Christmas party season is coming up very (scarily) quickly and so this week we're testing out all of those amazing dinner party meals that will impress any house guest. The best part? Tuesday- Friday's dishes only take 20-25 minutes to prepare. Basically, your in-laws will be complimenting you for hours over your exquisite mackerel with chermoula and fattoush, when you've actually spent the best part of an hour watching Netflix...
250g minced pork
2 chicken breasts / 300g diced chicken
2 fresh unsmoked mackerel fillets
100g pancetta (slices or cubes)
1 litre chicken or veg stock 100g wild mushrooms (I used girolles)
150-200g parmesan or vegetarian alternative
150-200g mature cheddar or similar
3 red onions
1 bag mixed crunchy salad leaves
Half a cucumber
3 red chillies
Small bunch parsley
Small bunch coriander
2 tins tomatoes
Red or white wine vinegar
Dried oregano (if you have it)
Dried porcini mushrooms (optional but good)
Bucatini (any long pasta is fine)
Monday – Truffled mushroom risotto, 35-40 mins
An easy, comforting and satisfying carby classic poshed up with the flavour of truffle
Soak a small handful of porcini mushrooms in hot water. Roughly chop 1/3 of the normal mushrooms and all of the wild mushrooms and cook in a large non-stick saucepan on a high heat for a few minutes. Add a generous knob of butter and two tablespoons of truffle oil, then four crushed garlic cloves and about 200g arborio rice, taking care to coat each grain in the liquid by stirring for a minute or so. Pour in a small glass of white wine then turn the heat down to medium and begin adding a litre of hot stock of your choice ladle by ladle, ensuring that each has been absorbed before the next is added. This should all take about 20 minutes (you don’t have to stand and babysit it, just keep returning now and again for a stir and more stock). When the rice is nicely cooked, drain the porcini, chop and stir in with another knob of butter, a large handful of chopped parsley, the juice of half a lemon and 80g of grated parmesan. Stir vigorously until the texture is almost creamy, season very well and serve with even more parmesan – and maybe some salad.
NOTE: If you have truffle paste or truffle butter then these can be used in place of the truffle oil.
Tuesday – Bucatini Amatriciana, 25 mins
You’ve probably been making a version of this tomato and bacon pasta for years without realising it’s a traditional Italian dish. We’ve added mushrooms for extra flavour, texture and nutrition.
Finely chop a red onion and dice the pancetta. Take a very large non-stick pan and sauté in two tablespoons of olive oil for ten minutes and chop the remaining pack of mushrooms, four cloves of garlic and a red chilli while they cook away. Add the mushrooms, garlic and chilli after the ten minutes, stir to combine and fry gently for a few minutes before adding two tins of tomatoes and two tablespoons of tomato puree. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for ten minutes. Cook your pasta, drain and stir in half of the Amatriciana sauce (put the remaining sauce in the fridge for Thursday) then cover in parmesan.
NOTE: Vegetarians may swap pancetta for capers or black olives. Leave the chilli out if you’re not a spice fan.
Wednesday – Mackerel with chermoula and fattoush, 20 mins
Quick, simple and absolutely full of North African spice, this is a healthy and light dinner that you don’t mind eating on a cold day.
Make a chermoula paste by blitzing up a chilli, a small bunch of parsley and coriander, a garlic clove, salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil and the rest of the lemon juice – you can do this in a food processor or use a pestle and mortar. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth as we’re using it as a marinade. Spread it all over the fish then lay them skin side up on a foil lined baking tray while you make the fattoush.
Chop all the remaining parsley, the tomatoes, a red onion and the cucumber. Mix together with a drizzle of olive oil and red or white wine vinegar. Take one or two of the tortilla wraps (seal the rest up well so they don’t go hard by Friday), slice up and toast under the grill until crispy. Scatter over the salad.
Place the mackerel under the hot grill for about three minutes or until the skin is starting to blacken and blister. Turn over and cook for another minute. Serve on top of the fattoush.
NOTE: We’ve used mackerel because it’s a super nutritious oily fish that takes one the flavour of chermoula brilliantly, but you could use any protein you like – lamb chops, flattened chicken, bug prawns or halloumi would also work.
Thursday – Stuffed peppers, 25 mins
We’re using the leftover Amatriciana in the spirit of wasting less and turning it into a completely different but no less delicious dish.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Parboil some rice: take half a mug of rice and cook on a rolling boil in a whole mug of water.
Take four of the largest peppers, slice the tops off and scoop out most of the seeds. Brush with olive oil and pop them whole in an oven proof dish on the top shelf of the oven.
Working quickly, fry off your pork mince in a large non-stick sauce pan. Once it’s browned, add the leftover Amatriciana sauce, the cooked rice and stir to combine.
Take the peppers out of the oven, fill with the pork and rice mixture, replace the lids and cook covered with foil for a further 20 minutes or so. You can add grated cheese at the last minute if you like.
NOTE: Pork mince can be substituted for beef, Quorn or turkey mince if you prefer. If you have too much mixture for your peppers, just distribute it evenly around the dish and serve it all up.
Friday – Fajitas with jalapeno salsa, 20 mins
So much zingier than any pre-made fajita kit we’ve tried
Make the jalapeno salsa by roughly chopping half a jar (about 100g) of jalapenos, one red chilli, the rest of the coriander and mixing in a small bowl with the juice of one lime and a big pinch of salt. Set aside.
Slice up your last one or two peppers, the red onion, a few cloves of garlic and chop your chicken into strips. Heat a large frying pan with olive oil, a tablespoon each of cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper and oregano if using. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds before adding everything else. Stir fry over a high heat until the chicken is cooked through and serve with the tortilla wraps, the salsa, any remaining crunchy salad leaves and some grated cheese. Add sour cream and guacamole or avocado slices if you like.
NOTE: Quorn ‘chicken’, pork strips, prawns or refried beans can go in the place of chicken. The salsa is too spicy for little ones, so make a quick pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes, coriander, lime) instead and tone down the cayenne in the pan too if kids are eating.