Designed to share these small plates (+recipes)

By Amanda Laird

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A table full of moreish flavours for friends and family to tuck into.

Goat's cheese fritters stuffed with dates and almonds. Photo / Babiche Martens
Goat's cheese fritters stuffed with dates and almonds. Photo / Babiche Martens

One gorgeous spring Sunday we all decided to jump in the car and head north to investigate a recent addition to the cafe/dining scene. Having small children means this does not happen as often as I would like. The options are to rope in loving grandparents who already do more than their fair share of babysitting or try to convince "always too busy" uncles. Or to source out the places that are happy to have children roaming free.

This was such a place so there was plenty of room for running and chasing the dog but more importantly we could concentrate on the delicious food and wine. Everything on the menu sounded appealing but it was the way the food was served which most impressed. Interesting flavours on small plates designed to share. Six were ordered and the eating was unhurried and leisurely which got me thinking about the style of today's food.

As the weather warms it seems an ideal time to invite friends over and sharing small plates of delectable food seems much more preferable than planning a picnic or a barbecue.

After all, we have all of summer to enjoy those.

Creating these dishes gives an opportunity to discover new ingredients and ways of combining them, plus gain pleasure from styling the food in such a way to leave your guests delighted.

Goat's cheese made into fritters is crispy and melting but when the flavour of orange is added, then the soft dates and toasted almonds create a surprising centre, the flavours are lifted out of the ordinary. Look for a chevre instead of a feta because the cheese will be soft and creamy.

A frittata is so simple to make and can be served all puffed and golden, straight from the oven in a gorgeous cast iron fry pan, delivered to the table on a wooden board, then turned out or sliced into wedges and served with a relish and a few salad greens. Frittata is always a glamorous way to use up leftovers, but make sure you elevate it even more with a few special ingredients like the creme fraiche, good quality parmesan and jalapenos as I have used today.

Welsh rarebit is a classic supper dish and a bit like a flash scrambled eggs with the added sophisticated flavours of good mustard, ale, Worcestershire sauce and aged cheddar cheese, served on crusty toasted rye bread. This dish also works well served on smaller pieces of toast and then served on smaller plates so your guests can all enjoy a taste without the dish being the entire meal.

Chef's tip

Panko crumbs are available at most gourmet food stores and supermarkets. They are a larger crumb, so result in a more delicate crust. Use whichever smoked fish for the frittata you prefer - I tend to go for kahawai but I suggest choosing whichever looks the freshest.

- NZ Herald

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