Whilst I love going all out when entertaining and spending time creating three, or even four courses to laze over, the truth of the matter is that I don't really have enough plates, knives or forks to allow this. Or rather, I do, but they don't all go together. Furthermore, I have a 'slimline' dishwasher which most certainly doesn't fit all the paraphenalia dirtied by serving multiple courses for eight. Call me selfish, but I loathe washing up.
What I tend to do therefore, is serve a maincourse and pudding (occasionally two) and then make some substantial eatie bits for everyone to tuck into with drinks before siting down to the main event. Sometimes this means getting small and dainty with some nice canapés, but more often than not I'll make something a bit more hearty for everyone to dig into in a messy, informal sort of way. Pâté of some kind or other is usually my top choice, served with wedges of crusty bread - people can just dig in and have as much as they want. Usual favourites are chicken liver or smoked trout. Last week, I dished up the usual favourite chicken liver but decided to make a smoked mackerel version as well.
3 smoked mackerel
200g soft cream cheese (I used half-fat Philadelphia)
1 heaped tablespoon low-fat natural yoghurt
1 heaped tablespoon horseradish sauce (more or less to taste)
handful chopped spring onions or chives
small handful chopped parsley
juice of half a lemon
1. Remove skin and any obvious bones from the mackerel, flake with a fork.
2. Place in food processor along with all the other ingredients and blitz until you have a reasonably smooth consistency (I like a few lumps in mine so tend to leave it quite chunky - you could even mash everything together in a bowl rather than using the processor).
3. Taste. Season with black pepper. Add more lemon juice if required.
4. Serve with melba toast, crusty bread or toasted pittas.