Easy Homemade Appetisers

Scallops in cream sauce

Appetisers are light, tasty and stimulate the taste buds ready for the main course. They vary from soups to salads and are surprisingly easy to put together. Here’s how to create some easy homemade appetisers that your guests will love.

If you’ve ever thrown a dinner party, you know that the main course is the most important feature. But you need something light to start the meal with; something that will perk up your guests’ taste buds but not leave them too full to appreciate what comes next. 

Soup is a good choice, as long as it isn’t too substantial. A thick, creamy soup will be too filling, but one with tomatoes or vegetables is better. Try to avoid making anything with pastry for a starter as this is also very filling. Unless, of course, your main dish is a lighter option.

A salad goes down well in the warmer weather, but perhaps not so much in the middle of January! Although, there are such things as warm salads, made from roasted vegetables, couscous or a protein such as fish. 

The other thing to be aware of is that if you’re serving salmon for the main course, for example, a fish starter is not the best choice. A vegetable-based appetiser is more suitable, or one based on cheese. 

But now that you know what not to serve as an appetiser, here are some ideas for what you can serve! All recipes serve 4 unless stated otherwise. 

Angels and Devils on Horseback

This odd-sounding dish is a retro classic. The ‘angels’ are oysters and the ‘devils’ are prunes. Both are wrapped in bacon, which goes crisp as it cooks. As a finishing touch, they are served on thin triangles of fried bread. 

4 large oysters
4 large prunes
Juice of half a lemon
8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
2 slices of white bread, crusts removed
25g of butter
Fresh watercress to garnish

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan until sizzling. Cut each slice of bread in half diagonally, then in half again so that you have 8 triangles. Fry the bread for 3 – 4 minutes on each side until crisp and golden brown. You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your frying pan. Put the bread onto a plate and keep warm in the oven.

Remove the oysters from their shells by prising them open with a sharp knife, and holding them in a towel to protect your hands. Once open, gently scrape the oysters out of the shell and onto a plate. Toss them in the lemon juice, season with cayenne pepper and wrap each oyster in a rasher of bacon. Secure each one with a wooden cocktail stick.

For the ‘devils’, simply wrap the prunes in bacon, as with the oysters. Preheat your grill to high and cook the oysters and prunes for 10 – 15 minutes, until the bacon is crispy and the fat is sizzling. To serve, sit each one on a triangle of bread and garnish the plates with some watercress. Allow 1 ‘angel’ and 1 ‘devil’ per person.

For more detailed instructions, watch this video on how to open an oyster

Farmhouse Pate


A good pate always goes down well. Properly made, it’s absolutely delicious. This one is moist and has a coarse, chunky texture. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, it’s actually quite simple to make. Serves 6 – 8 and any leftovers make a great lunch or snack with some crusty bread. 

350g pork belly, rind removed and coarsely minced (a butcher can do this for you)
350g pork liver, minced
250g pork loin, minced
100g pork fat, diced
150 ml red wine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
6 juniper berries, crushed
8 black peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Put the pork, liver, and fat into a large mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Line the base and sides of a 1 kg loaf tin with non-stick baking paper and spoon the pate into the tin, levelling off the top with the back of a spoon. 

Half fill a roasting tin with hot water and stand the loaf tin inside it. The water will help to cook the pate evenly and keep it from drying out. Cook in a preheated oven, gas 2/150/300F for 1.5 – 2 hours, or until the juices have no trace of pink when you pierce the pate with a sharp knife. The pate should also have shrunk away from the sides of the tin, leaving a little gap.

Allow the pate to cool in the tin then put a layer of baking paper on top, followed by a weight such as a couple of tins of tomatoes. This ensures the meats are compressed and improves the texture of the finished dish. Chill for a minimum of 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Serve the pate in thin slices with crusty bread or hot buttered toast.

Chicken Soup

This is a great recipe for using up leftover roast chicken; it’s light, nutritious and full of flavour. 

1 chicken carcass plus about 150g of leftover chicken
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 sticks of celery, cleaned and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Put the chicken carcass and the meat into a large pan and cover it with water. Add the prepared vegetables, season with salt and pepper and cover the pan with a lid. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 2 hours, using a slotted spoon to skim the top of the liquid and remove any residue, which will look like a creamy white froth.

Remove the carcass from the pan and make sure that all the meat has fallen off and gone into the soup. Remove the bay leaf and ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Serve garnished with plenty of chopped parsley.

Fresh Tomato Soup with Balsamic Drizzle

Tomato soup

This is a lovely soup for summer, made with fresh, ripe tomatoes. The balsamic drizzle adds a pleasant tang. 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
600g fresh ripe tomatoes
600 ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
100g rocket to serve

Heat the oil in a deep, non-stick pan. Fry the onions for about 10 minutes until softened and a light golden brown. Add the sliced garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. While the onions are cooking you can skin the tomatoes.

To remove the skins from the tomatoes, put them in a bowl and boil the kettle. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes so they’re completely covered and leave for 5 minutes. Then carefully pour off the hot water and fill the bowl with cold water. After a couple of minutes, you should be able to slip off the skins easily. Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the pan.

Pour in the stock, season, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and leave the soup to cook gently for about 20 minutes.

Puree the soup using a hand blender or push it through a sieve into a large bowl. Reheat gently and serve in warmed bowls, garnished with rocket and with the balsamic vinegar drizzled on top.

Goat’s Cheese Souffles

Cheese souffle

These tangy, fluffy little souffles can be served hot or cold. They look impressive but are easy to make and taste great. 

25g butter, softened
15g plain flour
5 tablespoons of milk
100g firm white goat’s cheese
1 large egg yolk
3 large egg whites
Salt and pepper

Use half of the butter to grease the insides of 4 ramekin dishes, with a capacity of about 200 ml each. Melt the remaining butter in a non-stick pan and add the flour. Cook over a low heat, stirring, until a stiff paste is formed. 

Add the milk a bit at a time, stirring or whisking well between each addition. Don’t add any more milk until the first bit has been absorbed. Bring the mixture to the boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. 

Cut the cheese into cubes and add half of it to the sauce. Allow to melt then take the pan off the heat and stir in the egg yolk. Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until they form stiff peaks; test by lifting the whisk out of the bowl. The egg whites should stand up in peaks and not collapse back down. 

Fold the whites into the souffle mixture using a large metal spoon then divide the rest of the cheese among the 4 ramekins. Spoon the souffle mixture on top. Stand the ramekins in a shallow roasting tin and pour in some boiling water, allowing it to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekin dishes. 

Bake in a preheated oven, gas 5/190C/375F for 10 – 12 minutes, until the souffles have risen and are golden brown on top. Serve straight from the oven. 

Avocado, Prawn and Tomato Salad

This is a modern variation on the popular avocado with prawns starter from the 1980s. It’s light and fresh and the dressing takes it to another level. 

1 large, ripe avocado
200g cooked and peeled king prawns
Half a lemon
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes

A small bunch of fresh coriander (about 1 tablespoon)
Half a lime
125g Greek yoghurt
Salt and pepper
Salad leaves to serve

First, make the dressing. Grate the zest of the lime into a bowl and squeeze out the juice, discarding any pips. Finely chop the coriander and add it to the bowl with the yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper, mix well, and set aside to allow the flavours to develop. 

Cut the avocado in half and push out the stone with the point of a knife. Scoop out the flesh with a tablespoon and slice it quite thinly. Arrange the avocado slices on serving plates. Squeeze over some lemon juice to help prevent the flesh from going brown. 

Slice the tomatoes and arrange them on the plates with the avocado. Top with the prawns, spoon over the dressing, and garnish with fresh coriander sprigs and wedges of lemon. Add some mixed salad leaves to each plate and serve straight away.

Grilled Oysters


Oysters are usually served raw but this is an alternative way to serve them. Even people who say they don’t like oysters usually admit that they like these! Filled with a mixture of butter, garlic, and breadcrumbs and lightly grilled, these are very moreish. 

12 large oysters
50g softened butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
A pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
Lemon wedges to serve

Place the oysters in a pan with the flatter side of the shells facing upwards. Cover with cold water, put a lid on the pan and put on a medium heat. Steam for 2 minutes. The oyster shells should all be open. Any that remain closed, discard them. 

Put the softened butter into a bowl and add the garlic and parsley. Mix well then add the breadcrumbs, seasoning, and chilli flakes (if using) and mix thoroughly. 

Keep the oysters in the half shell and arrange them on a shallow tray. Top with the garlic crumb mixture and cook under a hot grill for 1 – 2 minutes, until the topping is hot and golden brown. Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over. 

Caesar Salad

Caesar salad

This simple salad has an amazing flavour. The anchovies add a salty depth and the creamy dressing makes it almost luxurious. 

2 whole romaine lettuces, washed
4 slices of white bread
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 large egg
8 anchovy fillets
Half a lemon
85g Parmesan cheese, grated
Black pepper

Remove any limp outer leaves from the lettuce and cut into strips. Put it into a large bowl. Heat the sunflower oil with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Remove the crusts from the bread and cut it into small cubes. Fry the bread cubes, turning often, until crisp and golden brown. Add the crushed garlic for the last minute of cooking. Remove from the pan onto a plate and set aside. 

Bring a small pan of water to the boil and add the egg. Boil it for 90 seconds then pour off the water and crack the egg into a bowl. Drain off the oil from the anchovies and chop them finely. Squeeze about 2 tablespoons of juice from the lemon and whisk with the egg, black pepper, and the remaining olive oil. You should have a creamy dressing with the consistency of pouring cream. 

To serve, divide the lettuce between 4 plates, top with the anchovies and croutons and pour over the dressing. Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan and serve. 

*For a vegetarian version, simply leave out the anchovies.

Fresh Tuna with Wasabi Butter


Fresh tuna is nothing like the canned variety; it’s firm, meaty, and full of flavour. Wasabi is a Japanese version of horseradish and is very hot, so only a little is needed to get a burst of spicy heat. You can find it in tubes in the supermarket.

Half a lemon
125g butter, softened
1 tablespoon wasabi paste
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
4 tuna steaks, about 175g each
2 lemons, halved
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
Salad to serve

Preheat a ridged griddle pan until very hot. Brush both sides of the tuna with oil and fry the steaks for 3 – 4 minutes on each side. Remove onto a serving plate and allow to rest. Keep warm in a low oven.

Cut the lemons in half and fry cut side down in the griddle pan until charred. This will only take a few minutes. 

To make the flavoured butter, mix it with the wasabi paste, soy sauce and lemon juice in a bowl. Blend thoroughly and refrigerate to firm up the butter.

Serve the tuna steaks sliced on the diagonal, accompanied by a pat of the wasabi butter, a charred lemon half and garnished with some salad.

Scallops with Pea Puree and Butter Sauce

Scallops are sweet, tender and take minutes to cook. This is a rich dish but very delicious. Use the scallops on the day you buy them. (Picture at the top of the page.)

12 fresh scallops
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper

100g cold butter, diced
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
100 ml dry white wine
4 tablespoons of double cream
Salt and pepper
Pea puree:

250g frozen peas
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
50 ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
A few mint leaves
Fresh herbs to garnish

First, make the pea puree. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan and fry the shallot over a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened. Pour in the stock then bring to the boil. Add the peas and cook for 5 minutes.

Pour the peas into a blender and add the mint leaves and seasoning. Whizz to a coarse puree. You can also use a stick blender and puree the peas in the same pan. You may need to add a bit more stock until you get the right consistency; it should be like very soft mashed potatoes. Season and set aside.

Next, make the sauce. Heat a couple of the butter cubes in a clean pan and fry the shallot for 5 minutes until softened. Add the wine, turn up the heat and allow it to bubble until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cream and allow the sauce to thicken. Now whisk in the butter a cube at a time until you have a smooth, shiny sauce. Season generously.

Wash the scallops and pat them dry on kitchen paper. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the oil and butter in a non-stick pan until it’s very hot then cook the scallops for 2 minutes. Don’t move them around or they won’t turn golden and crusty on the outside. Flip them over and cook for a further minute then remove from the heat immediately. Overcooked scallops are like rubber!

To serve, divide the pea puree between 4 plates, top with 3 scallops and pour the buttery sauce around the edge. Garnish with fresh dill and if you want to be really posh, some micro-herb leaves. 

I hope that you enjoyed this article and that it’s given you some ideas. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below. 

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4 thoughts on “Easy Homemade Appetisers”

  1. Your article left my mouth watering!  Well organized and well presented.  This is an article I will copy for my wife who is a wonderful cook.  There are about three appetizers here that I would recommend to anyone looking for a little flair for a dinner party.  I am especially fond of scallops.    

    • Thanks for your kind comments Phil, I hope you try out these recipes and enjoy them. Scallops are such a treat, I love them! Happy new year to you and your family 

  2. oooh these all look amazing!!! and now I’m hungry!

    I’m always looking for homemade appetizers to make and your recipes are great and…simple! which is great. And these are all healthy, which is great. Nothing is worst than filling up on crisps before dinner.

    My favourite are definitely the goat soufflés… although the grilled oysters are a close follow-up.

    What is your favourite?

    • Hi Diane, I’m glad you liked the recipes. I hope you enjoy trying them out! I would have to say that my favourite is the scallops, with the minty pea purée and the creamy sauce you will be in heaven from the first mouthful. The chicken soup is very tasty too, it’s good any time not just as an appetiser. And it’s very nutritious. You could take some to work in a flask and have it for lunch. The aroma will attract some attention from colleagues!


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