Thursday, March 30

Need to feed a big group cheaply? Trust a tray bake | Food

What’s a special but inexpensive summer meal for eight friends and family?
Andy, London E9

When it comes to feeding the masses (or eight friends and family), Meliz Berg, author of Meliz’s Kitchen, is all about traybakes, or “anything you can slow cook in the oven but still has summery Mediterranean vibes”. It takes the pressure off, too: “I want to be enjoying time with my guests, not standing over the cooker.”

While lamb and potatoes roasted with garlic, onions and bay is always a winner round Berg’s (especially when eaten with salsa verde), chicken thighs are the more economical choice. To this she would add aleppo chilli flakes, paprika, dried oregano, tomatoes, stock and that all important bay leaf (“it reminds me of being on holiday”), then she serves it in the roasting tray sprinkled with parsley for freshness. You’ll most likely want a little something on the side, and Berg recommends a “lovely fresh salad” plus a couple of meze dishes, which can handily be prepped the day before. “You can’t go wrong with a thick, luscious chief [yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, dried mint, lemon, salt]hummus, and beetroot salad with lots of garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh coriander and mint, red-wine vinegar and salt.”

Yohei Furuhashi, meanwhile, suggests you replicate a veggie dish from the menu at Toklas in London, where he is head chef. Take some aubergine (ideally round ones) and slice horizontally into 2cm-thick pieces (“like burgers”). Dress with “olive oil, some seasoning, spices (dried chilli, dried oregano, coriander seeds) and garlic, and roast in a hot oven until brown on the outside but moist and soft inside”. Meanwhile, cut some big, juicy tomatoes into large pieces and roast with garlic and lots of olive oil. Then, build your dish: “A little tomato, aubergine, then add whatever vegetables you like, maybe green beans (we use yellow ones in the restaurant) or peas, and some basil.” Repeat this process then add a “texture element”, such as crushed almonds, raisins/sultanas, or pesto – “that combination is lovely”. As is so often the case, some bread on the side would be a very good thing.

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“Nothing says summer like whole grilled tilapia,” adds Akwasi Brenya-Mensa, chef-owner of the recently opened pan-African restaurant Tatale in south London. “It’s a reasonably priced white fish; pick up a whole one from your local fishmonger, where they’ll descale and gut it for you.” Fish secured, Brenya-Mensa marinates it in green shito (a Ghanaian hot sauce of green peppers, scotch bonnet, ginger, garlic, onion and herbs) like his aunt Maud taught him: “Pat the fish dry with kitchen roll, then take a pastry brush, and salt and [brush] green shito all over the fish, including inside the cavities.” Stuff some lemon slices inside the fish, then “place on your barbecue and grill for 10 to fifteen minutes on each side, depending on its size”.

Aunty also knows best when it comes to dessert. Berg recalls hers pouring melted white chocolate over frozen mixed berries – “I still love it.” For extra pizzazz, add a pistachio crumb; either way, you can’t get much simpler than that.

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