There’s nothing like a weekend in with good friends and good food.
Health experts, though, warn against snacking and watching TV at the same time. The problem is that when you’re binging the latest Netflix series, it’s easy to stop paying attention to what you are eating. You could easily finish a tub of ice cream and or an entire large pizza without realising it.
While we should be eating mindfully, when you have friends over it’s no fun if there’s nothing tasty on the menu. So here is a list of easy-to-make party snacks that are lower in salt, sugar, fat and, in some cases, preservatives than their store-bought versions.
Guacamole with homemade potato chips
Guacamole is easy to whip up and requires no cooking at all. All you need are some ripe avocados, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, chillies, coriander, lime, salt and pepper.
For a serving for three, take three ripe avocados and mash them with a fork once you have deseeded and spooned them out from their skins. Then chop two tomatoes, half a white onion, three red chillies, two cloves of garlic and three sprigs of coriander.
Mix these ingredients into the mashed avocado, add the juice of one lime, and salt and pepper to taste.
Voila – you have just made your first basic guacamole. Homemade potato chips, on the other hand, are a little more complicated, but they are also far healthier than commercial potato chips, which are high in salt and artificial flavourings.
When it comes to chips, use large potatoes as they yield more servings and larger-sized portions. You can also use purple potatoes.
Use as many of them as you would like. For the purposes of our TV night, let’s start with two large potatoes.
Peel the potatoes with a vegetable peeler and slice them thinly. Soak in ice water for 30 minutes to remove some of the starch and to ensure that they retain their crunch and shape.
Drain the water and place the sliced potatoes on a paper towel to pat dry. Mix together salt, garlic powder, pepper and ground paprika.
Heat one inch of vegetable oil in a large pot. You can tell that it is hot enough for frying if you insert a wooden chopstick and the oil begins to bubble slightly.
Add potato chips and ensure they are well covered in oil, fry until golden brown and remove the chips with a slotted spoon into a wire basket. Sprinkle with spice and salt mixture, toss well, and let the chips cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Store-bought hummus contains plenty of preservatives – they are added to extend the shelf life because hummus spoils very quickly if it isn’t chilled.
Potassium sorbate is one example of preservative added to hummus. It has been linked to allergic reactions such as eczema, as well as ailments like migraine and stomach upsets.
To make hummus at home, empty a can of chickpeas into a pot and boil them in water for about 20 minutes, or until their skins are peeling off. This is to soften the chickpeas to make them easy to blend. Drain the chickpeas and run them under cold water for about 30 seconds.
Blend a clove of garlic, juice of two lemons and half a teaspoon of sea salt finely in a food processor. Then add about half a cup of tahine and blend until thick. Add ice water a little at a time using a tablespoon to thin the mixture out slightly.
Add the cooked chickpeas and a dash of cumin to the mixture. Add olive oil slowly to make the hummus much smoother, and add more water if you’d like to adjust the consistency to something more creamy.
Serve in a bowl with a splash of olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika and a slice of lemon on the side. Before digging in, squeeze the lemon juice into the hummus, then mix it together well using your pita bread, corn chips or veggie sticks, mix it together well. Scoop the hummus with your dipping apparatus and pop into mouth.
Nasu dengaku (broiled eggplant with miso glaze)
Nasu dengaku, which translates to eggplant grilled over a fire, is a popular Japanese side dish. It takes just 15 minutes to make and is a delightful combination of sweet, salty and spicy. At least, my version is spicy – I’ve added some chilli padi to the miso glaze as I adore hot and spicy food.
Take four small eggplants, slice them in half and score their surfaces. Pan fry in oil over high heat, face down. Turn the eggplants over and cook for three to four minutes until the insides are soft but not soggy.
For the miso glaze, whisk together two tablespoons of miso paste, four tablespoons of mirin, two teaspoons of sugar, two tablespoons of sake and one teaspoon of sliced chilli padi. You can add or reduce the sugar and chilli padi in this recipe, according to your taste.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius at broil setting. Set cooked eggplant on top of a baking tray lined with aluminium foil. Brush miso glaze all over the eggplant.
Broil eggplants for four minutes until glaze bubbles. Sprinkle sesame seeds and finely chopped spring onions on top of the eggplant. Serve while they are still hot.
Brazilian grilled pineapple
This Brazilian favourite is a great as a sweet treat for a get-together. It is a popular choice for dessert at a churrascaria, or a Brazilian-style barbecue, and can be eaten on its own or served with vanilla ice cream. It isn’t the healthiest snack, but it sure is less sinful than a slice of chocolate cake. What’s more, it’s packed with vitamin C and fibre from the pineapple.
And best of all, it uses just three ingredients – pineapple, brown sugar and cinnamon. If you don’t have access to an outdoor grill, you can use a grill pan for the stove or an electric table grill.
This recipe is for six small servings of grilled pineapple or four larger servings if you have a sweet tooth. Slice a large peeled pineapple lengthwise, taking care to remove the core of the fruit. The core is bitter and hard, so remember to remove it.
Place pineapple into a ziplock bag and add one cup of brown sugar and two tablespoons of cinnamon. Coat pineapple in sugar and cinnamon mixture thoroughly.
Remove pineapple from bag and place on a hot grill. Cook for 10 minutes on each side or until the coating has caramelised and pineapple is tender. Be careful not to burn the pineapple or it will taste bitter.
Serve on its own, or with ice cream, a dash of rum or chocolate sauce.