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Your all-new guide to COOKING FOR FRIENDS

It was once said that while people on the Continent have good food, the British have good table manners. But now we have both!

When we dreamed up this feature we wanted to create recipes we’d be excited to tuck into if we were dinner guests – but they also needed to be doable. So, good news: you won’t find any last-minute hollandaise sauce or fancy cream-piping here. Whether you’re a cook or a guest, what most people want from a good meal is simplicity – plus bold, comforting flavours. This collection of starters, mains, sides and puds is made up of crowd-pleasing things to cook and eat. Mix and match them however you like, then greet guests with a confident smile, safe in the knowledge they’ll genuinely love the food you’ve cooked. We’ve also provided some sage advice on how to plan a balanced menu, how to make it all look great – even what music to play to set the mood… Cheers!

Starters

Twice-baked butternut squash and sage soufflés v

Asian-style scampi with spiced herb relish Roast beetroot, hazelnuts and goat’s cheese v

Potted hot-smoked salmon with onion and apple pickle

Mains

Slow-cooked lamb shank and red wine hotpot

Baked gnocchi with cream, mushrooms and blue cheese sauce v

Crispy fennel pork belly with herb salsa Glazed onglet steak with brown butter mash, crispy shallots and madeira

Sides

Honey and balsamic roasted heritage carrots with hazelnuts v

Manchego and soured cream crusted pumpkin v

Cabbage, kale and potato rösti v

Crispy parmesan and oregano roasties v

Puddings

Sticky toffee poached pear cake Lemon curd meringue tarts Bananas Foster cheesecake Coconut macaroon and chocolate mousse tart

Turn the page for the recipes

How to plan the perfect meal

KEEP THINGS SIMPLE

Nothing says confidence like presenting an uncomplicated, perfectly cooked meal. If you have a lot to do in the kitchen, offer nibbles when people arrive instead of fussing with a starter. A sharing-style main is always easier. Nervous about making puddings? You needn’t be with our recipes. But you could poach some pears the day before (see p70, step 1), then serve with bought ice cream and biscuits – a top dessert that requires almost no work.

BALANCE IS EVERYTHING

If you’re going heavy on spice, serve something plain alongside: yogurt, crusty bread or rice, for example. If you’re cooking something less flavourful, add a garnish to perk it up, such as chopped fresh herbs, nuts, lemon or lime zest. Only serve one course that’s rich with butter or cream, and consider a sharpdressed salad instead of veg as a side dish.

AVOID REPETITION

If your starter is pastry-based, don’t make a lemon tart for pudding. Stick to one cuisine, too: a Thai starter, followed by a Moroccan main makes for a confused palate.

MAKE A TIME PLAN

A list you can tick off will make you feel in control. Add up the cooking durations of each dish to check the menu is do-able, leaving 30 minutes or so for unforeseen hold-ups.

PREPARE SOME THINGS AHEAD

That way you won’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen when guests arrive.

THE STARTERS

* Twice-baked butternut squash and sage soufflés

MAKES 8. HANDS-ON TIME 60 MIN,

OVEN TIME 57-58 MIN, PLUS COOLING

MAKE AHEAD

Prepare the soufflés up to the end of step 7, turn them out of the moulds and leave to cool, then place in individual baking dishes (or in one large one). Wrap well in cling film and chill for up to 24 hours, or freeze for up to a month (defrost to continue).

• ½ butternut squash (about 500g), peeled and diced into 2cm pieces

• 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

• Olive oil for roasting

• 300ml whole milk

• ¼ onion

• 1 bay leaf

• Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

• 50g unsalted butter

• 50g plain flour

• ¼ tsp English mustard powder

• 100g extra-mature cheddar, grated

• Small bunch fresh sage, leaves picked and finely chopped

• 5 large free-range eggs, separated

• 300ml single cream

• 80g freshly grated parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)

YOU’LL ALSO NEED…

• 8 x 150ml metal pudding moulds or ramekins, greased well with butter and bases lined with non-stick baking paper

1 Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Put the squash and garlic in a large roasting tin, season, then drizzle with a generous glug of oil and toss everything together. Roast for 30 minutes or until tender.

2 Meanwhile, pour the milk into a saucepan, then add the onion, bay leaf and nutmeg and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat, leave the mixture to infuse for 10 minutes, then discard the onion and bay leaf.

3 In another pan, melt the butter over a low heat. Stir in the flour and mustard powder, then cook until the mixture is bubbling and smells biscuity. Slowly pour in the infused milk, whisking with a balloon whisk as you go, to make a smooth sauce. Cook for 4-5 minutes on a low heat, whisking constantly, until you have a very thick sauce – it should cling to the whisk. Season, then add three quarters of the cheddar and all of the sage and egg yolks. Beat with a wooden spoon until the sauce comes away cleanly from the side of the pan.

4 When the squash is cooked, tip it into a mixing bowl and squeeze in the garlic flesh (discard the skins). Mash until really smooth, then stir into the cheese sauce with a wooden spoon until combined.

5 In a clean, large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites using an electric mixer until medium-stiff peaks form. Fold one spoonful of the egg whites into the sauce to loosen it a little, using a metal spoon. Add the rest, folding it in quickly but gently.

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About Delicious Magazine

The November issue of delicious. is all about celebration. You’ll find a 20-page mix-and-match dinner party planner, as well as the recipes Rick Stein and his chef friends love to cook for others; even our midweek recipes have had a smart makeover. There are also guides to party fizz and cooking with spice. And with Christmas on the horizon we’ve asked Chetna Makan from GBBO to share her stunning festive cake recipe and compiled the ultimate gift guide for foodies so you can start planning now.
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