Eleven dishes that you need to know how to cook

It’s no secret that I like to cook and that I adore my food, so people often turn to me for ideas- I get asked “what will I make for _____?”.

Despite producing food every day to feed ourselves and our families, everyone seems to have a blank when it comes to the answer to that question.

So I’ve put together a list of the dishes that you need to have in your repertoire. I say repertoire very lightly, I mean ones that you know how to make without having to fuss or think too much and that usually work out for you.

1. The Quick Fix Dinner
Everyone needs a quick and tasty family dinner which is easily made from readily available ingredients. In our house it’s Courgette Carbonara, or on lazier days a simple pasta pesto always delights the kids.


2. The Comfort Food Dinner
The warm plate of stew or casserole, served with creamy mash or al dente pasta, be it Spaghetti Bolognese, Irish Stew or my favourite Sausage Butterbean and Leek Casserole, everyone cook needs to be able to produce a hug on a plate, a nourishing and tasty dish that has them licking the plate clean.


3. The Cake Sale contribution
Cake sales are an inevitable part of life, and rather than wondering what to make to astound people have a fail safe, can’t go wrong go-to recipe. My preference is for melty no bake sliceable effort as there’s less room for error- so I’d recommend the Malteser Traybake or Mint Aero Slices.

4. The Make Ahead Dish
You’re out all day but will be returning hungry- it’s great to have something pre-made that is easily reheatable- something that freezes well. Try Chicken and Broccoli Bake or Chorizo and Chickpea Stew.

5. The casual “friends for lunch” dish
For this I tend to go buffet style, although what I mean by that is that I empty the fridge onto the table, ham, chorizo, cheeses, fresh rolls, brown bread, tomatoes, salads, pesto, hummus, raw veggies. It’s less prep and looks impressive and let’s everyone serve themselves while you chat.

6. The Brunch
Blueberry pancakes are a winner, drizzle them with honey or maple syrup, gorgeous.

Blueberry Pancakes
Blueberry Pancakes

7. The Fancy Dinner for Two
We’re not big on the fancy dinners, but you can’t go far wrong with steak, homemade chips or potato gratin and mushrooms and onions with a glass bottle of wine.

8. The Dinner Party Delight
Once upon a time there was a couple who used to have dinner parties. And then they had children and there ended the dinner parties. I’d have to really rake my brains to come up with a dinnerparty dish these days, but it would be great to have one to hand, and I’m working on it. Any suggestions?

9. The Birthday Cake
Everyone needs to know how to make birthday cake- we love the Rachel Allen Letter and Number Cake as it is easily changed into many shapes and tastes great. If you’re not much of a baker try using some traybake recipes in a cake tin, easy peasy. Decoration involves buttercream and tons of sweets. Winner.

10. The Bring Along Salad
Summertime and the living is easy, your friends are barbecuing and you’re asked to bring a salad, avoid buying tubs of coleslaw and adding parsley for the homemade look and have a salad recipe at your finger tips. I tend to bring either a wholegrain mustard potato salad with bacon or a Moroccan couscous, carbs are always welcome with a meat feast.

11. The Dessert that travels well.
“I’ll bring dessert so”. Was that your voice that said that? Next time say wine, it’s easier. When I say I’ll bring dessert it comes down to one of three dishes- either a fruit filled pavlova, a cheat’s Key Lime Pie or the decadent Toblerone Cheesecake. All are winners, I vary it depending on the audience and time of day. Key Lime Pie is perfect for a barbecue, Toblerone Cheesecake for dinner party.



Key Lime Pie


If you have an answer for each of these menu dilemmas you’ll be unflappable in the kitchen. Or in the thinking up of things anyway. What would you add?

14 thoughts on “Eleven dishes that you need to know how to cook

  1. Great blog post too and yes, I’m starving now as well. Love the idea of this useful bank of recipes! Must try the potato salad for a BBQ we have at the end of next month! I too love a steak dinner for date night. Dinner party wise, I like to do canap√©s, instead of starters, with homemade mojito/wines etc., then for main course, beef stroganoff or bourgignon are pretty good with a choice of sides, and a prepare ahead dessert. I love Nigella’s instant chocolate mousse.

  2. Great list Sinead! There’s a link missing there from your aero tray bake thingy. Not that I want to make it right now this very second or anything…;)

    My go-to dish for dinner parties these days is a big seafood paella with loads of fresh crusty bread. One of the great bit about it is that you have be all cleaned up and everything before anyone arrives and you just need to plonk the dish on the table ūüôā I love this recipe here: http://lettersonlunches.typepad.com/letters_on_lunches/2008/04/paella-party.html

    It’s delicious and super easy to make.

  3. I’m saving this. I need a ‘go to’ guide. I have great fantasies of hosting and cooking and baking but reality doesn’t quite fit in with them!

  4. Great post! I love tapas style stuff to feed a gang of people and you cant go wrong with pesto, meat and cheese. Add a fresh foccaccia to the mix and everyone thinks youre a genius – and its easy and cheap! Ive a recipe on the blog – http://thebusymamas.ie/?p=56.
    For dinner parties I used to do crazy things like beef wellington! Now I do things that can me made a day before – like a fab beef bourgignon.
    As for portable desserts you cant beat brownies or tray bakes!
    Adding your recipes to the ‘to do’ list

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s