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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.
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.
Baking fish within a salt crust traps the natural flavours inside - perfect with the homemade saffron mayo.
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.
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.
The beauty of this dish is in the combination of the lentils and rice, which gives it a risotto-like consistency and buttery flavour!
Paella is a very social dish - and you certainly want to dive into it with the people you love.
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 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.
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.
“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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
Hailing from Sicily, garganelli alla Norma will make your pasta nights interesting again, combining eggplant and a creamy ricotta salata topping.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
Fragrant and bursting with flavour, this polow is a great main meal and entertaining centrepiece.
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.
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.