How to Make an Easy Sudden Lunch for Sudden Friends

A few times recently people have popped round to see us and stayed for lunch (as suggested by me) and I have put on a spontaneous collection of items that I’ve found in the fridge and pantry, some good bread, an offer of wine et voila! 

cheese, chorizo, salad,wine, lunch

This is ideal for summer entertaining when you don’t fancy all the faff of cooking and being away from the party but, on the other hand, a few bags of crisps seems a bit stingy.  There is a middle road, however; I call it the Sociable Feast.

Simply put this is an assortment of complementary bits and pieces, some of which can be prepared ahead if you have time, bunged on the table so that everyone, including you, can snack and nibble whilst enjoying the scintillating conversation, flirting, gossip and what not.

Firstly, here’s a recipe for a perfect sociable feast followed by lots of food ideas.

Eating Al Fresco

eating outside, al fresco dining, picnic

~   Place the table in a flat and attractive space in the garden or on the terrace. This could be in the sun or the shade, according to taste.
~   Arrange the chairs around the table.
~   Look at the wine bottles and sort into two basic colours.  Chill the white wines, open some of the red bottles so that the wine can breathe (it is, of course, always possible to open more later).
~   Place your choice of plates, glasses, knives, forks etc. on the table.
~   If you have plumped for flowers scatter them randomly yet attractively on the table top or put into low vases and place at intervals.
~   Assemble your friends and place one on each chair.
~   Put some bottles of wine on the table.
~   Place the food on the table.
~   Invite friends to partake.

spontaneous lunch of cheese, bread, wine, fruit, nuts and accompaniments

Alternatively, a picnic works well too although takes a little more planning (picnic ideas here) and even eating indoors can be great if you have good food and good company.

The Food ...

Cheese is the perfect foundation for a sociable feast. I always have mature Cheddar, Gran Padano, Herb & Garlic Boursin and a blue cheese such as St. Agur, Castello or Cambozola in the fridge.  Recently my guests were lucky enough to find me with some Vintage Gouda too!  

If you are planning ahead a mixture of cheeses; hard, creamy, pungent, salty etc. is good but just one great cheese can work well too .

Here are some cheese friendly sides …

blue cheese with sauteed grapes
Fruit & Nuts

Grapes, of course.  If you have got time to plan ahead you might like to try Sautéed Grapes.

A perfectly ripe pear is a humdinger with blue cheese and so are these Sugared Walnuts (be sure to add a good dose of black pepper). 

Nice fresh plump figs go well with most cheeses.


I like to add some chorizo (I always have chorizo for these 21 good reasons), prosciutto or pâté to the platter. Here’s a lovely cheese friendly idea if you do have time think ahead …

Chorizo in Red Wine

200g spicy chorizo sliced about this thick [  ]
½ tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion – finely chopped
a little garlic – finely diced
200ml red wine
1 tbsp honey

~   Fry the chorizo slices in the olive oil for a couple of minutes on each side then set aside.
~   Cook the onion and garlic in the residual oil till tender.
~   Add the wine, bring to a boil, return the chorizo to the pan, turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
~   Set the chorizo aside again!
~   Add the honey to the pan and boil till you have a syrup.
~   Turn off the heat and return the chorizo again.

Nicest served warm.

chorizo cooked in red wine

Roasted Garlic

squeezing soft, buttery roasted garlic

This goes beautifully with goats’ cheese and blue cheese but with others too.  Serve the halves whole (so to speak!) and quests can squeeze them straight onto the good bread you are serving. See here for how to make delicious roasted garlic and lots of ideas for using it
black garlic cloves

Black Garlic

Lovely stuff which goes very well in a cold collation such as this! 


If you have the makings a green salad is a good addition to your feast or maybe some coleslaw

Sweet little tomatoes are also good either whole or sliced, tossed with finely chopped red onion, seasoned and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a little balsamic or sherry vinegar.

homemade sourdough, cheese, tomato salad

Speaking of tomatoes ... 

roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, flatbread

Roasted Tomatoes

These are great with soft cheese, try them hot over mozzarella,   

~   Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6
~   Halve cherry tomatoes, or keep whole if tiny, and toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
~   Spread on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes till soft and collapsing.

Here are Six Sexy Salads that would be suitable if you have a little time.

truffle honey with cheese


You could also add mustard, pickles, chutney (especially caramelised red onion chutney), salad dressing if you are serving salad (obviously!) and truffle honey which goes very well with blue cheese and strong Cheddar. 

I would recommend serving good bread – not the pappy kind but something rustic, crusty and chewy, good butter, olive oil for drizzling and maybe some crackers.

Of course, other things you may have in your fridge will work too, for instance hummus, cold chicken, ham, melon (particularly good with prosciutto and ham) and, of course, leftovers!

Speaking of leftovers ...

creative ways to use up leftovers, leftovers recipes, leftovers cookbook

OMG This Must Be THE Best Omelette Ever!

Sorry about the over the top title to this blog, I was going to call it Crunchy Chorizo Flecked Omelette but you know how it is – we have to try harder and harder to make ourselves noticed on social media and saying ...

“Mm, that was rather nice” 

probably wouldn’t do it!,

This rather nice omelette has been evolving over some time and, in fact, I have written about it in its earlier stages before but details below.  

This is just a quick post to tell you of a great idea I had …

chorizo, frying chorizo, chorizo omelette
I am very partial to chorizo and have often added it to my favourite omelette but the other idea I had a brilliant idea.  Instead of adding the chorizo to the filling I coarsely chopped it and gently cooked it slightly in a little oil in the proposed omelette pan.

I then cooked the omelette in accordance with instructions here so that, over the higher heat, the chorizo crisped up and flecked the outside of the omelette.  Good idea of what?

Gorgeous Omelette Recipe

There I go again!

This omelette filling has been evolving for some while …

~   Thinly slice a red onion and cook like this.
~   When the onions are soft but not caramelising add 2 or 3 small new potatoes, thinly sliced, plus just a splash of water.  Replace the foil covering and lid (you need so see how to cook the onions, here!) and continue cooking till they are completely soft.
~   These days I then stir in half a teaspoonful of smoky, medium hot chipotle paste, which I get from Asda.
~   Whisk up 2 eggs and make the omelette (with the chorizo as above) and, when the egg is almost cooked, add the oniony/potato/chipotle mix and grate over some mature cheddar cheese.
~   Fold in half, pour out a glass of red wine and eat.

potato, caramelised onion, chipotle and cheddar omelette flecked with crisp chorizo

This is a great way of making the most of a little leftover chorizo but, of course, omelettes are great for making the most of all sorts of leftover foods which, as you may know, are something of a passion with me!


Rick Stein leftovers, leftovers cookbook, recipes for leftovers