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MasterChef star's Hogmanay tips: It’s a marathon, not a sprint

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Sarah Rankin.
Sarah Rankin.

The best advice I can give for Hogmanay, is, ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’. It can be a long night, so starting on the cocktails at noon is unlikely to end well. That being said, soaking up some of that end-of-year cheer with delicious nibbles can help to stretch out the night and keep everyone on an even keel.

Although all our favourite supermarkets have upped their game in recent years with a selection of pretty special party food, it can all end up a bit beige. You’ll be a slave to your guests too as you decant tray after tray of breaded morsels from oven to table.

The key – as with all things around the festive season – is to keep it simple. A few tasty things, or large sharing platters is a much better idea than an array of fiddly canapés.

A large, warm loaf of focaccia or crusty sourdough cut into chunks alongside a dish of ricotta scattered with crispy pancetta, chopped dates and sprinkled with lemon zest is perfect for dunking and substantial enough to ensure that the dancing on the tables is kept to a minimum – at least before midnight. You can add in a few different dips like cannellini beans with garlic and chilli oil, or an artichoke and olive tapenade made by pulsing a drained jar of artichoke hearts with a little cream cheese and stirring in a few sliced black olives. Serve with some vegetable and fruit crudités and you’ve a feast on your hands.

Using your shot glasses to serve a warming soup means that they aren’t available for Jägermeister or other such horrors. A creamy sweet potato, coconut milk and chilli will work beautifully here and can help to rouse flagging guests later into the night with a boost of peppery heat.

Everyone likes chips and you can tart them up by dressing them in delicious toppings and calling them dirty fries. Roast off a large tray or two of diced potatoes – tossed with oil, sea salt and garlic – and top with anything you fancy. A really strong cheddar with crispy fried onions and haggis is my personal filthy favourite.

If your evening is more intimate, a slow cooked chunky beef chilli can be left warming in a slow cooker or very low on the hob for guests to help themselves. Made with quality braising steak and packed with peppers and red onions, you can finish it by stirring in a few squares of 70 per cent dark chocolate for a fabulously rich flavour. Serve with flatbread and yoghurt with lots of fresh coriander.

A long night deserves drinks that will keep you pepped up. My current favourite is a flat white martini made with Irish cream liqueur (you know the one!), vanilla vodka and a shot of espresso. You can mix it up with a flavoured version of said liqueur and offer orange, salted caramel and even Eton Mess cocktails.

However you spend your Hogmanay, drink responsibly and eat well. Sláinte!

Sarah Rankin is a MasterChef finalist, food writer, cookbook author, private dining chef, food event host and demonstrator and lover of all things local. Check out her content @sarahrankincooks

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