Whether it’s out of town friends popping by for an impromptu supper, spontaneous kids’ sleepovers or a rash decision to invite people round for post-pub grub, these gloriously simple ideas will ensure you’re always ready to impress.
Great to have on hand should your immaculately planned dinner party go pear-shaped, too...
Pinwheel sandwiches look so much more impressive than two slices of bread with a filling. Great to feed friends who end up at yours after a night out, or when you have extra little bellies to fill.
Use fluffy bread or flour tortillas, spread with cream cheese, hummus or pesto and fill with anything you like. Roast beef, chicken, veg, tomatoes, cheese, olives... A great way to use up any leftovers lingering in the fridge.
Stick it on a cracker
Need something to keep guests busy while you come up with a last-minute dinner? Everyone ended up on your doorstep before the party?
Keep a selection of crackers in an airtight container and you’ll always have an easy snacking solution on hand.
Try topping with pate, sliced olives, guacamole, smoked salmon with capers, or chopped tomatoes with basil. Or, honey and a little lemon zest whipped into ricotta (or cream cheese, if you don’t have any) makes a stunning cracker-topper.
Crack an egg
Or, more likely, several eggs, can be whipped into a frittata, omelettes filled with tomato, cheese and spinach, baked eggs or even a soufflé, for serious “something I just whipped up” kudos.
This vibrant beetroot soufflé is guaranteed to turn heads, too.
If family/friends/in-laws have given you a day’s notice (how thoughtful), save time on shopping and cooking by throwing cubed veg, herbs, meat and stock in a slow cooker.
Then you can get on with tidying up the house while it simmers away...
This slow-cooked lamb shank says I'm glad you came (even if you’re not).
Layer ready-to-use lasagne sheets with passata sauce and herbs, and throw in any uncooked veg that needs using up (spinach, courgettes, mushrooms and peppers all work beautifully). Then just top up your guests’ glasses while it bakes for half an hour or so. Genius.
If you’re really pushed for time, this puttanesca, with anchovies, olives and capers, is always a crowd pleaser.
Forgot one of your supper guests was veggie? Or, they didn’t tell you. Tsk. Have at least one delicious meat-free meal in your arsenal and never be caught out again.
Shakshuka (spicy baked eggs) is crammed with delicious flavours, and can be made in individual portions. Although, everyone else is bound to want a forkful...
We’re not talking baked beans. This is posh toast. Make bruschetta by toasting slices of farmhouse bread (if it’s slightly stale, all the better), rub with a cut garlic clove then top with chopped tomatoes dressed in olive oil, a little vinegar and fresh basil.
Sauteed mushrooms with tinned, drained cannellini beans, herbs and garlic are equally lovely.
Everything works in risotto. Well, almost everything. Frozen peas with some mint, mushrooms, any cheese, leftover roast chicken, ham, greens...
Keep some arborio rice and stock cubes on hand. Best of all, you can chop, season and stir while chatting to your guests - and it’ll be ready in around 20 minutes.
Try this simple mushroom recipe.
Bake a cheese
Wrap a whole wedge of brie or camembert in the oven for around 20 minutes, chop some crudities and dig out bread and crackers.
Simple and scrumptious.
Or, try baked goats cheese drizzled with clear honey, scattering on some walnuts, if you have some in the cupboard. It’s divine slathered on crusty bread.
The really clever bit? Whole cheeses can be cooked from frozen. Just add five to 10 minutes to your cooking time.
Mousse in a moment
Showstoppers and desserts that need to ‘set’ overnight are obviously out of the question.
Thankfully this beauty, naturally thickened with avocado, takes just 10 minutes to make. We won’t tell if you don’t...
Fill your glass
Another clever pud option is layering fruit and yoghurt or mascarpone in a fancy cocktail glass or mason jar. Maybe crumble in a couple of layers of biscuits for a cheat’s cheesecake, or alternate leftover cake, whipped cream and jam or lemon curd. Delicious.
How about this super-quick tiramisu, ready in 20 minutes? Your guests will think you were expecting them, after all.
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