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3 Quick recipes for last-minute guests

3 Quick recipes for last-minute guests
Friends who turn up unexpectedly are one of life’s pleasures, but a challenge to the cook who wants to offer them a welcoming meal; here are three simple dishes that can be made up under the hour
Did your friends just ring your doorbell without warning? Does their arrival coincide with lunch or dinner? Fear not, for here are three quick recipes for fine-tasting meals that you can improvise in a hurry.

Tuna and bean salad

Credit: martinturzak
This Italian classic fills the bill when you want a nourishing dish that needs no cooking. Keep a variety of ready-to-bake loaves in your freezer and serve it with warm ciabatta.
"This Italian classic fills the bill when you want a nourishing dish that needs no cooking"
If you don’t have cannellini beans to hand, you can use other beans, such as flageolet or red kidney beans, or leave them out altogether and add some hard-boiled eggs instead. Alternatively, turn the dish into a salade Niçoise: toss the tuna with green beans, tomatoes, canned new potatoes and black olives in a salad dressing.
Ingredients
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • 400g canned tuna
  • 550g canned cannellini beans
  • ½ mild red onion or several spring onions, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Finely chopped fresh parsley or other herbs, if available
  • Salt and black pepper
Method
  1. Drain the tuna and tip it out into a wide serving bowl, then break the chunks into small pieces with a fork.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans and mix them in with the tuna. Add the onion, lemon juice, olive oil and herb. Stir well to mix, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Butterbean and spinach soup

Credit: NoirChocolate
This nourishing soup uses frozen leaf spinach, which is handy to keep as it makes a great addition to a variety of soups, used in the way shown here. Good homemade stock is another invaluable freezer item as it upgrades any soup or sauce.
"Good homemade stock is another invaluable freezer item as it upgrades any soup or sauce"
Follow the soup with some cheese and biscuits, and fresh fruit. Or, if you can find a late-night delicatessen open, buy an array of various cold meat and serve them with bread, pickles and salad to make a more substantial meal.
Ingredients
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 425g canned butter beans
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 300g frozen leaf spinach
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Salt and black pepper
  • To serve: grated mature cheddar or parmesan
Method
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently cook the onion until soft. Rinse the butter beans and add them to the onion along with the stock and frozen spinach. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for about 12 minutes until the spinach is thawed.
  2. Season to taste with lemon juice, nutmeg, salt and pepper, then mash or blend, leaving some texture to the soup. (A hand-held blender that does its work in the saucepan is useful for this.)
  3. Serve the soup sprinkled with a generous handful of grated cheese.

Cheese and bacon potato gratin

This recipe uses the ingredients almost everyone has to hand in the kitchen: bacon, eggs, onion, and potatoes. Even if you don’t have cream, you may have a cream stick in the freezer, or you can use milk. If you’ve run out of bacon, you could dice some ham or other cold meat and add that to the grated potato mixture instead.
"This recipe uses the ingredients almost everyone has to hand in the kitchen"
The gratin does not take long to prepare; then, while it is baking, you can go back to your guests and offer them a drink and a simple starter.
Ingredients 
Serves: 4–6
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml cream or milk
  • 125g grated sharp cheddar or parmesan
  • 750g potatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried chives
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 250g bacon
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Butter the bottom and sides of a large gratin dish.
  2. Beat together the eggs, the cream or milk, and the cheese in a large mixing bowl with a balloon whisk.
  3. Peel the potatoes and grate them in a food processor using the coarsest grating disc. Add them immediately to the egg mixture. Add the herbs and season with lots of salt and pepper. Turn the mixture over a few times to mix everything thoroughly.
  4. Scatter the onion slices over the bottom of the dish and spoon the egg and potato mixture over them, spreading it into an even layer with a knife or spatula. Put it on the top shelf of the oven and bake for 35–40 minutes.
  5. Check the gratin is nicely browned, then grill or fry the bacon until crisp (microwave it if you like) and sprinkle it over the top to serve.
Banner credit: dolgachov
Explore more quick recipes to indulge in with Mary Berry's quick cooking cookbook.
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