Store these simple items with your kitchen essentials to wow unplanned guests with your instant catering skills.

With Kyriaki Chatzistavridou

Surprise guests are usually welcome ones. Friends and family who just happen to be in the neighbourhood and pop in to say hello. Avoid your usual ‘there’s nothing in the pantry’ panic. Here are some tips to help you toss together platters and aperitifs that will wow your guests, at a moment’s notice.

All you need is a kitchen, herb garden and pantry that are up for the task. Keep these stocked with the basics and you’ll never be surprised again! Hosting an impromptu occasion for unexpected guests will be easy (and fun) when you can throw together delicious food and impressive drinks in moments.

Drinks and apertifs

From a cup of tea or coffee to artisan aperitifs, “would you like a drink” is probably the first question you ask guests. If you don't want to be caught off guard simply keep your fridge, pantry and home bar stocked with the following items. If they’re getting low add them to the shopping list so you’re never without.

The basics are coffee, juice, and a selection of teas – both traditional and herbal. If you don’t drink herbal tea that’s perfect, your supply will always be stocked for guests. Grab a fruity option, as well as a peppermint or chamomile, to cover most taste preferences. Now it’s time to wow your guests. Create a serving tray that you can pull out instantaneously, with an eye-catching combination of cups, jugs, vintage spoons, and tea pots. Keep the tray prepped in a bottom drawer for when guests surprise you, and you won’t waste any time in the kitchen when they arrive.

Of course, if your impromptu gathering has a more festive vibe, you'll probably head straight to the home bar for a refreshing option. Simply refill the ice maker each time guests leave so you never run out of ice.

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While wine is a reliable alcoholic option, stock up on some crowd-pleasing alternatives like whiskey, gin, and flavoured vodka. Keep a fresh orange or lime in the fridge to slice and add with juice. At this rate your guests will pop in next week for a refill!

All the snacks

Whether you're after simple edible bits, or a finger food feast, you can’t go wrong with the following ingredients you probably already have at home or in the garden. Fresh-cut herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, dill and basil are ideal candidates for beautifying a mouth-watering finger food platter.

Next stop is the fridge. Cheese, salami, cherry tomatoes and grapes become a playful mini skewer. Throw the ingredients haphazardly on a platter and let your guests do the skewering for you. No bake, no hassle, could it get any better? Let's not forget about dips. Our favourite yogurt dip is an easy go-to accompaniment for any platter.

Last stop is the pantry. Keep it stocked with a couple of varieties of crackers. If your surprise guests have a sweet tooth, carob bits, pre-made protein balls, and cookies are no-prep additions to a coffee serving tray. However, if you wish to win the coveted “surprise guests host” title (yup, just made it up), it's best to not serve anything in its packet.

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Which brings us to our final tip…

Presentation and food styling

No matter how tasty the food and drinks you serve may be, truly wowing surprise guests is all in the presentation. Why not cater to your guests' mouth, nose, and eyes simultaneously! In truth, you’re almost there. If you’ve been following this guide to the letter (and we’re sure you have) you already created a serving tray, planted herbs for fresh garnishes, and found a board or dish for 2-minute platters. All that’s left are some simple tweaks as you prep and present your plates. Styling Tip: Use dishes that are a little too small for the food so it will look plentiful. If you only have 10 olives left in the fridge, they suddenly look like 20 in a too-small dish. Also, play with the height of your plates. If you have a low pile of books on your coffee table perhaps don’t clear them, but use them as a base for that plate of bliss balls.

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If that’s all a bit intimidating the real secret is to simply garnish, garnish, garnish with those fresh cut herbs.



Header Photography: Sonja Langford



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