• Using cornstarch in Chinese cuisine brings together the whole dish. (Adam Liaw)Source: Adam Liaw
Big family gatherings are the soul of life, especially when they're a breeze to pull off. The secret to minimal fuss is maximum share plates.
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17 Dec 2020 - 10:19 AM  UPDATED 17 Dec 2020 - 10:45 AM

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It's daunting for some, a mere trifle for others, but definitely wonderful for all. Yep, bringing the family together around a long table is always a good idea. What's less pleasurable is the organisation required. We're talking the next-level, military-style strategical operations required to pull off a family event with relaxed ease. Oh the irony!

Here's the thing: making your dishes the kind you can set in the middle of the table and have everyone help themselves to is key. No fancy plating required. Just big, shareable dishes, full of colour and memorable flavours.

Tips for stress-free share plates 

1. Do the maths on your recipe to ensure you'll have plenty to go around. It's best to work out the sums before you start to cook because things can quickly get complicated on the go.

2. Make sure you have platters and bowls that are large enough to take your dish with room to manoeuvre. Filling bowls to the brim makes it difficult for your guests to pass them around.

3. Set out plenty of servers - more than one set per platter if possible. This makes it easier for more than one person to tuck in at a time.

4. Don't be afraid to allocate your dishes - sharing is caring and people are generally very happy to 'bring a plate'.

Now, onto the fun part: menu planning. All of these recipes will have everyone reaching for the dish again and again.

The whole fish

Serving a whole fish or two at your banquet is always a show-stopper. You can pre-carve it, or leave for guests to shred and pick. This steamed fish with pandan and lemongrass is a fresh, fragrant recipe to start with.

Whole snapper baked in a salt crust with saffron mayonaise

Baking fish within a salt crust traps the natural flavours inside - perfect with the homemade saffron mayo.

Ginger and shallot steamed barramundi with fried shallots

Sizzling hot oil infused with ginger and garlic is poured over the fish at the end, plus the fins and tails are snipped off and deep-fried, then scattered over the top like crunchy croutons.

Whole braised fish with spring onion blanket

This is one of those dishes that looks impressive on the table, but which takes very little effort to create. It's designed to be served as part of a banquet or shared meal.

Ricely done

Rice dishes make excellent sharing plates because quantities can be increased with ease. You can quietly bulk out a dish like this tasty lamb kabsah with nuts, rice and vegetables to keep to budget, too. No compromise on flavour required.

Khichuri (rice and lentils)

The beauty of this dish is in the combination of the lentils and rice, which gives it a risotto-like consistency and buttery flavour!

Tigretón's seafood paella

Paella is a very social dish - and you certainly want to dive into it with the people you love.

Cannellini bean, ruby chard and quinoa pilaf

This pilaf is a particularly lovely way to cook and eat quinoa, the flavours add to simple grain and the greens and beans add texture and flavour.

Meaty share

A big platter of tasty meat served alongside plenty of vegies makes for an easy banquet. Billy Kee chicken is a much-loved dish that hails from 1950's Sydney, not China as you might expect. The red wine and tomato sauce ingredients are dead giveaways... While the dish is usually made with chicken, Adam Liaw's pork version is extra-delicious.

Honey chicken

Honey chicken was one of my favourite restaurant dishes growing up. This version uses Kangaroo Island's unique Ligurian honey but you can easily substitute your own preferred honey instead.

Peking-style pork ribs

This modern Cantonese dish has a convoluted history. Known as "jing du pai gu" in Mandarin, the provenance of the name refers to ribs cooked "in the style of the capital". Today that means Beijing, but given that the dish resembles the famous Jiangsu Wuxi spare ribs it may be that it refers not to the northern capital of Beijing, but the historical southern capital of Nanjing. Don't worry too much about the history though, because they are both easy to make and absolutely delicious.

Swedish meatballs in cream sauce (köttbullar med gräddsås)

“There’s no more identifiably Swedish dish than good old Swedish meatballs. There are a few keys to a good meatball – steam the meatballs so they are tender, fry them in brown butter, then combine them with the sauce just at the last minute. They are perfect with pickled cucumber and lingonberry jam.” Adam Liaw, Destination Flavour Scandinavia

Curry on

Anjum Anand's butter chicken favourite.

Curry is possibly the king of share dishes (though pasta may have something to say about that - see below). And if you're serving a curry to share, the universally-adored butter chicken is a very safe bet. This cauliflower curry does the same trick for vegetarians.

Plantain and chickpea curry

A thick and flavaful curry, this is one of our most-loved vegan dishes when we do food events – people always come back for more.

Sri Lankan curry of crab

The cumin and tamari additions right at the end complement the sweetness of the crab. All you'll need is a little rice and an ice cold beer and you're set. Food Safari Water

Dhal

This recipe features toor dal (yellow lentils), tomatoes, Malaysian meat curry powder and sambal oelek, a spicy paste made from chilli, shrimp paste and lemon juice. Serve your dhal with a stack of flaky roti canai for a delicious Malaysian feast.

Pasta pleaser

Bucatini all’Amatriciana

A giant platter of pasta is just as much chef-pleaser as guest-satisfier. A dish like Bucatini all’Amatriciana is so easy to make, but still packs in plenty of festive impact. Serving up a few big pasta dishes makes catering a dream.

Pappardelle with blue swimmer crab

Anchovy is Paola Toppi's secret weapon in this crab pappardelle. And don't be deterred by the luxurious liquid, it will all be soaked up by the pasta by the time it hits the table. Food Safari Water

Garganelli alla Norma

Hailing from Sicily, garganelli alla Norma will make your pasta nights interesting again, combining eggplant and a creamy ricotta salata topping.

Pasta with sardines (pasta con le sarde)

Big, bold and beautifully textured, this is an Italian pasta recipe for lovers of seafood. Don’t be put off by the sardines and anchovies – they soften in flavour as they cook and provide a lovely back note to the spices and herbs.

Little things

Tapas-style food is brilliant when your guests are happy to bring a plate. Everyone can make something different to add to the table. It makes catering for dietary preferences easy as well. Fritters like these tortillitas de camarones are a great way to satisfy a crowd. Everyone loves a fritter.

Chinese toffee apple fritters

These Chinese-style toffee apples are simply apples fried in a crisp batter and tossed through a molten caramel. The apple pieces are picked up with chopsticks while still warm and dipped into iced water to set the caramel, delivering a crisp crunch with every mouthful.

Corn and fufu fritters

These fritters are just what a fritter should be: crisp and golden on the outside, fluffy and light on the inside. They're perfect served with this green chilli, green tomato and coriander salsa.

Zucchini fritters with yoghurt sauce

Salting and squeezing the grated zucchini to rid it of excess water is the key to success in these patties. Follow that rule, and everything will turn up soft, crisp and golden. 

Well skewered

Thai chilli-coconut surf and turf skewers

Things on sticks like these Thai chilli-coconut surf and turf skewers are great at parties - either served cocktail-style or on a large platter at the centre of the table. They are the perfect grab-n-go meal and kids simply love them. For a happy family get-together, do keep an 'eye' on them with all those sticks, though.

Paneer and vegetable skewers

Paneer, a fresh white cheese, is a joy to grill and with this sauce as a marinade and some simple vegetables, it makes an amazing barbeque meal.

Grilled pork skewers with nahm jim jaew dipping sauce

Nahm jim jaew is a sweet and tangy dipping sauce served with a wide variety of grilled meat street food in Thailand, like these chargrilled pork skewers.

Grilled beef skewers with pepperberry sauce

Up your BBQ game with this pepperberry sauce, which brings a slightly sweet flavour before packing a peppery punch. 

It's all about the sharing
Pissaladière with white anchovy and olive

Traditionally from Nice, this dish is thought to have originated from a 15th century Genoese recipe. Thick pizza dough is topped with caramelised onions, black olives and of course, anchovies – the most celebrated of which are from Collioure, where they have been fished by net and salted by hand since the Middle Ages. This version uses puff pastry, marinated white anchovies and goat’s cheese.  

The joy of eating borek
Whether it's filled with cheese and spinach or mince and onion, there's little this Turkish slice of heaven won't fix, swears Dilvin Yasa.
Rice with chicken and lentils (adas polow)

Fragrant and bursting with flavour, this polow is a great main meal and entertaining centrepiece.

Sharing a meal really can make us happier people
Whether it’s a family dinner or a meal with strangers, eating together can make life better.
Eggplant braised with trahana

Countryside comfort direct from western Crete. This recipe uses trahana, a fermented and dried mixture of grains and dairy found in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Buttermilk fried chicken

Crunchy golden fried chicken is an absolute crowd-pleaser. By seasoning the chicken in spices and soaking it in buttermilk before frying, this version makes something great even better.

Share a bowl and spread the festive spirit
“There are a hell of a lot of lonely people out there and food is a simple way to connect."
Shared meals create a community for women
Working in a food business can mean long hours and not much time for seeing friends. These dinners and trips aim to help women build a community together.