Do-Ahead Dinners is out today!

Do-Ahead Dinners

Well bust my buttons if it isn’t pub. day for my new book, Do-Ahead Dinners! She has been a long time in the making but finally, wreathed in hardback, jammy with 150 recipes and beautiful photography, she is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

It’s about cooking, naturally, but cooking without the heartache. You know those Come Dine With Me episodes where the guests sit there awkwardly for an hour while next door a would-be Heston gets his knickers in a twist? This is the opposite.

Each recipe is broken down into stages, detailing what you can do in advance (most of the recipe) and what you need to do before serving (very little). Chapters include breads, nibbly bits, soups, starters, mains, vegetables, puddings, little sweet things, and cocktails. It’s a book anyone who enjoys cooking for others really can’t live without.

And I have THREE copies to give away! All you need to do is comment below with your favourite dinner story. Could be the time you cooked the most kick-ass rib of beef of all time, could be the time your nan served a maggot-infested cheese to the Bishop of Norwich. I’m not fussed. An independent adjudicator will decide the three best stories and the winners will get a signed copy of Do-Ahead Dinners.

Look forward to reading your kitchen tales!

This is a book you really want. No fifteen-minute magic or culinary sorcery, just practical, staged cooking of the most sumptuous dishes
Yotam Ottolenghi

43 thoughts on “Do-Ahead Dinners is out today!

  1. My grandparents are both amazing cooks and often stun me into silence with their amazing flavoursome cooking, so I decided to try to return the favour one day. I did a 12 hour slow cooked pork joint with creamy mashed potatoes and garlicky steamed cabbage and they didn’t stop talking about it for months! SUCCESS!!

  2. A few years ago when Come Dine With Me was at its height, I got some friends together to do a week of it. The standard was incredibly high, but I felt quietly confident about my dinner: red pepper and tomato soup with creme fraiche and pistachios, horseradish beef and that dead easy Scandinavian iced berries nicked from the Le Caprice cookbook.

    Apart from forgetting to put the horseradish in, the food went swimmingly. The real problem was when I got so excited about my guests letting me put the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack on the stereo, that I jumped up with my napkin caught on my rather fulsome skirt, only for it to fall into the candles and catch fire.

    After some gasps of “Jesus, Kat – you’re on fire!” one guest ended up doing the stop, drop and roll on my napkin. Everyone else had hysterics. I didn’t win – but I did at least get to have a rousing chorus of The Music of the Night.

  3. My favourite dinner story took place whilst living in a traveller’s commune & farm in Hawaii. With a group of 10 new friends we cooked a Mexican feast on the ancient range in the community kitchen away from town (no tex-mex kits there). Ceviche with fresh locally caught fish, black bean soup, guacamole made from our own avocados … the list of delicious, colourful food went on. Being the cookery novice in the mass cooking extravaganza (we were fed for three whole days on the produce) I was tasked with making salads and salsa with fresh jalapenos picked that day, after fine chopping the chillis without gloves my hands stung like I’d been handling jellyfish rather than innocent looking vegetables, and had to be numbed with three shots of tequila before someone in the group came up with a cure. To vigorously rub a generous tablespoon of salt into my hands (which felt like even my fingerprints were aflame) that would absorb the painful stinging chili pepper oil from my skin, leave for a couple of minutes then rinse, it worked like a treat & after a couple of salt rinses I enjoyed a fantastic party. I’ve loved Mexican food ever since, and developed a healthy respect for the not so innocent chili pepper. I’ve passed on the ‘wear gloves or use salt’ tip ever since whenever someone mentions using fresh-picked or hot chili in their cooking. The party was a scream and we were brought closer as a group for the experience of communal cooking, which was repeated with success on different themes throughout a romantic and riotously fun season’s work. A dinner experience I’d encourage everyone to try, even if it’s a simple pot-luck dinner, just know your ingredients first!

  4. My husband and I catered for 50 guests for my parents’ 50th Anniversary. We’d never cooked for more than 12 before and were utterly terrified, to the point that I realised when putting some savoury mini muffins in the oven that my hands were shaking uncontrollably! We cooked everything ahead of time and reheated where possible and figure we must have overcatered a tad because despite the rave reviews and the gannet-fest round the tables, we still had enough to feed us for the next two days and a freezer-full left-over! Maybe an Italian mama in a previous life?

  5. Still the most recalled are those from childhood. Such as my brother’s habit of swiping food from your plate while he was still a baby. He didn’t have any teeth, so the burger or sausage he nicked would end up gummed to death.

    Or that my sister and I used to have a secret place to store bits of tea we didn’t want to eat – crusts off the bread for her, tomatoes for me. Sadly we weren’t that clever at it, my mum always found it hidden in the storage stool in the kitchen…

  6. My story involves me cooking dinner for my brothers the first time.

    It was the summer after my first year at high school and my parents had gone away to my great aunt’s for the weekend. That night I decided to do dinner for my brothers, I told them over the phone we were going to have take-out Thai. When they arrived, instead of being greeted with takeout containers and chopsticks, they found Mum’s big casserole dish on the dining room table, a large mount of rice and bowls of little accompaniments. I lifted the lid, and they gasped! I made them chilli con carne from scratch, using our Mum’s recipe that she had found in a friend’s notebook.

    After eating it, they toasted me and said “Jack, that was better than Mum’s”. That was the moment I knew I had found my life’s calling, to be a cook.

  7. I decided to throw a dinner party for 17 friends in our tiny shoebox-sized flat – no surprise that I was massively under-prepared! I ended up making posh satay chicken and peanut noodles in a bucket half an hour before they arrived, we created chairs out of anything to hand and my flatmate got tipsy and poured the salted caramel for the pudding all over the kitchen and me. The only thing that went to plan was the killer gin cocktail we made up in a giant cocktail vat (yes, I know – no mixing bowls but the proud owner of a cocktail vat doesn’t make sense).

    The evening ended in a noodle food fight, followed by late night karaoke and Twister – all in all a total success!

  8. One weeknight I had a bunch of friends round for dinner. That morning I’d woken up at 6am, painstakingly boiled and mashed potatoes and rolled them into the most perfect gnocci. I left them in the fridge, worked the day through then returned home to a houseful of friends, hoping to have a delicious supper on the table in minutes. Unfortunately I overcooked my wonderful gnocci and ended up with a smushy potato soup. I think this would be known as a ‘do ahead disaster’ – clearly I need your book to help me fare a bit better! :-)

  9. well i’m going to purchase it now but my fave dinner party story is whn I made a birthday meal for a friend…. we had eaten the main course and I went into the kitchen to dress the chocolate birthday cake i’d lovingly made… I put 30 candles on it and ‘happy birthday’ in silver letters… I then went back into the dining room to turn out the lights so the candles would be more effective and returned to the kitchen pick up the cake to find that it was gone!… the plate was on the sideboard but no sign of the cake whatsoever… I checked in the fridge just in case I’d gone mad and only thought id dressed it but no, it was gone… my friends and I spent a good 10 minutes searching for the cake only to notice my dogs sitting very quietly with smiles on their faces… both dogs breath smelt of chocolate… it amazes me that not only did they eat the entire cake but the candles and letters too!… BTW it’s not the plus sign you click on to leave a comment it’s the speech bubble symbol, or it is for me anyway!

  10. When my Sister & I were 5 & 6 we were invited for afternoon tea at an old eccentric lady’s house who was a friend of our Nan. It was dusty & dirty & Mum whispered don’t touch or eat anything! The old lady asked my Sister to cut the cucumber sandwiches & gave her an enormous rusty bread knife. I will never forget the look on my Mum’s face

  11. On breaking up with an ex i was a complete mess… had eaten only cold beans and gin for weeks and despite suppprtive friends was feeling very alone in the world. That is until they staged a banoffee intervention. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but one weekend we made a den like kids in my loft room, using table clothes, old curtains and bedsheets we made a cosy boudoir with sparkling candles and lights. Then we spent the entire drinking wine while the base set – smoking too many cigarettes as we watched cans of condensed milk simmer on the stove – we took the long route. Finally at around 1 or 2 in the morning we feasted on whipped cream-topped bannoffee pie with tons of grated chocolate sprinkes… i felt loved and whole again.

  12. I once had the preparations for a dinner for friends interrupted by my cat, who decided that the moment I was stressing about getting a cake into the oven would be the perfect time to bring a not-yet-dead bird that she had just caught into the kitchen… It scared the life out of me as it was still flapping about, but I managed to get both it and the cat out of the back door, the cake in the oven and all the feathers cleaned up in time for an enjoyable evening. Or so I thought.

    Little did I know that later, while I was getting changed, the cat must have sneaked back in with its now finished-off bird, and dumped it under the dining table. I was completely unaware of this until some time into the meal itself when I happened to drop my fork. Ducking down under the table to pick it up I found myself face-to-face with the poor deceased bird, nearly knocked myself out as I hit my head on the table in surprise, and then spent the rest of the meal hoping that no-one else would drop anything and see it, or stretch out their legs and kick it, or worst of all that it would turn out it wasn’t completely dead…

    Thankfully none of that did happen, so when the guests went into the other room after dinner I was able to hastily remove it…except one of them came back in for more wine just as I was doing it and caught me in the act! It was slightly like the moment in Fawlty Towers with the rat in the box of crackers – “Would you care for a dead sparrow with your wine?” Hugely embarrassing.

    As we’d had fish for the main I had originally been planning to give my cat anything leftover, but needless to say, after all that she definitely didn’t get any!

  13. I once cooked what I thought was a lovely meal for eight people to mark the end of a 20 week course we’d done together. I decorated the table with a large goldfish bowl and floating candles to create some nice low lighting. The food was going down well, the conversation was flowing, when suddenly there was a massive BANG! We all sat stunned, looking at each other wondering what on earth had happened.

    The candles had floated to the side of the bowl directing some concentrated heat onto the curved glass above. You can imagine the rest – glass and water all over the table.

    Happily my long suffering guests had a good laugh (when they’d recovered from the shock) and took their desserts off to the lounge. Its a meal they will never forget!

  14. My boss recently attended a dinner party to toast the nuptials of two of his American friends. No expense was spared, the champagne flowed freely and guests were attended to by several Butlers in the Buff. Most of the guests were American and confessed the naked waiters were a new concept to them and so one guest, we’ll call him Brad cornered one of the butlers and asked him several questions, including where on earth they get most of their business.

    Brad returned to the table and some time later confessed to my boss he had been most surprised by the reply he had received. “In America Hindus are much more reserved, is that okay over here, for them to hire naked men? I mean they’re usually so religious, but fair play to them”. Other American guests sagely nodded and all eyes turned to my English manager. Initially confused, it took a few seconds for the penny to drop but he slowly replaced his cutlery on the table and proceeded to explain that the butlers main income stream was actually batcherlorette parties aka ‘hen dos’.

  15. Oh my I have had so many horrible dinner parties! Dogs who have licked everything on the coffee table and decided to take the whole slab of pate in front of guests, or the time when hubby had clients for dinner and everything was so overdone, that the burnt roast potatoes, that were hollow inside, pinged off the plate when they tried to stick their fork in them. Or when two guests instead of one turned out to be vegetarian and a plate had to be retrieved and divided in half! Embarressing.
    But the most horrible was when we had a lovely array of meat on the BBQ and the hood was down. Guests offered to turn the chicken wings, raised the lid and a big rat scrurried acorss the hotplate!! Eeek. Needless to say everything went in the bin and we ordered pizza!

  16. When my Sister & I were 5 & 6 we were invited for afternoon tea by an old eccentric lady who was a friend of our Nan. It was dusty & dirty & Mum whispered don’t touch or eat anything. The old lady asked my Sister to cut the cucumber sandwiches & gave her an enormous rusty bread knife, I will never forget the look on my Mum’s face! Dessert was Jelly made in old snuff tobacco tins, but there was protein at this tea as set in the Jellies were Ants! My Mum thanked her but said we had to go. We left hungry & to this day I’ve never been a fan of Jelly.

    • Rene Redzepi, of Noma, has served ants in his restaurant. Seems this mad old bat was something of a visionary!

  17. Every Wednesday, during the school year, from the age of 7 to 17 I went to my granny’s house for dinner after school. It was always a pleasure as she was a wonderful cook & a joy to be around. My favourite part of her meals was her gravy. It was perfect each & every time. She used the same pan for her a lifetime it seemed.
    After she died, when I was 17, for years we would reminisce about her life and of course her gravy. I assumed I’d never taste it again as no-one could make gravy like her.
    When I came home to my folks home one weekend I opened the front door and couldn’t believe it. Immediately I smelt my granny’s gravy wafting from my mother’s kitchen!
    I ran in and straight to the pan to taste it. It was exactly the same. The smell. The flavour. The texture. “You did it Mum!”
    It has never happened since then but it’s a fantastic memory and of course I am always trying to get even close to granny’s gravy.
    :)

  18. My mom was throwing a dinner party (making her wonderful coq au vin). My sisters and I got a big talk about how we were to be on our best behaviour as my mom’s friend was bringing her husband who thought kids were more of a nuisance than filling out tax refund forms. Aside from his dislike for kids, the guy also fit all stereotypes that come to mind when thinking about middle-aged German men. It was questionable whether he had ever had a proper laugh and it can be said with almost certainty that he had a stick up his bum.
    Now my little sister is quite the entertainer. Because she was only around 10 at the time she must have forgotten about the whole being on your best behaviour thing and was up to her normal antics.
    As it was the 90s and interior design choices were questionable at best, we had a beige cloth covered lampshade hanging over our dining table. My little sister told one of her stories and caused the no-laughs-stick-up-his-bum guy to spray a mouthful of red wine on said already ugly looking lamp in a fit of laughter.
    To this day whenever my mom makes coq au vin we talk about the guy ruining the lamp (not really such an unfortunate thing as it turned out) and how at the very least, even though we may not have always behaved as kids at dinner parties, we never sprayed red wine across a table.

  19. Years ago, I had been seeing a girl for a few months and enjoyed some great meals with her at some good restaurants so I decided to take things a step further and invited her to supper at my house. I really pushed the boat out and made an amazing looking seafood platter, full of langustines, crab and prawns. Naturally, I provided a small bowl with some warm water and a couple of slices of lemon so that we could clean our hands when we needed to. Unfortunately, she didn’t really grasp this concept and after I had washed my fingers in there a couple of times, she proceeded to drink the contents of the finger bowl. Half way through drinking the murky, warm, lemony, fishy water, I think she realised that she had made a mistake as she gently put it down on the table and then ran out into the garden and tried to quietly spit it out everywhere. It wasn’t quiet and I never saw her again (not my choice, I think out of her own embarrassment!).

  20. Thank you so much, everybody, for these wonderful stories. The secret judge and I had a difficult time picking three favourites, brilliant as they all were, and so names went in a hat and the winners were:
    ……

    …….

    Ellie!
    Michael!
    Aaaaaaaaand
    Banoffeesky!

    I’ll be in touch to get your addresses, and thank you again to ALL of you who entered.

    J x

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