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Dinner parties are back on the agenda – but memorable meals needn’t mean extra hassle. Take inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, Together, and rediscover the joy of entertaining your favourite people once again.
After 18 months of pandemic-related restrictions, the joy of being able to sit down and share a meal with our nearest and dearest is an experience we’re determined not to take for granted. The summer has been a mix of picnics, barbecues and long evenings soundtracked by conversation drifting into the night air – and we’ve relished every second of it.
In this brave new world, dinner parties are also back on the menu. Except after the best part of a year spent eating our favourite comfort foods on rotation, inspiration for stylish, homecooked dishes are a bit thin on the ground. We want simple ingredients, fuss-free preparation, and food that’s guaranteed to satisfy a crowd – being trapped in the kitchen while your friends have fun without you is definitely not our idea of a good time.
Happily, Jamie Oliver has plenty of ideas to help us get back to the business of hosting. Developed throughout successive lockdowns, his new cookbook, Together: Memorable Meals Made Easy (£26, Penguin Michael Joseph), contains over 120 recipes designed to help to minimise the business of dinner party prep so you can spend more quality time with your guests. From seasonal feasts to curry nights, each chapter features a complete meal which can be mixed and matched to create your own preferred menu, alongside plenty of recipe adaptations, cooking hacks and styling inspiration to help you create an Insta-worthy tablescape.
First up, the stuffed salmon is the definition of low-maintenance cooking. Prepped ahead of time with an assortment of anchovies, olives and sprigs of rosemary, the dish simply needs 20 minutes in the oven when your guests arrive to guarantee depth of flavour.
The dukkah roast chicken, meanwhile, takes the traditional roast and remixes it with vibrant Middle Eastern flavours by way of the warm pomegranate gravy dressing.
Lastly, the extraordinary seafood parcels celebrate the beauty of fresh fish with a bounty of scallops, king prawns, pak choi and a fragrant green sauce sealed within paper cases. Prepare for expressions of wonder when your guests tear these open at the table…
Jamie says: “What I like about this recipe is that the method, which is incredibly easy to follow, elevates the salmon to a new level. It makes a real event of this incredible fish and, while it cooks, the flavours all mix and mingle together, amplifying utter deliciousness.”
- 1 heaped tablespoon baby capers in brine
- 10 anchovy fillets in oil, from sustainable sources
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 10 mixed-colour olives, stone in
- 1 fresh red chilli
- 1 lemon
- olive oil
- 1.2kg side of salmon, skin on, pin-boned, from sustainable sources
Get ahead: You can prep this on the day, if you prefer. Put the capers into a small bowl, then tear in the anchovies and strip in the rosemary leaves. Squash and destone the olives, tearing the flesh into the bowl, then finely slice and add the chilli. Finely grate over the lemon zest, squeeze in the juice, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
On the day: Place the salmon skin-side down in the middle of your largest roasting tray and use the tip of a small sharp knife to make deep cuts into the flesh at 3cm intervals.
Now stuff each cut, using the knife to help you. I start by dividing up the olives and anchovies, then add the rosemary, chilli and capers. Take your time and enjoy the process. Sprinkle any excess around the salmon.
To serve: Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Roast the salmon at the bottom of the oven for 20 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then serve
Veggie love: A giant stuffed portobello mushroom for each veggie guest instead of salmon is a thing of joy – just lose the anchovies.
Energy: 313kcal | Fat: 20.6g | Sat fat: 3.5g | Protein: 31.4g | Carbs: 0.1g | Sugars: 0.1g | Salt: 1g | Fibre: 0.1g
Dukkah roast chicken
Warm pomegranate dressing
- 1 x 350g jar of small preserved lemons
- 1 fresh red chilli
- 1 bunch of rosemary (20g)
- 1 pomegranate
- olive oil
- 1 x 1.5kg free-range whole chicken
- 1 tablespoon runny honey
- 3 tablespoons dukkah
- red wine vinegar
- 140g wild rocket
On the day: I like to time this so the chicken is coming out of the oven to rest just as my guests arrive. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Get a roasting tray that will fit the chicken fairly snugly. Halve, deseed and finely chop 4 preserved lemons and place in the tray. Roughly chop and add the chilli, strip in the rosemary, then halve the pomegranate and squeeze all the juice through your fingers into the tray. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then the chicken, season lightly and rub all that flavour over the bird, getting into all the nooks and crannies. Pour 150ml of water into the tray around the chicken and roast for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through, basting halfway with the tray juices. Remove, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the tray.
To serve: Move the chicken to a serving platter, drizzle and brush with the honey, then scatter over the dukkah. For the dressing, skim off and discard a spoonful of fat from the tray, then place the tray over a medium heat on the hob, add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and simmer until thickened, scraping up all the sticky bits and loosening with splashes of water, if needed. Pour through a sieve into a little jug. Serve with the chicken and a bowl of rocket. Great with my Smashed aubergine and Roasted squash recipes, which you’ll find in the book.
Veggie love: Use 1 cauliflower (800g) instead of chicken for veggie guests – use just 2 preserved lemons in the marinade, then roast and finish it in exactly the same way as the chicken.
Preserve those lemons: Preserved lemons don’t last that long once the jar’s open, so what I do is pour all their liquor into a blender, deseed and add the lemons, then blitz until smooth. Freeze in ice cube trays ready to jazz up stews, salads, couscous, rice, roasts and dressings.
Energy: 248kcal | Fat: 8.5g | Sat fat: 1.7g | Protein: 38.2g | Carbs: 5g | Sugars: 4.5g | Salt: 1g | Fibre: 1.1g
Extraordinary seafood parcels
Fish, scallops, king prawns, pak choi & fragrant green sauce
Jamie says: “For me, recipes like this feel like a little adventure. Sourcing beautiful fresh fish and seafood, and cooking it all in a sealed bag really amplifies the flavours and feels exciting, meaning each of your guests ends up with their own parcel of treasure to enjoy.”
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 8cm piece of ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 x 125g white fish fillets, skin on, scaled, pin-boned, from sustainable sources
- 1 stick of lemongrass
- 2 spring onions
- 1 fresh green chilli
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons low-salt soy sauce
- 2 limes
- 6 lime leaves
- 1 bunch of coriander (30g)
- 1 x 400g tin of light coconut milk
- 4 raw king scallops, coral attached, trimmed, from sustainable sources
- 4 large raw shell-on king prawns, from sustainable sources
- 2 pak choi
- olive oil
- 1 large free-range egg
Get ahead: Peel the garlic and ginger. Put 1 clove into a pestle and mortar, then slice and add half the ginger, the turmeric and a small pinch of sea salt. Pound into a paste, brush all over the fish fillets, cover and refrigerate overnight. Crush the lemongrass, remove the outer layer and trim with the spring onions. Deseed the chilli. Roughly chop it all with the remaining garlic and ginger and place in a blender with the sesame oil, soy sauce, and the lime zest. Tear in 2 lime leaves, discarding the stalks, add the coriander, stalks and all, then tip in the coconut milk. Blitz until super-smooth, and refrigerate overnight.
On the day: Use a small knife to gently score a criss-cross pattern into each scallop.
Leaving the heads and tails attached, remove the prawn shells, then run a knife down their backs to butterfly them, removing the vein. Quarter the pak choi lengthways. Get yourself four 50cm square sheets of greaseproof paper or tin foil, fold each in half and place a plate under half of one sheet to act as a base. Pour a quarter of the sauce into the centre – the plate will stop it running away. Sit two quarters of pak choi, one piece of fish, one prawn, one scallop and one lime leaf on top, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil, then eggwash the exposed paper. Fold it over, then work your way around from one side to the other, folding in as you go to seal the parcel. Carefully transfer to your largest baking tray, and repeat with the remaining ingredients.
To serve: Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the tray of parcels over a high heat on the hob for 3 minutes, or until you can hear them start to sizzle, then carefully transfer to the oven for 15 minutes. Slide a parcel on to each of four plates, and let your guests tear them open at the table. Serve with lime wedges, ready to tweak the sauce to perfection.
Vegan love: Swap out the seafood in each parcel for 2 rounded scoops of silken tofu (125g) and 60g of shiitake or oyster mushrooms. Tinned water chestnuts would also be a joy, and use a little oil instead of the eggwash.
Energy: 289kcal | Fat: 13.5g | Sat fat: 6.5g | Protein: 33.8g | Carbs: 7.9g | Sugars: 4.6g | Salt: 1.7g | Fibre: 1.4g
Together by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Random House © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Limited (2021 Together)
Photography: Levon Bliss; Paul Stuart
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.