Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cooking for Crowds

When cooking for a party, and wishing to serve something more substantial than nibbles, choose a dish that can be prepared well ahead of time, then all you have to do is reheat on the day.
Here are a couple of recipes that will sort this out for you, just reduce amounts if you want to practice first on the family. Tip: If a newcomer to cooking, ALWAYS practice first before entertaining..
Beef and Pasta Bake - to feed 10 - 12
2 oz (50g) butter
2 onions, chopped
2 lb (900g) minced beef,
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tblsp tomato puree,
1/4 pt red wine or beef stock
1 lb (450g) pasta shapes
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste.
cream sauce
3 oz (75g) each butter and plain flour
1 3/4 pts (1 lt) milk,
3 eggs, beaten
4 oz (100g) parmesan cheese, grated
Fry the onions in the butter until softened, stir in the beef and spice and fry until browned.
Add the tomato puree and wine and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
Meanwhile cook the pasta, drain and rinse with cold water. Shake well to remove as much water as possible then mix in the beaten egg.
Make a white sauce by melting the butter and stirring in the flour, then slowly add the milk, stirring all the time. Season to taste. When thickened, remove from heat and beat in the eggs.
Spoon half the pasta into a shallow greased ovenproof dish, and sprinkle with 1oz of the cheese. Cover with a layer of the meat sauce and another sprinkle of cheese. Top this with the remaining pasta. Pour over the cream sauce and finish with a final sprinkle of cheese.
At this point, the dish can be covered with cling film and kept chilled overnight until needed. Bake at 180C, 350F, Gas 4, for 45 mins to 1 hour.

Beef and Spinach Pancakes - to feed 20
Although the recipe uses beef, you could substitute chicken (those scraps from the carcase could be used) and adjust the seasonings to suit. Use prepared passata or any of the bottled tomato (pasta) sauces instead of bothering to make your own, although I am giving a recipe for DIY. Make pancakes weeks ahead of time, layer them and store them in the freezer.
If you can't get sausagemeat, then peel the skins off pork sausages. Always remember that you can adjust amounts (extra onions for example) if money is tight.
2 onions, chopped
1 1/2lb (675g) minced beef
1 lb (450g) pork sausagemeat,
1 pack spinach leaves, good pinch nutmeg
40 pancakes,
2 pints tomato sauce
8 oz (225g) grated cheddar cheese.
Using a large pan, lightly fry the onions in a little oil until softened. Stir in the beef and cook until browned.
Add the sausagemeat and, using a wooden spoon, break this up as much as possible and stir into the beef. When browned, cover and simmer.
Wash the spinach and put into a dry pan over a low heat and cook until wilted down. Drain away any excess water and sprinkle over the nutmeg. Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste and add the spinach. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Divide the filling up to the number of pancakes you have, then place one portion down the centre of a pancake and roll up. Repeat until all the pancakes are filled. Lay these in a lightly greased oven dish, seam side down, and cover with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle over all the cheese. This is where the dish can be covered as in the above recipe and cooked the next day. Cook at the same temperature as above.
Both dishes are best served with a selection of salads.

Home-made Tomato Sauce (F)
This is good to serve with pasta dishes, meatballs, burgers, and so on... It will freeze, so worth making in bulk.
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can plum (or chopped ) tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pt chicken stock
Fry the onion in a little oil and add the tomatoes (if using plum tomatoes, break these up), stir in the herbs, pepper and stock. Simmer for 45 mins. Remove from heat, sieve or liquidise.
Makes about 3/4 pint.
Tip: If you omit the chicken stock, and simmer it until thick, it is perfect for pizzas. Just thin it down with stock if you want to use it as a pouring sauce.