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ENTERTAINING can strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned host and few things are fiddlier or more time-consuming than appetisers.

But it needn't be that way says Susannah Blake, author of new book 500 Appetisers (Apple Press, pounds 9.99).

"Good timing is key to the perfect appetiser," she explains. "Who wants to slave away in the kitchen while their guests are having fun?"

Susannah suggests cook-as-you-go nibbles if you're serving at the kitchen table, where guests can chat away while you prepare food. If you're entertaining in other parts of the house, look for appetisers that can be prepared ahead of time: dips can be stored in the fridge, salads can be prepared ahead and dressed before serving and canape toppings and bases can be assembled at the last minute.

"Choosing an impressive, yet hassle-free appetiser means you can concentrate on getting the main course and dessert just right, knowing the appetiser will keep everyone happy while you stay cool, calm and collected," she says.

And if you haven't updated your appetiser repertoire since the 'mini onions and cubed cheese on a stick' days, then it's time to brush up on the new fashions in finger food: Asian-inspired rolls and satays, traditional meze dishes like stuffed vine leaves or grilled halloumi and Spanish-style tapas are all now on the menu.

No matter what your choice of starter, though, bear in mind what they're designed for, Susannah says.

"Appetisers can be wonderfully varied and their purpose is to whet the appetite and stimulate the tastebuds.

"They are there to stave off possible hunger pangs until the main event, but be aware that appetisers should never spoil the appetite."

COURGETTE AND CAPER DIP

(serves 4)

Ingredients: 3 courgettes, sliced; 1/2 garlic clove, crushed; 2tsp capers, rinsed; good pinch of dried chilli flakes; 2tbsp olive oil; salt; 1/4 lemon.

Method: Cook the courgettes in a steamer over a pan of boiling water for about five minutes, until they are tender.

Tip the courgettes into a food processor and add the garlic, capers, chilli and olive oil. Process to a smooth puree. Check the seasoning and add lemon juice to taste.

Transfer the dip to a bowl and serve hot or leave to cool.

CAPTION(S):

GET STUCK IN: Courgette & Caper dip from 500 Appetisers, by Susannah Blake
COPYRIGHT 2007 MGN Ltd.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 10, 2007
Words:390
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