Easy Entertaining

I’ve realised I haven’t done much on actual cooking recently so here you go, a few simple recipes/dishes to do for a simple dinner with friends.

There’s nothing worse than stressing over what  to cook when you have people coming over and you want it to be awesome but easy and you sit and flick through every recipe book you own, getting distracted by every good looking dish you see and then panicking about how the hell you’re going to do it. So let’s not do that. I’m going to give you some simple things you can cook as a canape, starter, main and pudding. These are cheats recipes with some pre-made things (to take some of the stress out of the prep, you can of course make everything from scratch which is always better, but cheating helps when you don’t have much time..).

 

Canape – Honey and Mustard Sausages (6 people)

You can’t fail on these, they’re everyone’s fave (unless they’re veggie or vegan…)

You will need:

2 packs of 8 chipolata sausages (or cocktail sausages but I can never find them..)

3 large tablespoons of wholegrain mustard

4-5 large tablespoons of honey

olive oil or sunflower oil

 

Heat your oven to 180c. If you have found cocktail sausages you can whack them straight in to the oven. If you’ve got chipolatas you will need to turn them in to cocktail sausages. To do this, you need to decide if you want to split them in to two or three – I usually do it in to three so people have more to eat (or at least it looks it!). Work out where you are going to split the sausage up, pinch in gently and twist gently until you have a cocktail sausage size. Do this on all of the sausages and then cut them to separate them all and whack them in to a tray. Don’t worry if some have exploded out of their skins, it will still taste awesome. Drizzle them in a little oil and cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes until they go nice and brown and cooked. Take them out and if they are swimming in oil, pour a little out (not down the sink!!). Add the mustard and honey, give them a good toss and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until they have become delicious and sticky. Chuck them in a nice bowl and bam! You’re done. Easy peasy!!

 

Starter – Potted Shrimps and Melba Toast (6 people) – Make a day in advance if possible!

Sounds complicated but they’re really quick and easy to make!

You will need:

350g brown shrimps or peeled prawns

100g unsalted butter

1 lemon, half zested and juiced

pinch of cayenne pepper

handful of parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

4 Slices of cheap white bread

 

Heat the butter on a low heat or in the microwave until it is all just melted. Add in the prawns, cayenne, zest of half the lemon and juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper. Give it a good stir and then with a slotted spoon, remove the shrimps/prawns and pack tightly in to 6 ramekins. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes then pour the rest of the butter on top (this stops the prawns from going off as if stops air and bacteria getting in, meaning you can leave them for a few day before you eat them. I’d recommend eating them within 3-4 days). Put them in the fridge over night.

Turn the grill on high. Before serving, toast the bread in the toaster until they’re light and golden. Cut off the crusts and then carefully, with a bread knife or any sharp knife, cut through the middle of the bread (between both toasted sides) so that you now have double the amount of bread. Roll the doughy side of the bread on the surface to get rid of any loose bits of bread and cut in half on the diagonal to create triangles. Place the triangles of bread dough side up on a wire rack and put under the grill for about 2 minutes until they turn golden and crisp.

Serve with a wedge of lemon.

 

Main – Puff pastry pizzas with raw courgette and mixed grain salad.

Easy winner, cheats dream!! These ingredients are just a vague guideline, the best thing about this dish is you can use up anything you have left in your fridge.

You will need:

1 pack of Jus Roll Puff pastry (or any other brand…!)

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut in to cubes

3 tablespoons green pesto

punnet of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 large Mozzarella

1/2 courgette, halved and sliced

1/2 courgette, peeled in to ribbons

2 packs of Merchant Gourmet mixed grains (or any other brand…)

Handful of rocket

1/2 lemon, juiced

Olive oil

6 Sundried Tomatoes, chopped

1/2 block of feta, crumbled

 

In a pan of boiling water, boil the sweet potato cubes until almost cooked through. Drain. Take the puff pastry and lay it on a baking sheet. Smother it in the pesto and cover in the cherry tomatoes, sliced courgette and sweet potato cubes. Top it all with slices of the mozzarella. Anything that doesn’t fit on the pastry can be chucked in to the salad.

In a bowl put in the mixed grains (you’ll need to crumble them a bit as they can stick together), courgette ribbons, rocket, sundried tomatoes and crumbled feta, give it a good toss around then a good drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice and season with some salt and pepper.

 

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Pudding – Strawberry Glory (6 people)

Simple summer pud that looks fancy but can be easy peasy to make.

You will need:

Punnet of strawberries

4 meringues (you can buy those meringue nests in any supermarket, or make your own…!)

300ml double cream

balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons icing sugar

 

Start off by slicing the strawberries in to about 4/5 pieces (depending how big they are. You don’t want them too thin). Save half of the strawberries for later. With one half of the strawberries, put them in to a frying pan on a low heat. As they start to soften add 1 1/2 tablespoons of icing sugar. They will start going slightly softer and jammy. Add a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar and let them reduce until its nice a syrupy, this whole process should only take about 5 minutes.

Next, whip the double cream with the rest of the icing sugar until its nice and stiff.

Find some nice looking cocktail glasses/wine glasses/martini glasses and start layering. I usually start with some of the balsamic strawberries at the bottom, then a good dollop of the whipped cream, a few fresh strawberries, crumble some meringue and then repeat until the glasses are full.

 

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Boom! There you have it, an easy dinner or lunch for some mates. Honestly, these are really easy and the main and pudding can be adapted in any way that you like. The most important thing to do is to enjoy it and make sure that you can enjoy the time with your friends without being stuck in the kitchen for hours. The feeling of cooking a great meal for friends and getting so much praise afterwards is such rewarding feeling so give it a try and see how you get on.

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