Big idea for small plates 

Small plates are BIG news in the eating out market and are seen as a sociable and relaxed way of enjoying food and trying new things. For the caterer, however, creating lots of little dishes can be time-consuming – and constantly reinventing your tapas menu positively headache-inducing! We asked several seasoned chefs and industry professionals to share their top tips and ideas for terrific tapas and sensational small plates to minimise your stress levels…

Tom Marley, chef at the White Swan Inn, Pickering, Yorkshire We love the social aspect of small plates; the idea of getting people together and sharing several dishes. As for creating menus, limiting the number of dishes and concentrating on quality ingredients is key. A small plate comprised of something as simple as bread and cheese can be fantastic when it’s homemade or sourced really well. We create small plate menus based around a single ingredient. Our previous small-plate menu was based around fish and included a variety of small plates such as:

• King Prawn and Avocado Toasts
• Smoked Mackerel and Watercress Pate with Sour Dough Wafers
• Monkfish and Chorizo Stew
• Whitby Crab and Citrus Salad with Radish from Tom’s allotment
• Hot Langoustines with Lemon and Garlic Butter
• Fresh Seared Tuna Sushi with Lime and Gentle Chilli
• Fish Cakes with Proper Tartare Sauce
• Haddock and Chive Twice Baked Souffle

Louise Palmer-Masterson, founder of award-winning plant-based restaurant Stem + Glory, Cambridge Small plates are on trend at Stem + Glory. We also bump up our small plate menu with smaller versions of main courses and ‘sides’. Our rockstars are our legendary gluten-free Kimchi pancakes, made with house made kimchi and served with yangnyeomjang (korean spicy) sauce. New on the block, our Nori Rolls are in particular very simple. Thin strips of raw vegetables and tempeh wrapped in nori seaweed and served with a wasabi mayo. Minimal prep and delicious. It’s all about the homemade dips and sauces at Stem + Glory which give our small plates that added layer of zing.

Oliver Smith, executive chef at Hadrian Healthcare Group’s Wetherby Manor and winner of the NACC Care Cook of the Year award 2015 Working with residents who suffer with eating impairments and dementia, we provide tasty small dishes frequently and often not just at set meal times. Someone with dementia may not realise they’ve had breakfast and at 10am are hungry again as they burn more calories than you and I, so it’s important we have things for them to eat when they need it. Have chutneys, pickles, scotch eggs and sausage rolls that can be easily sent at a moment’s notice, something they can eat with their hands, tastes great and is recognisable as a childhood treat. We find with most small plates when working with dementia that things they can eat with their hands works best.

Olivia Shuttleworth, brand manager for Prep Premium speciality oils Strong, punchy flavours are key to small dishes and using aromatic oils can add a real depth of flavour to your tapas menu with minimal fuss. Spicy and smoky seasonings from around the world can also be used to accompany the flavours of the drinks you’re serving. Try chorizo and scallops skewers seared in spicy sriracha-style chilli and garlic oil or bring an oriental twist to your garlic prawns with chilli and toasted sesame flavoured Oriental Flame.

Robert Ortiz, chef and head of culinary development at Michelin-starred LIMA London www. Having been open for five years and with a solid grounding as part of the London restaurant scene, we have decided to develop our offering into a sharing, casual format rather than simply constricting diners to a starter, main and dessert format. Our new dishes celebrate the culinary diversity and cultural influences that exist in Peruvian cuisine and bring the innovation of what’s happening in the city of Lima nowadays. Our menu includes a selection of bites designed to be eaten by hand, such as Rococo crisps served with either a beef, prawn or artichoke tartare, and a selection of Andean crisps and crackers made from yucca, parsnip, sweet potato and olluco, accompanied by dips. Sharing plates include Salmon Tiradito ceviche and an octopus and quinoa ceviche.

Prateek Sadhu, Noma-trained head chef of wilderness-to-table restaurant Masque in Mumbai My favourite go-to for small plates is always oysters – they’re quick, they’re easy, they’re sexy and people always feel like they’re in for a treat. We often serve a trio of small dishes together – at the moment it’s oysters, a little corn tart, and tapioca breads stuffed with chorizo or sweet potato. They’re all items that can be prepared for the most part in advance that still come out the kitchen fresh and ready to impress!