TV legend Mary Berry shares her favourite tips and tricks to make cooking for a crowd a breeze
If there’s one reader request that’s kept on coming, it’s recipes to serve numbers, for anything from a family get-together in the kitchen to a full-on feast. It’s an area my writing partner, Lucy Young, and I feel very qualified to write on – in our personal lives as well as our professional lives, there’s nothing we like so much as cooking for family, friends and neighbours – no matter the number.
At the same time, we’re well aware of the worries that many of you have about cooking for more than six. “What can I make for so many people?” “How can I keep the food hot and will there be enough?” – these are the sorts of questions we’re asked, and I hope we’ve answered them.
Once you’ve chosen your menu, check you have all the pots, pans and dishes you’ll need. If you don’t have absolutely everything, don’t worry – there are often ways around it. The majority of recipes for 12 can be cooked in two standard-sized dishes for six rather than a single huge one. If you don’t have a second dish, see if you can borrow one from a friend or buy a foil dish. The cooking times for two dishes should be the same as one large dish, but keep an eye on the food towards the end of cooking – the important thing is that it’s cooked right through in the middle.
Foil dishes are not as sturdy as porcelain cookware, so always sit them on a baking sheet, particularly when taking them in and out of the oven, and take care not to puncture them. Because they are made of metal, cooking times are slightly less. Again, check towards the end of cooking to see if the food is done.
Take a look around your kitchen to see if there are any pieces of equipment you can improvise with. A roasting tin, for example, can stand in as an ovenproof dish, and we find no end of uses for our preserving pan. To check the capacity of a dish, fill it with water from a measuring jug. Slightly too big
is better than slightly too small – for obvious reasons.
Serving food to large numbers might seem daunting, but there are many ways of simplifying the task. When serving pies and lasagnes, we often lightly mark portion sizes on the surface with a knife so guests (or you) know where to cut. This works well with whole fish too.
The new edition of Mary Berry Cooks up a Feast by Mary Berry and Lucy Young is published by DK (3 October 2019, £25) DK.com. Pictures by Georgia Glynn Smith