We’ve made three menus, each with a starter, main course, and pudding. Including prep time, one menu can be made in under 90 minutes; the other in under 60; and our last gem, in just over 30!
Menu 1 – Quick
A rich fish soup, fresh from the Valentine Warner repertoire. Mackerel, red chilli, a generous slosh of white wine, and plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables will more than satisfy bellies, and it’s on the table in 25 minutes. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.
A cheat’s paella (pictured above), if you will. Flake (already cooked) hot-smoked salmon into the pan at the last minute, and use smoked paprika, chorizo and lashings of olive oil to vamp up the flavour. Ready in only 40 minutes, which gives you time for a cheeky glass of vino.
Chef Allegra McEvedy swears by her standby oranges in tangiers recipe for a last-minute pudding. An innovative and healthy dish, just pour a honey and orange blossom water mix over bulgar wheat, simmer for 10 minutes, then serve with pistachios and oranges.
Total time taken: 85 minutes
Menu 2 – Super quick
A pretty plate of petals for dinner is an unusual option, but a great one too. Here tulip petals (which are perfectly edible) are filled with a goats’ cheese, curd cheese and yoghurt filling, then sprinkled with a dainty cut of fresh dill. Easy to make, and ready in 30 minutes.
Everybody loves spag bol, but all that sauce simmering can take hours. Peter’s Sidwell’s version may not boast a proper Bolognese sauce, but it’s ready in only ten minutes and still contains all your favourite parts: tomatoes, beef, garlic, and plenty of basil.
An enormous Eton Mess, which can very easily be doubled in size. No preparation required (you won’t even need a spoon!) – just shop for strawberry yoghurt, fromage frais, frozen berries, mini meringues, and maybe a bit of crème de cassis, for added indulgence.
Total time taken: 50 minutes
Menu 3 – Flash lightning
Keep it simple with a fresh salad made from quartered eggs, fine green beans, grilled streaky bacon, and a bed of frisée salad leaves. Given the ingredients it won’t break the bank either, so you can afford to make your own French dressing to go with it.
Dermot O’Leary to the rescue! Crab linguini in 15 minutes is lunacy, but we assure you it works… fry garlic and chilli puree (great cheats ingredients) together, add crab meat, a knob of butter, some white wine and seasoning, then hey presto! Impressive crab in minutes.
Omelette for dessert, anyone? Scoff ye not, for Gizzi Erskine’s marmalade soufflé omelette could be the answer to your dinner party dilemmas. Keep the usual eggs and butter, but add sugar, marmalade, a dash of Cointreau and orange zest as well. Egg-cellent.
Total time taken: 35 minutes