What is life, without delicious food and the people you love to share it with?
For our edit of ultimate sharing dishes, we take a dip into the national cuisine of Spain, Brazil, Switzerland, Japan and more.
We've picked out easy-to-assemble dishes that pack a culinary punch and feed many hungry mouths at short notice.
The snacks and treats we've chosen are as fun to make as they are to eat, for a collective and interactive experience that doesn't involve one person slaving away resentfully in the kitchen alone. Picture instead a happy, relaxed group of people passing round ingredients and mucking in together to make the meal come alive.
So whether you're hosting a low-key dinner party for friends or have a crowd to feed on the cheap, come revel in these good-time group dishes that are all about the sharing, from seafood paella to raclette, fondue and Hawaiian-style fajitas:
Words: Anna Brech
If ever a dish was made for revelling in glorious bonhomie, it's paella. Cook up a giant pan filled with mussels, clams and shrimps, grab a fine bottle of Rioja and give everyone a fork to dig in with.
(Source: The Pretty Blog/ Catherine Mac via Pinterest)
Build your own fajitas
There are few finer ways of spending a Friday evening than round an over-sized griddle of fajitas with all the trimmings. This Hawaiian take on the time-honoured Mexican snack features pineapple slaw and coconut rice for an added sense of zing.
The base items - and especially the oven-roasted pulled pork - take a little prep but are more than worth it for the end effect of DIY-ing your own fajitas from a irresistibly moreish buffet of tortillas, pork, grilled peppers, diced avocado and cheese (not to mention the jalapeño-fuelled sides and toppings).
(Source: Half Baked Harvest via Pinterest)
For a nifty spin on fajitas, try these fajita-style quesadilla quarters. Quick and easy to make, you can cook up a batch of 3-4 at a go on a giant griddle pan, for a snack to feed many in under 20 minutes. The best bit? You can really go to town on the fillings, from sauteed onion, red pepper, and green pepper amid a hefty seal of melted cheese to dessert fillings such as peanut butter with chocolate sauce.
Go with the flow depending on what everyone feels like.
(Source: The Recipe Critic via Pinterest)
Grilled cheese and ham raclette
Mm, raclette. This traditional Swiss dish is a superb way of giving soul to casual gatherings of around 4-8 people. You will need to invest in a raclette grill to get started, then load up on crucial ingredients, from ham, sliced pepper, mushrooms and gherkins, to dipping stuff such as a huge bowl of potatoes and crunchy baguette and of course, lashings of Gouda or Greyere cheese to create that scrumptious smell of freshly grilled fromage.
(Source: Key Ingredient via Pinterest)
Jacket potato bar
This is a foolproof, low-maintenance way of feeding crowds on the cheap. Simply lay out a tray of jacket potatoes (dash them with olive oil and sea salt before baking for nice crunchy skins) and create a series of toppings for people to choose from, from chilli and soured cream to crumbled bacon slices.
You can decrease the work factor even further by asking guests to bring toppings with them, for a potluck approach.
(Source: Perfecting The Pairing via Pinterest)
Lemon shrimp kebabs
Thread the shrimp onto skewers inter-weaved with fresh lemon chunks, and while you grill the kebabs create a creamy topping of garlic butter and herbs. Pair with a crisp, dry white wine for a party snack that's brimming with flavour.
(Source: Damn Delicious via Pinterest)
Brazilian pastels - crispy fried shells of thin pastry - really are the king of sharing treats, not least because they're so deliciously flexible. This traditional bar and street food snack (also known as empanadas) comes with a whole range of fillings, from melted cheese to beef, chicken, shrimp with lime sauce or palm hearts (or a mixture of all of these). There are even sweet versions available, such as guava, chocolate, banana and cinnamon.
Serve in a large basket with cold, freshly pressed lime, pineapple or mint juice on the side for full impact.
DIY falafel wraps
This Middle Eastern dish is so popular in Paris, you will find queues of people waiting to order a wrap outside the legendary L'As du Fallafel in the Marais. It's an ideal choice for sharing if you have vegetarian guests. This recipe adds carrot and coriander to the standard chickpea formula and makes around 20 falafel.
Once you've baked them to golden brown and cooled, lay out a range of sides including wholewheat tortillas, pickled red cabbage, spring onions and salsa, for people to make up their own perfectly proportioned wraps.
(Source: Nutritiously Natasha via Pinterest)
Beer cheese fondue
For a wonderfully messy and indulgent sharing option, fondue ticks all the boxes. Get stuck in with this very easy recipe that uses shredded cheese (cheddar and/or Fontina), flour, one bottle of beer and minced garlic. The world's your oyster when it comes to dipping items and you can prep anything from bowls of pretzels and tortilla chips to crusty baguette bread, steamed veg (cauliflower or asparagus tips), apple chunks and cured meat.
Of course, it's easy to swap in sweet options too, if you fancy working the whole marshmallow-chocolate vibe. You will need to buy a simple fondue set; there's some great cast iron ones kicking around for £20 or so.
(Source: Charleston Crafted via Pinterest)
Make your own sushi rolls
Give your guests the gift of learning (and save yourself a little hassle along the way) by teaching them the art of crafting their own sushi. You will need some basic sushi-making gear available, including rice paddles and bamboo rolling mats, and possibly a rice cooker.
Set up stations with the correct equipment available, plus bowls of rice (see cooking instructions for sushi rice), diced avocado, shredded cucumber and prawns (with heads removed), smoked salmon, tuna and/or crab meat for the filling. Share these instructions for rolling sushi - you could create how-to cards - and have soy sauce, ginger and wasabi available to finish.
(Source: Natasha's Kitchen via Pinterest)