Do you often think it would be nice to have people round for dinner more but curse the fact you can’t find the time? Dinner parties can be a big deal, months in the making, weeks in the meal planning and a full day of cooking only to be cancelled on because their youngest has gone down with suspected chicken pox and can’t be left with the babysitter.
We often feel like we have to showcase our best efforts with a dinner party menu, all the while making it look like we haven’t had to make much effort at all. Why can’t we all just relax and enjoy the evening for what it is? A time to catch up with friends over an easy-going meal, coupled with a glass of wine should you fancy it. Although you might normally keep dinner parties scheduled for the weekend, a mid-week arrangement means that you can have people over more often and don’t have to succumb to the formality of a Saturday night dinner party booked months in advance. You have the perfect excuse to keep it casual (and to get an early night!).
With that in mind here are four meal ideas to make in 30 minutes or less without having to rely on Jamie. Oven cooked crispy French fries are allowed, baked beans are not.
You can do so much with a jar of pesto and it never looks cheap. For an incredibly simple meal, worthy of a mid-week dinner party, cook up some pasta (make sure it’s al dente) and toss with pesto from a jar, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and green beans. Serve with strips of chicken breast if you like, and a side of crisp salad leaves.
Steak and chips
Steak says “I’m treating you tonight” without actually making much effort. It’s definitely a pricier option than pesto pasta but if you can afford to push the boat out now’s the time to do so. Keep it simple with steak, chunky oven chips and a fresh salad, just be sure to cook the steak to their taste. For timings check out this handy article on the BBC Food site.
Just like the steak, tuna speaks for itself. It doesn’t need lots of flavour added to make it dinner party food, in fact, the simpler the better is how restaurants choose to serve it. Serve the grilled tuna steak with a niçoise salad – it looks impressive but just requires mixing green beans with cherry tomatoes, lettuce and, if you’re feeling fancy, some almond-stuffed olives. If you have time to whizz up a honey-mustard vinaigrette do so, otherwise the shop bought stuff will more than suffice.
Lamo saltado is a popular Peruvian dish, so not only is it a simple dish, you can also impress your guests with your colourful knowledge of cuisine (it helps if you have South American travel tales to go with it). Either way, the prep can be done the night before leaving you with a stir-fry to whack out before your guests arrive. Strips of beef are mixed with onions, tomatoes and other vegetables of your choice and served with crispy French fries and rice. Use McCain crispy French fries and easy cook rice pouches to keep it easy. See here for the full recipe.
And for dessert . . .
Buy something! No one expects you to spend all day making profiteroles so go crazy in the bakery aisle or even better, hint for your guests to bring along the pud.