Imagine the scene: it’s three o’clock in the afternoon and the phone rings – all of a sudden, you’ve somehow inexplicably acquired six guests for dinner that evening. Rather than responding by hiding in a cupboard or tearing your hair out, you should stay calm, take a deep breath and relax. There’s no need to panic; an impromptu dinner party might not be the ideal way to cater for friends or family, but it’s not Mission Impossible by any means.
Here are a trio of easy, stress-free dishes that can be thrown together with the minimum of fuss and served well in time for your hungry guests’ arrival. So the next time the mid-afternoon surprise party is thrown at you, you’ll knock it right out of the park.
Mediterranean lamb one-pot
Mediterranean people enjoy a reputation of eating healthily and lingering over luxuriously long mealtimes. While you and your guests can certainly do that with this rustic one-pot recipe, you won’t have to invest a similar amount of time slaving over it in the kitchen. This five-star recipe from the BBC captures all of the subtle flavours and aromas of Greek cooking without any of the elbow grease – and since you’ll only be using one casserole dish, the washing up will take no time too.
The dish consists of thinly-sliced layers of aubergines, potatoes and tomatoes, drizzled in lashings of olive oil and sprinkled liberally with garlic, oregano and feta cheese. Topped off with succulent lamb steaks and served with warm, crusty bread from the oven, your guests will be cooing over your multicultural culinary abilities for a dish that requires little preparation and only the bare minimum supervision.
Chargrilled sirloin beef with roast potatoes and salad
When it comes to cooking meat, Rick Stein certainly knows what he’s talking about. Here, Rick recommends toasting a 2.5kg sirloin rump on the barbecue to infuse it with chargrilled flavours prior to bringing it indoors. However, if the weather isn’t holding up or your barbecue is on the blink, you can mimic similar flavours by using a grill pan or adding smoked condiments such as smoked sea salt or smoked paprika. Then it’s merely a matter of whacking it in the oven and playing the waiting game.
As for the side dishes, you can save on the labour by taking advantage of the convenience and great flavours of McCain Roast Potatoes. Taking a mere 30 minutes to cook, these produce fluffy interiors and crispy, browned exteriors every day of the week! Garnish with a side salad of lettuce, tomato and capers and Bob is your mother’s brother.
Spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams)
Pasta is always a great dish for an impromptu dinner party because of the speed with which it cooks and the versatility it offers, providing the base to pretty much any concoction of flavours your heart desires. Introducing clams into the mix, as Lisa Faulkner has done here, adds a touch of class to an already Italian classic.
As well as bringing style and elegance to a dish, clams are also incredibly easy to cook and their juices mingle with the flavours already present in the spiced spaghetti beautifully. Serve with homemade garlic bread for an extra flourish that’s sure to wow your guests and fill their bellies at the same time.