Category Archives: Mass catering (party!)

Meat Fruit Loaf (Chicken Liver Parfait with Clementine Jelly)

Heston Blumental meets Jamie Oliver in a strictly practical, less indulgent but still exquisite take on the iconic Meat Fruit from Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental. No fiddly individual fruits here – just an ineffably smooth and deeply savoury chicken liver parfait, topped with a fresh clementine jelly rather than the traditional clarified butter.

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Chocolate Beetroot Celebration Cake + chocolate dipped things

The cake part of this is Nigel Slater’s luscious chocolate beetroot cake from the Kitchen Diaries, which he serves with sour cream and poppyseeds, making it clear that it’s not a serving “suggestion”. The one time I encountered Nigel Slater in real life (at the butcher) I was exactly the too-eager, inept self we all hope not to be when we meet our heroes. To be exact, I announced breathlessly “I really like to both read and eat your recipes!!!” to which he responded, gravely, “Thank you.” I lingered just long enough for it to be awkward without saying anything else, then ran.

Anyway, I’ll never be able to face Nigel again, because rather than serving his cake with unsweeted Slavic accompaniments I’ve realised that a raspberry chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate icing (plus perhaps some chocolate covered strawberries) make it a perfect celebration cake.

Speaking of BBC talent in Islington, last summer I was on the same bus as Nick Robinson and called out to him from the top deck “You’re great on the Today Programme! Who’s going to win the Conservative leadership contest?” He called it right, incidentally.
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Mini Pavlovas

Cost: about 50p for meringues to serve 16, plus £1 for cream and a bit more for fruit, depending on what you use

Lofty, yet indulgent, meringues with whipped cream are a dessert I have always adored but for years feared to make. My mother and I used to try different techniques at home, faffing about with hot sugar and different sugars, producing batches of cracked meringue, orange permatanned meringue, flat, despondent meringue and once, in a misguided attempt to save energy by cooking the main course and dessert in the same oven, meringue that tasted strongly and unmistakeably of roast pork.

I kept on trying though, partly because, along with macarons and egg-white omelettes, meringues are an excellent way of using up egg whites left over from mayonnaise or patisserie cream or similar – as well as being the kind of dessert that pleases everyone. Particularly with a big group of people (who by the law of large numbers often include dairy-free or gluten-free restrictions) I’ve found that it’s a really easy, pleasing pudding – we put out a tower of mini-meringue nests stacked onto a plate, a bowl of squidgy whipped cream (with a small extra bowl of whipped dairy-free cream) and another of fruit, and let everyone help themselves.

Meringue nests with cream and fresh raspberries

Meringue nests with cream and fresh raspberries

In case you were wondering how my meringue breakthrough happened, I probably came close to giving up completely when I couldn’t get my egg whites to make any kind of peak, so would pour the mixture out into a sad puddle that would bake into a rubbery disk. What changed? The hot water to our kitchen was fixed, and I had the unwelcome realisation that for the last few months, my bowls had never been completely grease-free. Moving swiftly on, things changed a few months ago – and the age of Reliable Meringues was ushered in by our good friend Tchern, who is a research postdoc and the best home cook I know. He came round for dinner and I asked him to walk me through the meringue process. The method below, which I have made many times since with consistent results, is his.

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Guotie (aka gyoza or potsticker dumplings)

Cost: about £1 for a batch that serves 2 as a main dish or up to 6 as a side dish

These little pockets of juicy savouriness have become one of my favourite things to make at home, and by making the filling in advance and freezing it in 400g batches, it can be a weeknight treat as well as a weekend project. This is perfect low-ceilinged kitchen fare – at a restaurant these little beauties will run at about £4 for an order of 6, but at home a batch of about 24 only costs around £1 and nobody judges you for ordering 4 portions. They might seem like a restaurant food but really, they are so easy to make at home – no precision in cooking is required, and even imperfectly wrapped and inexactly seasoned dumplings will be delicious – comfort food for two (or one!) and always a hit with guests.

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls...which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls…which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

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Sweet and Salty Spiced Popcorn

Cost: incalculably low, as a 500g bag of popcorn costs about £1, and makes a vast amount, about 8 stock pots of popcorn. Also it’s hard to measure a serving size as whether it’s just a snack for the two of us, or served with drinks before a dinner party, or put out in bowls on every surface before a party, we seem to just keep going with it until there isn’t any left…

This popcorn is not only delicious, it is extremely economical and much healthier than the fancy crisps we used to buy.


Normally, if we were having folks round for a casual dinner, I’d always pick up a large bag of crisps on the way home (sour cream and chilli Kettle Chips, if you were wondering) and by the time I was chopping things up, or at least when I’d got to stirring pans, or maybe once or twice when I was wondering how to heat the plates, I’d have ripped into the bag and kept coming back for more, leaving at most a bowl for our guests.

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Slow Roast Turkey

Cost: Oh my. One of the cheapest meats per kilo – £4.60 for a 1.6kg thigh-and-drumstick at Morrisons. Substantially cheaper, and healthier, than red meat and easier I think to carve than chicken. Per portion – this made two helpings for a main meal (with a starch and vegetables), two pies which fed two couples for 2 meals each, and I reserved a small portion of the meat to brown in a frying pan and top the turkey soup made with the bones and served with noodles and pak choi (leftover soup became the base for a stew with butter beans and bacon…you get the idea). So average cost per meal per person would have been something like 60p for the meat, plus pennies for vegetables, pastry ingredients, noodles and so on.

It’s March, and therefore the season for turkey! By which I mean, it is not Christmas or pre-Christmas, when turkey is expensive and often out of stock at the local supermarket(s). Until this winter, I’d only ever experienced turkey in the context of institutional Christmas dinner – it’s not a feature of our festivities at home (goose and beef…I’m not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed that the “and” is not an “or”). My impression of turkey was that it was dry, pallid and (ironically) joyless, more fuel than food, for exercise-lovers rather than food-lovers. My best friend had the same idea…but after tasting this she exclaimed, “I didn’t realise turkey could be this tasty! You made turkey taste like…chicken!” I’d be lying if I claimed that had been the plan all along.

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Pulled Pork

The annoying thing about the pulled pork is that it takes a cool 8 hours to make, but the wonderful things about it are that you can make it ahead of time, it serves a lot of people and it is really, really cheap. Like astonishingly cheap, given that boneless pork shoulder is one of the cheapest meats per kilo. At the moment, Morrisons have it for over 50% off, making it cheaper than their economy mince. The fancy butcher sells it for a bit more, but to be honest this heavily seasoned dish doesn’t require premium meat.

Pulled Pork

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