Introducing the Nibbly Tea

There are many things for which I have to thank lovely Joan, not least because she cheered me up no end when we first moved back to New Zealand (and continues to do so, even though she lives much further than a stroll away). The latest is a concept so brilliant I have to share it with you. It is the marvellous Nibbly Tea.

A Nibbly Tea, Joan explained, is what you have for dinner when you don’t know what to have for dinner. “You just open the fridge and pull all those little bits of things out,” she said, retrieving all manner of delicious tidbits from her own fridge.

It took one Nibbly Tea and we were hooked. Now we have them at least once a week – or sometimes twice – and a really good Nibbly Tea will even have leftovers for lunch the next day.

At its most basic at our house (as seen above), a Nibbly Tea will involve some sort of carbohydrate, like crostini or oven wedges, with baby gherkins, olives, some hummus, crudites and green leaves of some kind, perhaps a bowl of green beans and some haloumi or other cheese.

If we’ve got people over, we might push the boat out a bit, with lamb chops rubbed with rosemary and lemon, and a bit more of a salad. The idea is that you nibble on all of these things (ideally with a glass of wine) and hey presto, that’s dinner sorted.

The Nibbly Tea can be themed – ours are mostly mid-Med with a definite Greekish slant (haloumi, dolmades out of a tin, olives, lamb, tzatziki) but we’ve also had Asian Nibbly Teas (a kind of gado gado, with peanut sauce, lots of crudites, boiled eggs and crunchy noodles) and a vaguely Mexi-Cali one (tortillas, avocado, salsa, spicy beans). On Saturday night we had visitors so I added a few dishes from Jerusalem, which is full of excellent Nibbly Tea ideas (even though they are a little bit more involved than just opening the fridge).

Nibbly Teas are very child-friendly and they usually require minimal preparation. What I love most about the Nibbly Tea though is that no matter how empty the fridge may seem, there is generally always something in there in the condiments line to make a meal more exciting. And sitting down to eat all these things, rather than poking a fork into the odd jar at random, makes it more of an occasion. I am totally hooked.

Are you familiar with the Nibbly Tea idea? Do you have any suggestions?



  1. October 14, 2012 / 7:45 pm

    And I thought that nibbly teas were unique to our house. We seem to specialise in leftover bits of veg lately – cooked French beans and butternut squash with some dressing on them as a salad and uncooked celeriac made into a quick remoulade. Like an indoor picnic.

  2. Anonymous
    October 14, 2012 / 10:33 pm

    Love this- when I was growing up it was called 'bits and pieces' for tea.

  3. October 14, 2012 / 11:38 pm

    In our house this would also include 'something' wrapped in foil that had been left in the oven the night before. It was generally pot luck but usually ended up just fine!

  4. October 15, 2012 / 12:20 am

    I love this! We've done it before but don't call it anything as exciting as "Nibbly tea"…. definitely so easy with kids who use their fingers for everything, even if they had demanded a big fork! (ugh).
    When I was in the UK last year we visited some distant relative who served us Nibbly tea! Olives, cheese, bread rolls, dips, a ton of other things which don't look like much but we sat there chatting with wine for a few hours and were so full afterwards. Loved it. Thanks for bringing back that memory. 🙂

  5. October 15, 2012 / 2:00 am

    So that is what Sylvia's regular dinner is called – not that it looks so pretty. When we have bangers and mash she has chopped sausages as well as her regularly veg and cheese slices. When we have rice or quinoa she likes a little bowl of this on the side – and pleads for soy sauce. Us adults have this sort of meal for dinner quite regularly in summer – dip, bikkies or bread and lots of veg – so easy and so so good.

    It is also a great meal to include different diets (veg, gf etc) because everything is in separate bowls

  6. October 15, 2012 / 5:44 am

    Love a nibbly tea….just had one. Leftovers from yesterday sunday roast so a couple of crostini with beef & horseradish and another with the broad bean dip, alongside some left over roast veg….delicious. I am a picker who likes a little of everything so a frequent partaker of the nibbly tea 🙂

  7. October 15, 2012 / 7:06 am

    I am a fan of cooking big slices of eggplant on a griddle and then putting it in a bowl with raw garlic, olive oil, parsley, white wine vinegar and lemon juice. So easy and delicious and the perfect addition to an Italian themed nibbly tea.

  8. October 16, 2012 / 3:04 am

    Glad we're not the only ones. I usually pile on all the nibbly tea ingredients onto a big tray and we call it a platter. We love tasting the combinations each creative mouthful of loaded piece of cracker or bread brings. Ham, salmon, olives, pickles, cheese, relish, chutney, sun dried tomatoes, leftover anything, avocado, tomato. Great with our without company.

  9. October 16, 2012 / 5:23 am

    i love it! i must admit i don't think i've ever had nibbly tea. i've had "clean out the leftovers from the fridge before they can walk themselves out". it looks like an elegant grown-up picnic. wonderful!

  10. October 16, 2012 / 8:10 am

    I'm so pleased to have found so many Nibbly Tea fans – and I am very envious of some of those 'bits and pieces' you have to work with. I think the description of it as an indoor picnic is perfect. Calling it a Nibbly Tea is so much more exciting than 'leftovers' – and the other tip is to put everything into little bowls or ramekins. Bon appetit! x

  11. October 16, 2012 / 1:04 pm

    oh I love the name nibbly tea! Although I'm not sure we'd have anything quite as fancy as you have in your fridge.

  12. October 16, 2012 / 6:29 pm

    Oh we do this all the time. Now I have a name for it to make it more officially something rather than just Mummy randomly putting things out. We do it for lunch a lot too.
    Thank you for validating it. 🙂

  13. October 16, 2012 / 6:40 pm

    We do something similar, although we call it a 'Scrappy tea'. Ours aren't anywhere near as indulgent as yours though ;0)

  14. October 17, 2012 / 4:52 am

    As a child we had a "bitsa", usually in the weekends when Mum didn't have a meal planned. Us kids would grab our own bits and pieces. Much more rudimentary than all items described here. It was slices of cheese, a packet of Sunmaid sultanas, raw raw carrots and the like. Nibbly Tea sounds so much more refined. I very much like it.

  15. Anonymous
    October 22, 2012 / 6:40 pm

    Ha ha! I thought the phrase 'nibbly tea' was unique to us, but clearly not! Nice to know others call it this too, and it has even gone global!

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