Smaller dishes can be served before a main course or when you want to make snacks instead of a more filling meal. You can serve them at parties, buffets, get-togethers, cocktail parties and more. If the occasion calls for finger food or a snack, rather than a heavy meal, you can serve such recipes.
Plan which ones you are going to serve by thinking about your guests and looking at the rest of the planned menu. You can't go too far wrong if you are willing to mix creativity with classic dishes and perhaps add your own touches to our starter recipes, in order to make them unique and personalised. Match your snacks to the occasion and make something you feel your guests would enjoy.
Starters really don't have to be difficult to make or overly elaborate. In fact, some of the best are the most simple ones - dishes which have successfully stood the test of time.
You can serve starters hot, warm or chilled, arranged artistically on big plates with exotic garnish, or served simply. There are literally thousands of different dishes you can learn to make.
The definition of a starter recipe is a dish that is served before the main course. You might offer bread and butter with or before them or you might have a platter of different starters rather than giving each person their own helping. Perhaps you fancy offering a Spanish style tapas platter, in which case you would put a big plate of cheese, ham, olives and more in the middle of the table and people could help themselves.
Alternatively you could give each person a bowl of soup, a plate of salad or another appetizer. Starters should not be too filling because they are meant to whet your guests' appetite for the main course. Other words for starters include appetizers, hors d'oeuvres and canapes. Amuse-bouche is another one and this literally means mouth-pleaser.
There are lots of classic ones which you probably already know. Take prawn cocktail, for example. In some ways this is a retro recipe which appeared on every dinner table in the 1970s but it is also a classic dish because the creamy prawn topping, crisp lettuce and garnishes work so incredibly well together.
Soup is another classic idea, and you can choose from brown Windsor soup, tomato soup, minestrone soup or another classic soup. Of course you might prefer to serve something more exotic like a chilled soup, a curried soup or a fruit soup.
Usually you need to use your judgement when deciding which starters to make for which occasion. If you are having a formal dinner party you might want to choose some classic recipes, use your best crockery and cutlery and use classy garnishes.
If you are catering for a buffet for a teenager's birthday party you might want to make quiches, sausage rolls, sandwiches, cheese on sticks and all the typical things that people will be wanting and expecting.
There are no hard and fast rules and you might want to serve an international appetizer with a traditional British main course, a hot starter with a hot main course or even serve an unusual dish. Be creative and imaginative and taste your recipes as you go, and you won't go wrong. Starters should be fun to make and delicious to eat.
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Victoria and Everyone at Starter Recipes
Devilled eggs make a nice dish before any main course or you can serve them at a buffet or party. Curried devilled eggs are especially nice and the curry flavour goes really well with the egg taste. You can add a bit of sweet relish or minced sun-dried tomatoes too if you want to. You might also want to add a couple of drops of Tabasco sauce or a bit of Dijon mustard to spice this devilled eggs recipe up. If you prefer plain devilled eggs, just leave out the curry powder and spring onions. Most people will prefer the eggs slightly curried though.
If you don't have a piping bag to pipe the egg yolk filling back into the egg whites you can spoon it in, but obviously it looks more attractive if you pipe the filling in. It's not tricky like decorating a cake - as long as you aim for the space in the egg white where the egg yolk was, you will be fine! This recipe for devilled eggs is suitable for everyone, from beginner cooks upwards. Devilled eggs are great for buffets, dinner parties, cocktail parties and even for a nice snack at any time. The curry powder makes the egg yolk filling a more appetising shade of yellow and the flavours go together beautifully in this easy starter recipe.
The best way to hard-boil your eggs is to simmer then for seventeen minutes, then put them in a bowl of ice water. This shrinks the egg away from the shell. Put them back in simmering water for ten seconds to expand the shell from the egg, then chill them in the fridge. They are easier to peel when they are cold.
8 hard-boiled eggs
1 teaspoon curry powder
5˝ tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced spring onions
1 teaspoon tomato puree
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander, to garnish
Peel the hard-boiled eggs and cut them in half lengthways. Take the yolks out and mash them in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and keep mashing the yolks until you have a smooth paste.
Add the spring onions, tomato puree and curry powder and mix again. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Pipe the mixture into the egg whites using a pastry bag with a star tip. If you don't have a pastry bag, you can spoon the filling in instead.
Cover the devilled eggs and chill them in the fridge for up to 6 hours. Sprinkle the coriander over the top and serve immediately.
These delicious devilled eggs are best served with a green salad, to add colour. In the photo, the salad is made with rocket and red peppers but you can make a plain green salad if you prefer. If you are serving this starter recipe at a dinner party instead of making it for a buffet, you can serve each person two devilled egg halves on a single lettuce leaf, just to keep the garnish simple. Curried devilled eggs are easy to make and they taste really good. They are also satisfying to eat but won't fill your guests up too much to enjoy their main course.
There are simple snacks and there are complicated ones. You have probably made such recipes before, or snacks for parties. If you're totally new to cooking maybe you are worried about making your own, but there is really no need because they are so easy. Sticking cocktail sticks into cubes of cheese counts as making a starter, as does opening a jar of olives and putting them into a dish. Of course these aren't the most impressive dishes you could come up with!
There are appetizers and snacks for every occasion, whether you are catering for a party, a buffet, a sporting event, a coffee morning or something else. Some take less than a minute to make and others are just as fiddly as an elaborate main course.
Simple ones are always an attractive prospect to the home cook. They mean you can make quick and easy food which is tasty and nice-looking. If you have a hundred people to feel, the thought of making dishes which will go down well and not take hours to put together is probably a tempting one.
Don't think you can't make impressive two or three ingredient appetizer recipes because you absolutely can. Choose good quality ingredients and get the presentation right and your starters will be fine.
Hot bacon-wrapped scallops are a simple starter, Parma ham and cantaloupe melon is a simple one too, and there are lots more ideas for starters as well.
The best way to serve your starters depends on the occasion and the snacks themselves. If you are serving canapes at a cocktail party, you can either have a table with the food on or you can wander round, offering these little morsels to your guests. Canapes tend to be bite-sized snacks made with bread, toast or crackers and some kind of topping. Your guests won't need plates or cutlery to eat canapes.
If you are having a sit-down dinner party, you can either serve individual portions of food to people or you can have a platter of tapas or appetizers in the middle of the table for them to help themselves to the food. Bread can be offered around, passed around or set in the centre of the table so people can take what they want. This also depends on how big the table is and how many people are eating. If you have a table set for twelve, they won't all be able to reach the middle of the table. Well technically they could but it isn't good manners, is it?
Make sure everyone has the right plates, napkins, cutlery and anything else they need to enjoy the food. Being a good host is about looking after your guests and making sure they have a good time. The appetizers are the first food they will see or eat, so it is important to do your best to make them tasty and attractive.
When it comes to presentation, you can either stick to the recipe or use your creativity. Fresh herbs, a wedge of lemon, a sprinkling of black pepper or a strawberry might all be good garnishes, depending on the starter recipe in question. Don't use too many fussy garnishes and try to keep things simple. If you are trying to impress people, it is easier to stick to classic, easy dishes than attempt something too fiddly which you have never made before.
Meat Starters - are very popular and you can choose from beef starters, pork starters, lamb starters, chicken starters and many more delicious appetizer recipes. Meat starters can be served before a fish course or before a meat course if you are going to be serving a different meat. Our meat starters look just as good as they taste and they won't take you too long to make. If you have carnivores coming for dinner, take a look at some of our best meat starter recipes.
Fish Starters - are great if you are planning to serve a meat main course. Fish starters include popular seafood starters such as mussels, prawn cocktail and more and we also have fish soup starter recipes in our soup section if you fancy a light, fragrant soup dish or a chowder. Fish starters are usually delicately flavoured and lightly fragranced but you might like to make a boldly flavoured fish starter recipe instead, depending on which fish you are using.
Vegetarian Starters - are delicious, no matter whether your whole dinner is vegetarian or whether your main course is fish or meat based. Our vegetarian starter recipes include egg and cheese based dishes and we also use herbs and spices to make exciting dishes rather than bland ones. Not using meat, poultry or fish doesn't have to be a problem and our exciting vegetarian starter recipes are a testament to that.
Soup Starters - make a great beginning to any meal and there are literally thousands of different soup starter recipes to choose from, including meat, fish or vegetables. Ideas include minestrone soup, tomato soup, vegetable soup, chicken soup and lots of others too. A consommé or thin, clear soup is nice if you are going to serve a heavy main meal and you don't want everyone to be full before they begin!
International Starters - are very popular these days now that people are happy to be experimental about different cuisines. Whether you fancy making some Thai starter recipes, Chinese starter recipes, Japanese starter recipes or something else, we have some ideas for you. You don't have to serve an international meal after an international starter recipe. Mixing and matching is half the fun.
Special Diet Starters
Special Diet Starters - are handy if one of your guests has a special dietary requirement or if you are on the Atkins diet, South Beach diet or something similar and you still fancy a tasty starter recipe before your main course. Special diet starters don't have to be boring either. Just because you can't use a certain food or food group doesn't mean you can't make an exciting special diet starter recipe with the ingredients you are allowed to use!
5 Minute Starters
5 Minute Starters - are perfect if you are in a rush or if your planned starter has gone wrong beyond repair and you don't want anyone to know! Here we have some tasty meat, fish and vegetarian starters that you can make in an emergency with some common ingredients that you have in your kitchen cupboard or fridge already and don't worry, nobody will know that you made them at the very last minute.
Starter Articles - Starters are a very important part of a meal and it is important to know how to choose which starters you should make, as well as learning some tips for making the best starter recipes and presenting them attractively. Our starter articles will help you to make the best starters possible and guide you through the whole process, including ingredient selection, matching your starter recipes to your main courses and more. Whether you are a cooking novice or a seasoned chef, our starter articles can help you to create wonderful starters.
1. Homemade Snacks Taste So Good
If you compare some thawed out, reheated starters from the supermarket to something you have made yourself from scratch, from the best ingredients, which do you think will taste better? There is no contest. You will have plenty of time to make excellent recipes if you plan the event in plenty of time, organise yourself properly and follow the best recipes.
2. Make Ahead Starters Save Time and Stress
If you serve make ahead dishes, you can make them before you need them, avoiding the need to be in the kitchen panicking about things at the last minute. Some make ahead ones can be made well in advance and frozen. Others can be made a few hours before the event. This can free up some of your time just before the meal and if you are catering for a lot of people it will be vital to make some dishes in advance, and you wouldn't have time to prepare everything all at once.
3. Save Your Pennies
Making your own meals works out cheaper than using pre-packaged shop-bought food. You can spend the saved pennies on making a lavish main course or on table decorations or something else to make your dinner party a success.
4. Homemade Dishes Make a Statement
Presenting your guests with something you have made yourself shows them that you value them. Thawing out a packet of something and passing it off as your own home cooking isn't going to fool anyone!
5. There is Lots of Choice
Whether you want to serve meat, fish or vegetarian snacks, hot starters, cold starters or something else, the odds are good that there is the perfect recipe for the dish you have in mind. There are thousands of different options so for sure you can find something ideal.
Here is just a sampling of our delicious starter recipes you'll find plenty more inside the site.
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These snacks were served in ancient Persia thousands of years ago and ancient Roman aristocracy used to enjoy eggs, fruit and similar treats before eating their main course.
Appetizers have been served for many years in the UK as a snack before the main course arrived but modern ones can be quite different from old fashioned ones.
Of course, you can still serve traditional recipes but it is also fun to experiment with the wide range of ingredients that are available today but that our grandmothers wouldn't have had access to.
Recipes for finger food are very useful, especially if you are having a buffet or a cocktail party and people are going to be eating on the move. Unless people are able to sit down, finger food is necessary. Juggling plates, cutlery, cigarettes, purses and drinks is not much fun and serving good finger food simplifies this process.
There are all kinds of canape recipes and similar finger food starters you can make. The classics like sausage rolls, cheese on sticks and mini quiches will never go out of vogue either.
If you want to make easy starters which look good and taste delicious, what about making stuffed eggs, stuffed courgette slices, stuffed tomatoes or stuffed mushrooms? You can make this type of thing in bulk, as long as you're organised. You can stuff meat or fish, as well as vegetables.
A lot of stuffed items are make-ahead-friendly so you can make them in the morning, cover them in cling film and serve them in the evening or whenever the party starts. Devilled eggs are a classic British dish and stuffed tomatoes are colourful and delicious.
There is a lot to be said for sticking to classic recipes. Everyone loves crisps, olives, cheese, chicken wings and cold cuts after all, don't they? Even though this might seem like the safe route to take when planning easy party appetizers, it is fun to create memorable appetizers too.
Obviously, you want your starters to be memorable for all the right reasons, not because one of your guests suffered third degree burns when biting into a piping hot appetizer or stained his shirt with a messy red dip because you forgot to provide napkins!
An appetizer might be memorable because of the way it is presented, the fine ingredients you have used to make it or because you are serving an interesting mixture of classic cuisine and exciting exotic items.
If you get the ingredients right and the presentation right, your appetizers are going to be a resounding success. Choose your dishes and plan what you are going to make in plenty of time. This means you have time to assemble your ingredients and create everything.
Running out of food is never a good idea so make sure you have plenty. A lot of recipes can also be enjoyed the following day if you have leftovers. Maybe you just want to make two or three kinds of snacks and this is fine, so long as you follow the recipes carefully and present them in an attractive way.
If you are not sure how many people you will be catering for, you can have nuts, bread, cheese, and olives on standby and get these out if you do not think you have enough appetizers. Hungry people will snack on any tasty-looking food you leave around them.
International dishes have taken off recently in a big way. It is not unusual at all these days to see international items on a restaurant menu or to be given them at a dinner party. This obviously applies to main courses and desserts as well as starters.
Chicken sate, prawn toast, Asian soup recipes, Greek dips, Spanish tapas and more are popular as well as common these days and many people even prefer international starters over traditional British ones. There are more ingredients available in modern supermarkets than ever before and you can use these ingredients to make exotic recipes and fusion-style snacks.
Recipes vary between countries and it can be fun to make international dishes or make your own starter recipes combining two different cuisines. What about Greek pita bread with a Mexican dip or Chinese spring rolls with an Indonesian satay sauce?
Asian snacks and dim sum are some of the most popular starter recipes of all. Japanese, Chinese and Thai starters and more are easy to make, since the ingredients are so widely available these days, and these cuisines offer mouth-watering flavour combinations. If you enjoy Asian food you're going to love Asian snacks.
European appetizers seem to have merged with the ones we serve in the UK. Spanish tapas aren't out of place at a dinner party and nor are Italian antipasti like cheese, cold meats, olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Swedish pre-dinner snacks are known as a smorgasbord and this word means a buffet. French starter recipes are known as canapes, amuse-bouche or hors d'oeuvres and these are popular at cocktail parties as well as dinner parties and buffet style events.
In a lot of Arabic countries, as well as Greece or Turkey, you might hear the word meze used to describe them. This might be deep fried dishes with dips like yogurt and mint or taramasalata served alongside for dunking. Dishes like these are just as delicious at a buffet as at a dinner party.
Italian and Spanish starter recipes are probably the most common in the UK, apart from British dishes, and this is partly because they are so simple to make. A tray of cheese, olives and cold meats makes a great appetizer and you can rustle this up in under a minute. Serve bread on the side, as well as herb butter or aioli for dipping, and you have a wonderful and simple recipe.
In Central American and South America, you will find fish appetizers to be very popular although this varies with your proximity to the coast. Prawn appetizers are well loved in a lot of South American regions and you might find avocadoes, chillies, tortillas and tomatoes to be other ingredients in popular starter recipes. Some Central and South American starter recipes are spicy and others are mild.
Every country has its own ideas about what makes a delicious snack. What about serving some Indian pakoras or samosas for example? Deep fry some fresh coconut slices for Caribbean style coconut chips or make a spicy Mexican salsa recipe.
International starters can really unleash your creativity, both when choosing which dishes to make and making the actual recipes. You can use shop-bought bread, poppadums or crisps with a tasty international homemade dip recipe or make everything from scratch if you want to.
You can find the easiest recipes on our homepage or have a look through the different categories to find the ideal recipes for any occasion. You might already be considering meat, fish, international appetizers or something else, or you might just be looking for some ideas and inspiration. We have lots of different ideas which are suitable for everyone from beginner cooks right up to seasoned chefs.
If you want some tips on making the best starter recipes for any event, have a look at our articles or if you already have some idea of what you want to make you can browse our extensive collection of delicious starters. Whether you are looking for very easy starters, classic and traditional starters or something impressive for a special occasion, there is plenty of choice.
The best dishes are those that make people's mouths water. Whether you serve a steaming bowl of mouth-watering soup, mini quiches or tarts with colourful fillings, classic dishes that everyone knows or something exotic, there is nothing like an appealing snack to get people excited about dinner. Use fresh produce, top quality ingredients and attractive garnishes to make your starters look and taste even better.
You can use our recipes as guidelines, if you want to experiment with the ingredients and flavours or you can follow them to the letter if you are new to making starters. As long as you choose the recipes carefully, make sure you have all the right ingredients before you begin and take care with the preparations, your food should be amazing.
Starters are supposed to make people want to tuck into them, so choosing a nice garnish as well as the best recipes is important. You can even serve something basic like raw broccoli and carrot pieces with a dip in style. Make sure you only use perfect crudites and make them all the same size. Present the dip in a nice bowl and arrange the crudites around the outside.
You can make any meal look good, even if it is something quite plain and not colourful. Take meatballs for example. How do you make these little brown balls look appealing? Just arrange them on a colourful plate and garnish them with a sprig of fresh coriander or parsley. It is the little touches like that which make your little dishes look appetising.
You can keep cold foods in the fridge until you are ready to serve them, with a few exceptions, but hot ones must be served hot or at least warm. Actually most hot starters are best left for five or ten minutes after coming out of the oven because people might burn themselves otherwise. This especially applies to bite-sized finger food where people tend to pop the whole thing in their mouth without thinking about the fact it might be very hot inside.
Get the timings right when preparing hot starters. If something needs to bake for half an hour, allow half an hour for the food to bake and ten minutes for it to cool down a bit before you serve it. If a dish just needs to warm through, the recipe will tell you roughly how many minutes that is going to take and you can plan accordingly. Hot snacks are great in the autumn or winter when people don't want chilled food. You just need to be organised with these.
British food is considered by some non-Brits to be boring or stodgy. This couldn't be further from the truth. Great British starter recipes include such delights as prawn cocktail, brown Windsor soup, cheese and tomato tartlets, homemade pate and more.
In Wales you might find Welsh rarebit on the menu, which is basically grilled cheese on toast, but beer and Worcestershire sauce are used in the traditional recipe. Scottish food varies as widely as Scotland itself does but Scottish soups like cock-a-leekie and Scotch broth usually go down well. Arbroath Smokies, which is smoked haddock, can be a delicious starter.
Irish potato pancakes are very tasty and soda bread with butter makes a good starter. Dublin Bay prawns are famous and seafood is more popular today in Ireland than ever before. Pear and blue cheese tart is an English starter recipe, as is asparagus with sauce, pigs in blankets (bacon-wrapped sausages) and vegetable frittata.
Because starters are served before the main course, they often contrast with whatever is being served but this is not something you have to do and if you want to serve seafood for the starter and for the main course, why not? You could serve a classic British prawn cocktail recipe for the starter, then a baked cod dish for the main course. As long as everyone likes fish, there wouldn't be any problem with doing that.
British starters have changed a lot in recent times, being influenced heavily by exotic international dishes, but the classic British recipes live on. Some dishes might be seen as "retro recipes" now but these can be enjoyable to make and either kept as they are or given a modern twist. You can use Asian spices on a simple salad dish or serve chilli sauce alongside something plain-flavoured.
Use your imagination and creativity to breathe new life into old British favourites or introduce some new and exiting international flavours.