Zach Lande

Sharing dinner with a group of friends is surely one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening at Cambridge. You can always go to a formal or a restaurant, but there’s something far more satisfying and rewarding about hosting or partaking in a home-made dinner party. No matter what your cooking ability, dinner parties are an opportunity for everyone to get involved and work towards delivering a delicious final result. However, how do you go about feeding a group of ravenous students in a way that won’t leave you both bankrupt and exhausted? Fortunately, there are some dishes which lend themselves particularly well to what may seem like a truly Herculean task. These are my top five picks for guaranteed crowd pleasers that are sure leave you and your guests hungry for more

"Sharing dinner with a group of friends is surely one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening at Cambridge"

Fajitas are a one-pan wonder which offer endless potential for customisation and creativity. The base for all fajitas consists of thinly sliced onions and bell peppers, which are cooked until soft. You then add any protein you fancy, such as strips of chicken, beef, or vegetarian substitutes. Season the mixture with a packet of fajita spice mix, and then it’s ready to be piled high into a tortilla. Fajitas are a fun, interactive way to eat because they are complemented so well by condiments such as shredded lettuce, sour cream, salsa, grated cheese, refried beans, and, of course, guacamole.  

Bolognese sauce is a hearty sauce originating from Bologna in Italy, hence its name. Traditionally served with flat pasta such as tagliatelle, pappardelle, or fettucine, the sauce also goes brilliantly well with rice or couscous. What’s more, the sauce can easily be made vegetarian by using Quorn mince instead of beef or pork. A basic Bolognese starts with finely diced onions, celery, and carrots which are sweated down before adding the mince. After the mince is browned, add chopped garlic and a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée then stir to combine. Bring the mixture together with a healthy glug of dry red wine. You can then add as much tinned chopped tomato as you like until the colour and ratio seem right. I like to amp up the flavour of my Bolognese sauce by adding stock, fresh thyme, dried chilli flakes, oregano, parsley, and a generous dash of cream at the end to give it a rich, velvety texture.

Thai green curry is a spicy, fragrant way of experimenting with aromatic herbs and vegetables. Whilst you can buy curry paste in supermarkets, there is an unmistakeable difference in flavour and texture when you make your own; start by roughly chopping a couple of green chillies, a few cloves of garlic, a couple of inches of fresh, peeled ginger, two sticks of lemongrass, three or four shallots, then place it all into a blender. Pack in a bunch of fresh coriander and add a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil then blitz to combine. If you want to be really old-school then you can make the paste using a mortar and pestle. Fry off the paste in a pan then add whatever vegetables and proteins you fancy. I recommend sliced bell peppers, mange-tout, mushrooms, green beans, and bamboo shoots. Once the vegetables pick up some colour, add a tin or two of coconut milk and let simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste, serve over rice, and your curry is good to go! 

Zach Lande

Rustic vegetable soup is perhaps the easiest and cheapest way to feed a large group of people. It is also perfect for using up any leftover vegetables you have. Start by sweating diced carrots and onions in a pan. Once softened, add diced courgette, cauliflower, cabbage, leek, and garlic. Don’t cut the vegetables too small, as you want to keep the soup rough and chunky. Sweat all the vegetables down without any colour then add as much water as your saucepan can hold. Drop in a couple of vegetable stock cubes or Knorr stock pots to accentuate the earthy flavour of the vegetables. Simmer for 15 minutes then finish the soup with roughly chopped fresh basil, parsley, and thyme to add another layer of depth and complexity.


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Burgers. You may feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but burgers are a fast, fun way to feed people, and they can be customised according to individual preference. Some rules of thumb for cooking your burgers; make sure you use beef mince with a fat content of at least 25-30%. Lean mince may be healthier, but it leads to dry, tasteless burgers. When frying burgers, it’s best to treat them like steaks. Let them come up to room temperature then pat them dry with paper towel. Season them generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Fry on medium-high heat using sunflower oil for around 3 minutes a side, and only flip them once so that they develop a beautiful golden-brown crust. Finally, let them rest for a few minutes before you cram them into a bun and load them up with any toppings and condiments you fancy.

Now invite your friends over and enjoy!

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