• Oven-baked chicken thighs with olive, tomato and lemon (Adam Liaw)Source: Adam Liaw
The answer to 'what should I cook for dinner tonight?' is 'many, many fabulous things.'
Bron Maxabella

21 Jan 2022 - 10:52 AM  UPDATED 21 Jan 2022 - 11:54 AM

--- Need more dinner inspiration? Binge all 200 episodes of The Cook Up with Adam Liaw free and any time on SBS On Demand.  ---


What a rush The Cook Up with Adam Liaw has been. Almost as big a rush as a family trying to put dinner on the table every night.

Thanks to Adam and his entertaining guests, things are now much calmer in kitchens across Australia. What's for dinner tonight? A quick skim through The Cook Up recipes and that question is finally solved. Not just what to serve for the main meal, but how to win favours by dishing up dessert, too.

Here are 101 meals that are sure to please your gang. Night after night after night.

Nail the main

1. Umami bolognese

This is fusion-cooking done so right it's practically nuclear. Its Japanese and Italian flavours are given a Vegemite bomb to make your family's new favourite dinner.

2. Oven-baked chicken thighs

Every home cook needs a decent one-pan, oven-baked dish they can pull together fast and then just whack into the oven while life goes on. This is that magical dish.

3. Beef and snow peas

There's something about snow peas that are irresistible. Kids who run a mile from any other vegetable will happily dive into a bowlful of this beef and snow pea stir-fry.

4. Schnitzel with kale slaw and oven chips

Go the schnitty!

Quick crumb schnitzel and hot bean salad

Chicken breast sliced and spread with mayo, then dipped in panko crumbs makes the quickest and most delicious schnitzel/nugget ever. They freeze really well too.

Barramundi schnitzel with cucumber salad

A simple cucumber salad with sour cream is a perfect match to ghee-cooked crumbed fish. 

7. Udon with miso and Asian vegetables

Nourishing, nutritious, full of goodness. An udon bowl is exactly what you need at the end of a long day.

8. Atkilt alicha

For a fresh take on an age-old family dinner, give this super-tasty Ethiopian vego stew a whirl one night.

9. Whole-spiced roasted pumpkin

Slow-roasted pumpkin makes such a delightful dinner. Colin Fassnidge packs in the spices and tops the whole thing off with a tangy buttermilk curd.

Thai pumpkin soup

Because you can never have too many pumpkin soup versions up your sleeve – here's one that's fragrant, highly cravable and easy to make.

Caramelised onion and pumpkin tart

Comedian Joel Creasy shares his easy-as caramelised onion tart with goat's cheese and pumpkin, topped with rocket, ready for entertaining.

12. Pan-seared white fish with sautéed kale

'Fish and vege' make the ideal weeknight dinner. Fast to make and fresh to eat.

13. Corn pakoras with chaat masala

Chaat is India’s favourite genre of snacking street food for a reason. This version has a long ingredients list, but is as quick to make as you'd expect from a street favourite.

14. Jacket potato party

Put the fun back into dinner.

15. Mee goreng with spicy eggs

For maximum enjoyment, dinner should be a 'street food favourite'. They're the kind of dishes that are so tasty they make every meal an exclamation.

Enqulal firfir (Ethiopian scrambled eggs)

This dish is one of Ethiopia's favourite breakfasts.

Egg and bacon salad

A very simple salad that eats like a meal. Add some toasted sourdough on the side if you really must. 

18. Quinoa poke bowl

Bowl food is basically our favourite way to eat. Even when it's this healthy.

19. All-veg tomato sauce pasta

This tomato sauce that contains onion, carrots, capsicum, celery, zucchinis, garlic, basil and, of course, tomatoes. Colin Fassnidge has kids. He gets it.

Picnic pasta with tuna and capers

Pack this pasta up with a rubber band around the lid of the pot and a bag of grated parmesan to scatter and serve when you pull up at your favourite picnic spot.

Rigatoni boscaiola

This is Adam's go-to pasta dish with speck, thyme and mushroom; which gets a creamy, umami-loaded dinner on the table in no time.

22. Sausage and brown rice minestrone

Adam turns the already comforting minestrone into something yet more hearty with minced Italian sausage and rice. 

23. KL hokkein mee

The answer to 'should we have noodles for dinner?' is always, 'yes please!'.

Duck noodles with red cabbage and kale

One of the easiest things to do is buy a pre-cooked duck to shred up and use the meat in fresh dishes like this hokkein noodle and red cabbage dinner.

Easy Singapore noodles

Mark Humphries walks us through his take on a Singapore-namesake noodle classic which originated in Hong Kong, inspired by the Indian-Chinese influence of Singapore's cuisine.

26. Chicken pot pie

The other correct answer to 'what should we have for dinner?' is 'pie'.

27. TV spaghetti

Naming this dish 'TV spaghetti' does not do it justice. It's actually a one-pot wonder that melts together anchovies, parsley and chilli to conquer the summit of your pasta mountain.

Spaghetti bottarga

This spaghetti alle vongole with bottarga is a family favourite. 

Spaghetti carbonara

Comedian and host Joel Creasey makes his reliable spaghetti carbonara - a hearty pasta with classic flavours.

30. Ten-minute cheeseburgers

Another zippy favourite, zhushed by Adam to be more than the sum of its parts. Is it the brioche burger bun? The Japanese mayo? Or the carefully placed dill pickle? All of the above.

Korean cheeseburgers

Twists like gochujang paste, sesame oil, garlic and Kewpie mayo come together in this condiment-laden masterpiece of a cheeseburger that touches on all the taste elements of sweet, salty and meaty.

Chicken katsu burger

Japanese cooking brings two wonderful elements for a ripper burger: the crisp katsu coating and signature Kewpie mayonnaise.

33. Easy butter chicken

'Easy butter chicken' sounds less like a recipe title and more like a chorus of family dinner bells echoing across the suburbs.

34. 'Shepherd's pie' with sweet potato mash

When it works this well, there's nothing quite like the re-invention of an old favourite.

35. Vegetable confit risotto

Meatless Monday never looked so good.

Risotto with herbs and agrodolce

This creamy, herb-laden risotto is finished with a sweet-and sour-Italian condiment called agrodolce, which could be your new pantry essential. The sour (agro) comes from vinegar and the sweet (dolce) from sugar or honey, and is sometimes also flavoured with herbs, spices and fruit.

Mushroom and bacon risotto

A very simple risotto, with the saltiness of bacon and meatiness of mushrooms all you need. The twist is the lemon zest at the end, lots of parmesan and parsley. Serve with a rocket and parmesan salad.

38. Stuffed baby eggplants

Sheikh el mehshi brings Middle Eastern comfort food to your weeknight menu.

39. Lizzy Hoo's silken tofu dinner

This was 'the favourite' in Lizzy's share house back in the day. They'd eat it three or four times a week, but cooking it tonight for dinner would be a great start.

40. Easy parmesan chicken with herb salad

Another 'crumbed-delight', but with a cheesy twist. One for the low-carb schnitty lovers.

41. Hokkaido salmon chanchan

The combination of buttery vegetables, tender salmon and savoury miso is perfect for any dinner.

Salmon foil-yaki

The Japanese en papillote. Salmon and vegetables wrapped in foil with butter, soy sauce and sake and cooked in about a centimetre of water in a frying pan.

Roasted battata harra with salmon

Battata harra literally means ‘spicy potatoes’. This is traditionally a Lebanese potato salad that is eaten as a cold starter. This recipe takes the same flavours with the addition of salmon to make a perfect main meal.

44. Steak Diane

Mark Best's Steak Diane from The Cook Up

Throw it back to the sixties with this retro steak Diane dinner. Follow it up with a bomb Alaska dessert is you truly want to set the nostalgia on fire.

45. Pork belly one-tray roast

Dishwashing fact: any dish with the world 'one-tray' in it's title is instantly 50 per cent better than any other dish.

Roast pork belly with apple, soy and ginger

The pork belly develops an incredibly crisp skin as it slow roasts in a spiced marinade that keeps the meat moist and juicy.

Lemongrass pork belly on rice

Adam loves Vietnamese broken rice (cơm tấm) dishes, but having all the elements from the pork skin to mung bean noodle omelette can be a little daunting. This version simplifies things for a simple dinner.

48. Chase's sukiyaki

Chase Kojima served up this hearty Japanese hot pot and we all dived in, mouth-first.

49. Roast tomato soup with rosemary cheesy flatbreads

Homemade soup meets homemade bread. #wholesome


While I love this vegetable soup as is, you can easily add chicken or beef to the pan after you’ve cooked the onions, or you could lightly grill any type of seafood and add it the soup 5 minutes before the end of cooking.

Chicken and vegetable soup with parsley pesto

The day after a roast chicken dinner, this is the perfect soup to use up any leftovers - and those root veg calling out to me from the crisper before they pass their use-by date!

52. Hainanese pork chops with onion gravy

Emphatically not your run-of-the-mill pork chop dinner thanks to an 'enchanting' Chinese-inspired gravy.

53. Red wine and rosemary teriyaki roast lamb

A simple roast lamb takes a spin through Japan, turning red wine and rosemary into a rich teriyaki glaze.

White curry lamb (safed maas)

Known in Rajasthan as safed maas (literally ‘white meat’) this white lamb curry is mild and fragrant. 

Cumin lamb and zucchini foldovers

Crisp shortcrust pastry triangles filled with spiced lamb and served with a minted-pea sauce.

56. Kid-friendly dhal

Because feeding your kids a bowl of lentils for dinner is the pinnacle of smug parent achievement.

57. Fried tofu with spring onion

An easy one-pan (there's that magical phrase again!) vegetarian dinner that will take 15 minutes to get on the table.

58. Whole baby snapper with chorizo

A massive amount of flavour from chorizo, tomato and capsicum somehow manages to balance the delicate fish, not overpower it.


Turmeric barbecued fish with tomato sambal

Turmeric gives this whole BBQ fish plenty of fragrance as it cooks, served with a spicy tomato sambal.

Double chilli flounder

This is chilli, ginger and black bean combo is a wonderfully simple recipe and great for anyone who's a bit trepidatious about cooking whole fish.

61. Lemon chicken

Lemon chicken

The restaurant family favourite comes home.

62. Lamb mince ali nazik

You simply can't go wrong with one of the most popular dishes in Turkey.

63. Avocado green goddess

Bring on the salads for dinner. Throw everything you've got in there for maximum flavour and nutrition.

Sukiyaki salad

A fresh, light Japanese salad of thin wagyu beef slices, lightly charred tofu, mushrooms and a mirin dressing.

Chargrilled baby corn and wagyu salad

A light, fresh corn and beef salad drizzled with a fresh dressing of toasted rice, lime, chilli, fish sauce and coriander.

66. Baked heirloom tomatoes

When tomatoes are in season, there is simply no finer dinner.

67. Trofie al pesto

Pesto pasta has long been the go-to last-minute dinner of many a family. Now it's time to ditch the jar.

68. Beef and broccolini with oyster sauce

This looks exactly like a dinner most families would devour in seconds. Fortunately, it's prepared in much the same amount of time.

Broccoli and sausage pizza

The broccoli is raw when it goes on but shaved really thinly so you get some deliciously charred edges with some tender crispness.

Salt and pepper broccolini with green chilli vinegar

Crisp, beer-battered broccolini scattered with coriander and spring onion, served with a chilli and garlic dressing.

71. Peanut butter curry

Step aside butter chicken, there's a new kid favourite in town.

72. Foul mudammas

Perhaps some of the appeal of this Middle Eastern favourite is lost in translation, but don't let the name stop you. It's a tasty-as vegan classic that's healthy to boot.

73. Frying pan kabab khashkhash

Skip the barbecue and fry your kabab in the pan on the stove. Those moreish Middle Eastern flavours are all there and some.

74. Chicken and mushroom doria

Doria is an Italian-inspired dish that originated in France, but now only seems to exist in Japan where it is phenomenally popular.

75. American hot wings with ranch dressing

Chicken wings may be cheap and cheerful, but when they're spiced just right they're also spectacular.

Fried chicken wings

This crisp, golden Cambodian-style fried chicken was taught to me by my best friend, Sophia. 

Slow-roasted chicken wings

Tender wings roasted for 2 hours in a herb and soy sauce marinade that are sticky, addictive and perfect for a party.


Dish these desserts

78. Tofu doughnuts

Dessert-inject some protein with Adam's crunchy tofu doughnuts. They take a tiny 15 minutes from whoa to go.

79. Four-ingredient flan

Adam nails a dessert that's both crowd and cook pleaser. Five minutes of prep for an evening of 'you're the best cook ever's.

80. Crispy banana split

A banana split is always a good idea, particularly when the banana is deep-fried to crispy perfection. Do try this one at home. 

81. Hot chocolate tart

A silky tart filled with a blend of chocolate, Tim Tams and mini marshmallows is always going to make the list.

Shaker lemon tart

This pie originated in Ohio in America's Midwest, crafted by the Shaker community. Meyer lemons - with a thinner and less tart skin - are traditionally used, as the whole citrus is used in this recipe.

Tarte tatin

This delicious tart should be attempted, practised and perfected. It is an absolute winner and has been since its probably mythical invention by the Tatin sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline in the 1880’s.

84. Cherry clafoutis

It's French, so it has to be complicated and fiddly, right? Wrong! But it does have to be luxurious and special and a cherry clafoutis is all that and more.

85. Vietnamese coffee tiramisu

We bow.

86. Super vanilla ice-cream

Sometimes it just isn't about convenience.

87. Sticky banana and white chocolate puddings

A good pudding is everything we love about dessert. Sweet, comforting and endlessly satisfying.

Panettone bread and butter pudding

Panettone, with its fruit and rich dough, is simply asking to be made into a pudding. It soaks up the rum, marsala, cream and cinnamon for a really indulgent dessert.

Pouding chomeur (unemployment pudding)

Originating in Quebec in The Great Depression, this economical pudding was once made just with sugar, water and flour. Modern versions have moved away from the cheap and cheerful beginnings and are now made with huge amounts of cream and maple syrup. This version goes a little way back to its origins, but still uses a bit of butter and milk to help it along.

90. Emergency apple crumble

If you've never needed an emergency pudding, you're doing everything right. Make this one anyway.

91. Whipped ricotta with charred peaches

A fruity dessert ends the meal just right. In this one, Adam adds a pickled shallot twist to keep us on our toes.

Roasted apricots with mascarpone and pistachio

Apricots, anise, almond and pistachio are like an A-Team of flavour combinations. Each plays their role impeccably, but they all bring something different to the table.

Coconut water and lychee jellies

These little jellies use agar agar, and are thus vegan. The juicy lychees are encased in the set coconut water and are refreshing on a warm day.

94. Toasted marshmallows

This is the kind of sweet that would really keep the jacket potato party going (see above).

95. Vegan black sesame and coconut ice-cream

A quick four-step, no-churn ice-coconut cream that will be on high-rotation in no time at all.

96. Vegan snickers

This is exactly how you want to finish dinner, right?

97. Strawberry, white chocolate and crème fraiche galette

The French love a good pastry dessert, and dishes like Phoebe Wood's strawberry galette are why.

Roasted strawberries with ice-cream and almonds

Easy to make and guaranteed to satisfy.

Strawberry shortcake

The classic American strawberry shortcake is closer to what we would call a scone than a cake. In Japan it’s made with a soft and pillowy sponge that is quite unrecognisable from the rustic country kitchen American version. Whichever your preference, it’s not a bad idea to start with the original. For one, it’s a much easier cake to make.

100. Loukoumades with honey and cinnamon

Once you get the hang of them, delicious loukoumades are a breeze to make. Just ask any yiayia.

101. Biscotti

We'll let biscotti have the last word here. Because biscuits really are the best way to end both meals and mammoth favourites lists.

Can never get enough
Periyaki chicken

No, not teriyaki chicken. This combines Portuguese peri-peri with Japanese teriyaki for a fusion that makes a surprising amount of sense. 

Gnocchi with cavolo nero pesto

When I lived in London, Polpo was one of my favourite restaurants. It served Venetian food that was the opposite to the tourist trap slop that Venice is usually famous for. ... I stole this recipe from their book, Polpo, because it reminds me of a time living overseas and being able to travel.

Chilli honey baked chicken

Adam makes his chilli honey baked chicken - a simple weeknight dinner with a classic sweet and heat flavour combination. 

Grandma pizza

This pizza style originated in Long Island, New York, reminiscent of the style of pizzas made by Italian grandma's who didn't have access to a pizza oven. It's most similar to the Sicilian style of pizza made with a thick base.

Korean sticky lamb ribs with pa muchim

This is inspired by beef kalbi, a marinated aromatic beef rib dish grilled on charcoals. I use elements of the kalbi marinade to which I add some Korean chili powder and paste to and applied it to the lamb ribs.

Golden syrup spiced banana bread

Confession: my freezer is chockas with frozen bananas I never got around to eating before they went almost-black. But since they only keep for three months, that only means one thing - banana bread!

All-in chicken

I learned this from my dear friend Phillip who calls it ‘chicken all in.’ You can add whatever aromats you have in the fridge, but bay leaves and thyme go particularly well.

Gobi manchurian

'Manchurian' is a sub-cuisine of Indian food that brings local flavours to Chinese styles of cooking. Gobi (cauliflower) florets are deep-fried then wok-tossed in a spicy sauce.

Tortang talong

Also known as an eggplant omelette, the tortang talong sees eggplant grilled over open flame then fried with eggs and spices.

Bully beef with steamed rice

This dish is a family favourite and has fed many a hungry Koori kid. With tins of corned beef being popular to many peoples of the Pacific, bully beef and rice has been adopted by Indigenous people from all over Australia.