15 foodies share their best hacks for effortless entertaining

Ed Smith, food writer and author

“Make a suet crust pie, lasagne or other crowd-pleaser well in advance, aim for just two low-effort salads or sides to go with it, then just enjoy the meal with everyone else.”

Our courgette, ricotta and parma ham lasagne recipe is an irresistible twist on a classic.

A white ceramic oven dish filled with baked lasagne on a wooden board and a green surface

Silvana Franco, chef

“I like to make a cocktail (such as a margarita or mango daiquiri) the night before and freeze until I’m ready to serve. Then, I just whizz up in seconds when guests arrive – it usually gets the party off on a good footing.”

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See our best frozen cocktail recipes for inspiration.

Strawberry Margarita Slushie Recipe | Strawberry Granita Recipe

Rosie Birkett, cookbook author

“I’m a big fan of grilled seafood and fish, and a good compound butter. You can make the butter ahead with garlic and herbs blitzed together, then grill the fish and seafood, basting in the butter. It takes a matter of minutes and feels impressive. Serve with chips of some sort.”

Follow our easy herb and garlic butter recipe – as well as with seafood, it’s also great for basting a roast chicken.

Herb and Garlic Butter Recipe

Claire Thomson, cookery writer

“Don’t bother with pudding, just buy good cheese, crackers and fruit – figs, grapes and apricots.”

Sophie Robinson, interior designer

“I’m not a baker or frankly have time to create desserts but this one is visually spectacular and effortless. Pile a mound of frozen berries (anything but strawberries) on a serving platter and place in the centre of the table. Heat 200ml of double cream and melt 200g of white chocolate to make a hot sauce. Pour over the frozen berries at the table and serve the gooey sweet mixture to guests to whoops of delight.”

Iced berries with hot white chocolate sauce

Martha Collinson, cookery writer

“If your kitchen is on show like mine, one-pan dishes are my favourite, as they emerge from the oven looking effortless. I also love cooking rice in my Instant Pot for speed and to take the pressure off.”

We’ve got lots of one-pot recipes to try, from a clever one-pan lasagne to traybake curries.

Spicy meatball pan lasagne garnished with pesto

Abby Lee, chef-owner at Mambow

“Choose dishes that taste even better the next day, so you can prepare everything ahead and relax on the day.”

Take a look at our batch-cooking recipes that can all be made ahead and freeze well too – we love this chicken tinga for a taco or quesadilla filling at a Mexican dinner party.

three plates of chicken Tinga with salsa and tortilla chips

Kwoklyn Wan, restaurateur and writer

“Preparation is key – unfortunately if you want to entertain you have to do some work, so do this before your guests arrive. Then you can enjoy your guests’ company without having to disappear into the kitchen too often.”

Georgina Hayden, food writer

“Cook one dish – ideally something slow-cooked, so you’re not doing anything when guests arrive – and adorn it or the table with shop-bought accompaniments such as fresh bread, dips, olives and bowls of beautiful produce. Stress-free.”

Discover our best slow cooker recipes to help you get ahead.

Pot of sausage casserole next to a tea towel and spoon

Ben Tish, chef-director at Cubitt House

“If I’m entertaining, I leave everything in pans or pots on the cooker with serving spoons so people can queue with a plate, help themselves to exactly what they want and then sit down. Its cuts out so much effort. People like it, too.”

Sarah Raven, gardening and cookbook author

“Cook delicious seasonal tarts when, for example, you have a glut of asparagus, spinach or tomatoes. Then serve with just-dug new potatoes and a just-picked bowl of green salad, topped with edible flowers and toasted pumpkin seeds (dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and flaky salt; mixed together in a jam jar, only dressed as it comes to the table).”

Try our tomato tart recipe with olive oil pastry for the perfect centrepiece.

Tomato Tart Recipe with Olive Oil Pastry

Ana Ortiz, Fire Made founder

“I love to serve empanadas de morocho or tortillas de maíz, and these must be fried in order to be crispy. My cheat is to fry them in advance so that when people come I can just give them a quick heat through.”

Give it a go with our spinach, cheese and chorizo empanadas recipe.


Chloe and Charlie Luxton, founders of the Beckford Restaurant Group

“We’ve just discovered that, for a simple white sauce, you can put all the ingredients into the pan and stir continuously until it’s the right consistency. For years, we’ve been cooking off the roux and gradually adding the milk – this shortcut will save hours!”

Kate Watson-Smyth, journalist and design writer

“For pudding, buy a really good vanilla ice cream and add either stem ginger or maraschino cherries, then grate some plain chocolate over the top.”

Check out our best ice cream sundae recipes for inspiration, including our DIY ice cream sundae bar.

DIY Ice Cream Sundae Bar Recipe

John Gregory-Smith, chef and cookbook author

“Make everything ahead of time and just finish things off – so no actual cooking. That way you can look glam and not miss a thing.”

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