Chefs on how do dinner for lots of people


By Ella Walker

Find yourself getting anxious when you have friends coming over for lunch or dinner? Catering for big groups can seem stressful, but it doesn't have to (totally) be that way.

Here's how professional cooks and recipe-book writers handle feeding the masses...

Nadiya Hussain (Nadiya's Family Favourites, Michael Joseph)

"When we get together, there's 24 of us - to me that's a small number, but that's the number we're used to. I think the trick to feeding lots of people is to get people to do a dish each - a one dish party - and I'm lucky, I've got sisters. Whenever they come to mine, they say, 'I'll bring this, I'll bring that'.

"Lessen the load by getting other people to do things, and I like to pre-make things, so if I'm doing a dessert for instance, I'll do something like a tiramisu which can sit in the fridge for two days - so that's done and made and out of my head, I don't even have to think about it. Or I'll make ice cream, stick it in the freezer and pop it out when I need it. Or if I'm doing roast potatoes, I'll par-boil them beforehand, stick them in the freezer, then just stick them in the oven when I'm ready. I like to pre-prep beforehand."

Lucy Carr-Ellison and Jemima Jones of Tart London (A Love Of Eating, Square Peg)

"We make more dishes, rather than making three huge ones in a massive vat, more like seven dishes, and spread them out so it looks really nice down the table. Then there's lots of choice and it's nicer for the cooks as well.

"Think about doing a variety of different textures too - we'll do fun crunchy things like bruschettas, crispy little somethings, or fresh ceviche bites, so there's extra little excitements down the table."

Anne Shooter (Cherish, Headline Home)

"For traditional Friday night dinner [Shooter is Jewish], I start with mezze, followed by a buffet. When I was growing up, my mum would do egg,onion and chopped liver as the appetisers, but now, I will put out the egg, onion and chopped liver, but I'll also do hummus and an aubergine salad and maybe some tabbouleh.

"Then it'll be a roast chicken or two, flavoured with pomegranate molasses or paprika, that everyone can dig into."

Rukmini Iyer (The Green Roasting Tin, Square Peg)

"Traybakes! Scale up a big traybake, because you can do a lot of prep before. Working in a restaurant kitchen made me really keen on doing as much prep in advance as possible; during service you've got everything cut and ready, so you're just cooking and assembling. So if you're having a party, do a big tray of squash and sweet potatoes, with loads of salady bits on top of them. You could do all the chopping in advance, bag it up and put it in the fridge, and just chuck it into the tin an hour or so before you want it.

"When you're doing home-cooking, unless you're a wannabe chef, you don't want to spend hours and hours in the kitchen, your friends will just be like, 'This is amazing, but we'd rather you were talking to us'."

Nargisse Benkabbou (Casablanca: My Moroccan Food, Mitchell Beazley)

"I have nine aunts on my dad's side, two uncles, six aunts on my mum's side - a huge family. The way it works is, we have a table for the kids and table for the adults, and we make lots of tagines - that's one thing you can make very easily for 50 people. But we start with salads, zaalouk [a smoky aubergine dip] or carrot salad or bakoula [spinach and preserved lemons], and in the middle of the table we'd serve the tagine and we'd just help ourselves. When we were kids, we wouldn't even have plates, we'd just eat from the same plate - it was a big mess."

Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer of Honey & Co. (Honey & Co: At Home, Pavilion)

"A lot of it is about getting stuff ready before, so that you're not faffing when people are around, because that is the worst - there's nothing worse than a stressed host in the kitchen. So never any last-minute stuff, it should all be able to just be popped in the oven or on the stove to reheat, or cold or room temperature is fine.

"Do not take any unnecessary endeavours, make it easy for yourself, and it shouldn't be a recipe you've never, ever tried before, go with something you know. Like, you're not going to be able to cook steaks for six people, steaks you want to do for two. Put a few salads on the table and let people enjoy that, and then pull something out of the oven; it's like, 'Ta-dah!'"

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