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The cheat’s guide to perfect dinner party dishes: From mouthwatering mains to a butterscotch pie, impress your guests with minimum effort… 

Crayfish and avocado cocktail

One of my favourite light lunches or first courses. Replace the crayfish with prawns or crab, if preferred, or if you can’t find crayfish. They are available in fishmongers and all good supermarkets at certain times of year. These can be assembled up to an hour ahead and kept chilled in the fridge.

Serves 4

  • 225g cooked shelled crayfish tails
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and quartered
  • 2 Little Gem lettuces, shredded
  • 4 thin slices of lemon to garnish

For the cocktail sauce

  • 3 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp hot horseradish sauce
  • A few drops of Worcestershire sauce
  • A few drops of Tabasco
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped dill, plus 4 tiny sprigs, to garnish  

Set aside four crayfish tails for decoration.

To make the cocktail sauce, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Pat the crayfish tails dry using kitchen paper and add to the sauce.

Dice three-quarters of the avocado and thinly slice the remaining quarter. Add the diced avocado to the sauce and crayfish and mix well.

Divide the shredded lettuce between four glasses and spoon the crayfish mixture on top. Arrange the reserved crayfish tails on the surface of each cocktail, alongside a few slices of avocado, a slice of lemon and a sprig of dill.

Chicken tartiflette

A take on the classic tartiflette, which is a dish of potato, bacon, onions and Reblochon cheese traditional in the Alps. Choose a smoked cured ham of your choice. If you can’t find Reblochon, use Brie or Camembert instead. The first stage of cooking the vegetables, before adding the chicken, can be done up to two hours ahead. Not suitable for freezing.

Serves 6

  • 8 slices of Parma or Black Forest ham
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 500g new potatoes, thickly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 6 small skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 200g button mushrooms
  • 200ml white wine
  • 150ml pouring double cream
  • 115g Reblochon cheese, rind removed and diced
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1tbsp freshly chopped thyme
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Snip two slices of the Parma ham into small pieces.

Put the snipped Parma ham, onions, potatoes, oil and garlic into a large, shallow roasting tin. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and toss everything together. Roast in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until the potato slices are nearly tender.

Meanwhile, put the remaining slices of Parma ham on a board. Place the chicken breasts on top of the ham and wrap one around each breast. Season.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven. Stir in the mushrooms, wine and cream, and add the cheese. Sit the wrapped chicken breasts on top of the vegetables and return to the oven for about 20-22 minutes, or until the chicken and vegetables are tender.

Remove the chicken from the tin and place on a warm plate to rest. Stir the mustard, lemon juice and herbs into the tin until combined.

Carve each chicken breast into three, spoon over the vegetables and sauce, and serve piping hot with a green vegetable alongside.

Salmon en croute with spinach and dill

Salmon en croute is still so popular on the buffet table or when serving numbers. If you can’t find a single piece of salmon that is big enough, it is possible to use 2 x 500g (1lb 2oz) fillets side by side.

Serves 8-10

For the spinach filling:

  • 225g (8oz) baby spinach
  • 180g full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salmon:

  • Flour, for dusting
  • 1 x 500g block of all-butter puff pastry
  • 1 x 1kg salmon fillet, cut from the centre of the fillet, skinned and bones removed
  • A large bunch of dill, chopped
  • 1 x 280g jar of chargrilled mixed peppers in oil, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 1tbsp milk

For the herb sauce:

  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • 200g full-fat creme fraiche
  • Juice of ½ a lemon

To make the spinach filling, tip the baby spinach into a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water from the kettle over the spinach to wilt, then drain well. Squeeze excess water out of the spinach and set aside to cool.

Add the cream cheese and egg yolk to the cold spinach, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix to combine.

Place a large piece of baking paper on to the work surface and dust with flour. Roll the pastry so it is long enough and wide enough to wrap around the fillet to enclose it completely. Trim off any excess pastry and set aside. Place the fillet in the centre of the pastry. Season and cover with the dill. Lay the drained peppers over the fish, then spread the spinach filling evenly on top.

Break the egg into a bowl and add the milk. Whisk with a fork until smooth. Brush the pastry all around the fillet with the egg mixture. Fold the pastry ends up and over the ends of the fillet, and brush the pastry ends with beaten egg. Bring the sides of the pastry to meet at the centre top and crimp the top edge to seal. Brush all over with the egg glaze. Use the pastry trimmings to cut out shapes or letters. Stick these on to the pastry top to decorate, and brush with the egg glaze. Chill in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and place a baking sheet large enough to hold the en croute in the oven to get very hot. Carefully slide the en croute and the baking paper on to the preheated baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is golden and cooked on top and underneath.

Allow the salmon to rest for about 15 minutes at room temperature while you make the sauce. Measure all the sauce ingredients into a bowl, season and stir to combine. Carve the salmon into thick slices and serve with the sauce alongside.

Super quick raspberry parfait

Who doesn’t like puddings that you can make ahead with no stress? These delicious desserts can be made up to 8 hours ahead (but aren’t suitable for freezing). Adding some of the raspberry purée to the mousse gives a lovely strong flavour.

Makes six small glasses

  • 225g raspberries
  • 6 tbsp icing sugar
  • 4 tbsp cassis liqueur
  • 200g full-fat mascarpone cheese
  • 150ml pouring double cream
  • Juice of ½ a lemon

Reserve six of the raspberries to decorate and place the remaining fruit in a food processor. Add 3 tbsp of the icing sugar and all the cassis. Blend to a purée, then pour through a sieve. Discard the seeds.

Measure the mascarpone into a mixing bowl. Gently mix with an electric whisk to soften, then pour in the double cream, add the remaining icing sugar and whisk again. Add the lemon juice and half the raspberry purée and fold together until well incorporated. Be careful to mix and fold gently in order to keep a smooth cream.

Divide the mixture between six small glasses. Spoon the remaining raspberry coulis on top and garnish with a fresh raspberry to serve.

Butterscotch banana pie

Serves six

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 125g malted milk biscuits
  • 66g butterscotch pudding whip
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 medium bananas, sliced
  • 60g salted caramel sauce

Melt 75g of chocolate in the microwave in 30-second bursts. Whizz the biscuits in a food processor. Pour the melted chocolate on to the biscuit crumbs and whizz again.

Spread the mixture across the base and up the sides of a 16cm shallow cake tin, then put in the fridge to set.

Sprinkle the butterscotch pudding powder into the milk and whisk until smooth.

Spread the salted caramel sauce over the biscuit base. Cover with banana slices. Give the butterscotch pudding whip a brief whisk, then spoon over the bananas.

Put in the fridge for ten minutes to set. Melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the pie to serve.

  • Mary Berry recipes taken from Mary Makes It Easy by Mary Berry, £28, published by BBC books

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Post source: Daily mail

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