soy, rice wine vinegar and a dollop of finely shredded spring onion.
Meat and greet
Whip up a batch of Mexican empanadas with a filling of potato, beef mince, onion, hard-boiled eggs, pitted green olives, garlic and cumin, shrouded in shortcrust pastry. Up the spice ante with chicken wings marinated in store-bought piri piri sauce (or you can make your own). Bake until cooked, and serve with mayonnaise combined with a little lemon juice and chopped coriander. Or make the perfect mini burger with a combination of cooked sliced chorizo, caramelised onions and grilled haloumi – Spain, meet the Middle East.
Fry and fry again
Fritters are delicious in any language: go subcontinental with a roasted spiced cauliflower version served with a yoghurt and mint sauce, or back to Europe with a combination of grated zucchini and feta. Thai fish cakes are simple and, served with a simple cucumber dipping sauce, will be absolutely favourites. Sticking with the seafood, salt cod croquettes are a specialty of Spain and Portugal: simply a combination of the cod (known as bacalao), mashed potato, garlic, lemon and cream, which is then deep fried. Delish, as the Portuguese say. And don’t forget Italian arancini: made with leftover risotto, rolled into balls, coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and fried till golden.
A mixed bag
A Spanish-flavoured frittata – think chorizo, red capsicum, sliced potato and red onion – cut into squares and served with a dollop of tomato chutney will be a crowd-pleaser. As will Russia’s classic blinis (small pancakes) topped with a piece of smoked salmon and a smear of sour cream mixed with a little horseradish. Make a batch of home-made falafel and serve with a Moroccan-inspired sauce made from plain yoghurt, chopped mint, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch each of white sugar and salt.
Christmas gift ideas: