Meals in Heels

Meals in Heels

by Jennifer Joyce


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Want to be the hostess with the most-est? Acclaimed London-based American food writer and stylist, Jennifer Joyce, will show you how. Drawing on her many years of successful soirees and laid-back lunches, Jennifer will teach readers how to plan, cook and present with style and ease.

Most importantly this book will ensure you have time to slip on your heels, pop on your lippy and have a martini in hand when guests arrive. Meals in Heels is packed with time-saving tips, show-stopping recipes, and glamorous illustrations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781741965520
Publisher: Murdoch Books
Publication date: 06/01/2012
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Jennifer Joyce is a food writer, author and stylist based in London. Jennifer has worked for The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC Good Food, Olive and Waitrose Kitchen, drawing on her talent for writing mouth-watering recipes and then creating and styling them for photography. She hosts popular cookery classes at Leiths School of Food & Wine and is the author of My Street Food Kitchen (September 2015).

Read an Excerpt

Meals in Heels

Do-Ahead Dishes for the Dinner Party Diva

By Jennifer Joyce, Megan Hess, Belinda So

Murdoch Books Pty Limited

Copyright © 2010 Jennifer Joyce
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-74266-222-0


Getting Started

Call me selfish, but I like to enjoy my own dinner party. I find trying to cook while friends are in the kitchen stressful, chaotic and absolutely no fun at all. Having as much of the cooking and preparation done ahead of time means I can relax, spruce up the house (and myself) and ensures I don't miss out on a good conversation. Meals in Heels was born out of this inability to multi-task along with my passion for good food and quality time with friends.

All the dishes in this book can be made ahead, but more importantly, they have a delicious wow-factor. As a writer and stylist for food magazines, my job is all about creating great flavours, staging and making food look beautiful. My aim is to help you do the same and make your dinner parties a joy.

I have rigorously tested each recipe and so has the Murdoch Books Test Kitchen, giving you the confidence to push past your normal boundaries. Detailed instructions guide you through cooking, menu design and presentation so that any level of cook can succeed and make glamorous food look effortless.

Impress and indulge your friends with this entertaining bible and make your own dinner parties fun and memorable.


Choosing what to make is, more often than not, the most frustrating and time-consuming part of planning a dinner. You pour over magazines, flip through cookbooks or, worse, can't make up your mind and attempt too many dishes. Here are a few suggestions to make throwing a party easier:

Balance and harmony When planning a menu, pick the main course first, then choose the other dishes to wrap around it. Stick with a common theme, such as a country or flavours, to bring the dishes together in harmonious balance. A theme makes it much easier to choose dishes.

Match the occasion Anything goes these days. You don't have to serve three formal courses. Your event could simply be starters enjoyed around the coffee table, perhaps, or a few canapés before moving straight to the main course. Casual platters of family-style food, where everyone grabs a plate and tucks in, are lots of fun, too.

Cheat a little Choose a balanced work load. If you're stretched for time, cook only one involved recipe, say, and serve other dishes which are easy to prepare. You can always buy snacks to start or ice cream for dessert.

Time saver Try to choose at least one dish which can be made one to two days ahead. It saves time on the day and you won't feel overworked.

Great value Having a dinner party doesn't have to cost a bomb. Affordable cuts of meats, such as pork shoulder or belly are great value, will feed a big group and taste wonderful slow-cooked. Consider the seasonality of vegetables and fruit when choosing dishes. Out-of-season produce tends to be more expensive – and not as tasty.

Good looks Think about the colours of your dishes. If the main dish is brown, then it would be wise to have a green, orange or red vegetable to brighten up the plate.

Side-show stars Choose one starchy side dish to accompany the main, such as potatoes or rice, as well as a vegetable or bowl of salad to pass around the table. Sides are an affordable way to fill up hungry guests.


How much and how many courses? If there's too much food, people get sleepy and go home early. On the other hand, too little isn't good either; everyone ends up drinking too much. First consider the gluttony of your friends. Some guests don't eat much while others will always go for seconds. Ideally you want guests to save a bit of their appetite for the next course, so keep the portions balanced. Here's a guideline:

• If serving a starter, main and dessert, plan to make a maximum of three pieces of a canapé per person or simply buy pre-made snacks to have with pre-dinner drinks.

• If serving only a main and dessert, plan to make five to six canapés per person to have as a pre-dinner snack. One or two types are sufficient, any more may be too much work.

• If serving only canapés to replace a meal, plan to make 14–16 pieces per person.

• If serving only starters, make at least four and share as small plates. Round them out with a salad, charcuterie, antipasti or cheese.

• For family-style food or a buffet, make one to two mains, perhaps one being vegetarian, and three side dishes.

• When buying meat or fish for a barbecue, allow up to 180 g (6 oz) meat or 150 g (5½ oz) fish per person. If serving a stew or braise, the quantity will be less, so follow the serving sizes in the recipes.

• Allow 50 g (1¾ oz) of a side dish per person.

• When serving a main dish, cook one bright vegetable and one starch. If you want to add a salad, put it in a separate bowl to be passed around the table so dinner plates are not overcrowded.


Having a dinner party is much more enjoyable if some of the dirty work is done ahead. Stretch out your work so you're not exhausted trying to shop, cook and clean all on the same day. You'll end up having more time to spend on the details which make an event memorable, such as setting the table, choosing the right music, lighting candles or arranging flowers. Here are some tips to ensure you have time to take a bubble bath, linger over your closet or put your feet up and have a cocktail before guests arrive:

• Design your menu at least two days ahead.

• Shop for ingredients one to two days ahead.

• Prepare a dessert one to two days ahead.

• Make a main dish one to two days ahead.

• Clean your house the day before.

• Think about the presentation and pull out the appropriate platters, plates, cutlery, napkins and serving spoons the day before.

• Try to be out of the kitchen at least one hour before guests arrive so you can relax.

• Empty the dishwasher and tidy the kitchen before the evening begins so the clean up isn't so arduous later on.


Practically anything can be cooked in stages – caterers and restaurateurs do it on a daily basis. Here are a few tricks of the trade:

• Many dishes can be made in advance, then frozen, such as stews and dumplings, and items such as shortcrust pastry cases. Be sure to thaw them in the refrigerator before reheating or cooking.

• When making canapés in advance, always layer baking paper under and over, then cover in plastic wrap. The paper absorbs the condensation which builds up and the plastic keeps it dry.

• When serving skewers, cook them in advance so they're slightly underdone, cool completely then refrigerate. Reheat them in a hot oven to serve. They're too fiddly to grill when guests have arrived.

• Wash herbs and salad leaves, wrap in damp kitchen paper to keep crisp, store in a plastic bag and refrigerate. They'll keep for three to five days.

• Red meat should be refrigerated, then brought up to room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the cut, before cooking.

• Sear meat early in the morning to get the smoke out of the house. Cool completely before refrigerating until required.

• Fish should always be rinsed, patted dry, wrapped in baking paper and refrigerated. It's a good idea to not use plastic wrap, as it makes the fish sweat and deteriorate faster.

• Stews, braises and curries benefit from being made a day or two ahead. Refrigerate, well covered, so the flavours don't permeate other foods.

• Blanch vegetables such as green beans and broccoli on the morning of your party, refresh in cold water, drain, pat dry and refrigerate. This helps the vegetables retain their colour and crispness. Quickly reheat in boiling water or pan-fry to serve, if required.

• Peel root vegetables on the morning of your party and soak in cold water until required.

• Tarts and pastry desserts made on the morning of your party can sit in a cool place until ready to serve.

• Pastry cases and crostini will keep fresh stored in airtight containers for up to two days.

• When preparing dishes ahead of time, allow food to cool down completely before refrigerating, especially when searing meat.


For maximum wow-factor you want your food to look as good as it tastes. A big budget is not required, just use a few of these smart ideas:

Small portions Plates should never be heaving with food. Serve a small amount of vegetables on the plates and place the rest and any other sides in bowls to pass around.

Shared platters Don't feel you always have to plate food. Platters of stacked meats or fish look impressive when brought to the table, especially when they've just come off the barbecue. Friends feel more relaxed and can serve themselves.

Stacks Give a plate some height. Halve a portion of meat and stack one over the other or serve on top of vegetables.

Composed salads Instead of tossing salad ingredients together, layer them or arrange in separate stacks for a composed look.

Dips The black stripes of chargrilled bread, such as pita or flatbread, add dazzle to any dip.

Citrus Lemon and limes are indispensable for adding colour. Cut them into slices, wedges or cheeks or wrap a lemon or lime half in muslin, tied with ribbon or string, to catch the pips.

Rice Press cooked rice into oiled tins or teacups and unmould onto plates for a sleek look.

Banana leaves Use to present Asian food. Cut out the shape you want with a pair of scissors and use to line serving plates. Wipe clean and polish with a little oil.

Betel or shiso (perilla) leaves These whole leaves make chic bases for canapés.

Glasses and cups Instead of plates or bowls, use glass jars, mugs, small glasses, martini glasses or teacups.

Skewers Find interesting skewers from kitchenware shops or online. There are numerous catering websites with different toothpicks and various-sized skewers.

Newspaper Line a tray with a sheet of Chinese or Japanese newspaper and a sheet of transparent foodsafe paper when serving Asian canapés or starters.


Most foods need a bit of something when presented, even if it's only a sprinkling of chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley. Use these bright garnishes to zip up dark food and transform the look of your dish:

Chives Finely chop or cut into 3 cm (1¼ inch) lengths to shower over food or use whole as a dramatic base for canapés.

Coriander (cilantro) Great for Asian food, either as whole leaves or chopped. It goes limp very quickly, so store whole leaves in damp kitchen paper and refrigerate until needed.

Mint Great for Asian food instead of coriander (cilantro). Use small sprigs for desserts. Store whole leaves in damp kitchen paper and refrigerate to keep fresh until needed.

Flat-leaf (Italian) parsley is always best. Use whole leaves or finely chop to garnish.

Thyme and rosemary sprigs Roasted sprigs add a rustic touch to Mediterranean food or line a platter with fresh sprigs for a roast.

Basil Use small whole leaves for pasta or other Italian food or finely chop or chiffonade and use as a garnish.

Dill Finely chop or use little sprigs to complement Middle Eastern canapés, dips and salads.

Sage Sauté whole leaves in a little olive oil until crisp and use to garnish pasta dishes.

Chervil Little delicate sprigs look very smart on canapés or to decorate savoury tarts.

Citrus zest Use a zesting tool to make long thin strands. If you don't have one, remove a wide ribbon of peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, scrape off any white pith and cut into thin strips.

Spring onion (scallion) Looks great thinly sliced into julienne, which will go curly if stored in iced water. Otherwise, thinly slice diagonally.

Red onion Finely dice or cut into thin half moons and use as a purple sprinkle on salads.

Green and red chilli Thinly slice small chillies and slice the bigger ones into julienne or finely chop to brighten Asian dishes.

Cherry tomatoes Red or yellow, roasted or fresh, these add zip to plates, canapés or salads.

Radish Adds bright white or pink to Japanese or Mexican food. Thinly slice, quarter or leave whole with the leaves attached. Daikon, the giant Japanese radish, is gorgeous cut into thin matchsticks for sashimi or salads.

Radicchio or red chicory (witlof) Use to add shocking pink for an instant injection of colour. Just a small piece on the plate makes all the difference.

Carrot Cut into thin matchsticks or finely dice; the bright orange perks up any dark food.

Cucumber If using Lebanese (short) ones, use a vegetable peeler to make wafer thin ribbons to garnish canapés or salads.

Yellow or red capscium (pepper) Diced or cut into matchsticks, either variety will perk up canapés or spinach salads.

Wild rocket (arugula) leaves A good green alternative to flat-leaf (Italian) parsley to shower over barbecued meat or use to garnish canapés.

Black olives Look very dramatic, especially when on top of canapés.

Sprouts or shoots Use mustard sprouts or pea shoots for an elegant touch to garnish canapés, serve alongside fried starters or sprinkled over duck breast fillets.

Mango Brighten up Asian roasts or curries with long wedges, or dice to make a salsa.

Yoghurt or crème fraîche Dollop over brown meats and sprinkle with sliced spring onion (scallion) or chilli for a dramatic white colour.

Parmesan Use a vegetable peeler or small paring knife to make curls of parmesan. Use shavings to garnish pasta or other Italian food.

Black and white sesame seeds Both look great sprinkled over Asian food; the black is particularly dramatic. Black onion (nigella) seeds are similar looking but more pungent in taste, so reserve for Middle Eastern food.

Paprika A sprinkling over yoghurt or eggplant (aubergine) dip adds colour.

Cocoa and icing (confectioners') sugar Use a small fine mesh sieve to generously dust over cakes or desserts.

Chocolate Use a small paring knife to make curls from the side of a thick bar of dark chocolate. Sprinkle shavings over desserts.








Ladies who lunch

Smoked trout and cream cheese croustades
Artichoke, pine nut and parmesan crostini
Green chilli, herb and yoghurt dip
Crab, saffron and watercress tart
Tropical fruit ball salad with mint sugar

Moorish evening

Little saganaki bites
Spinach and date filo triangles
Cumin-crusted pork with romesco sauce
Spinach and feta salad
Triple-layer almond meringue cake with blackberries and cream

Indian spice trail

Bombay potato snacks
Red lentil and coconut soup
Goan tomato and coconut fish curry
Mango, pineapple and papaya salad with vanilla-cardamom syrup

French brasserie

Celeriac rémoulade
Steak tartare with sourdough toasts
Roasted chicken with shallot and tarragon
Chocolate pots with cherries


Southeast Asian nights

Lemongrass and lime prawn skewers
Tamarind-glazed salmon with tomato salad
Spring onion timbales
Green beans with sticky soy cashews
Coconut macaroon ice cream sandwiches

American barbecue

Ribs with Carolina barbecue sauce
Maple baked beans
Spinach salad with quail eggs and warm cider dressing
Potato salad with crème fraîche and dill
Peppermint brownies

Scandinavian summer

Cedar-smoked salmon with sweet dill mustard sauce
Pickled cucumber
Potato salad with crème fraîche and dill
Strawberries and cream sponge cake


Chilled sweetcorn soup with summer salsa
Barbecued mussels with tangy pesto dip
Rosemary chickens cooked under a brick
Tomato, gorgonzola and basil stacks
Raspberry and lemon curd sponge roulade


Italian make-ahead

Prawns with garlic, lemon and parsley butter
Lasagne with sausage ragù, garlic kale and tallegio
Radicchio and rocket salad with toasted pine nuts
Tiramisù teacups

Movie night

Smoky eggplant and feta dip
Chicken, pancetta and sultana pot pies
Italian salad with olives and pecans
Chocolate nut tart

Gorgeous Greek

Little saganaki bites
Greek lamb stifado
Dill pilaf
Panna cottas with fig, pistachios and honey


Excerpted from Meals in Heels by Jennifer Joyce, Megan Hess, Belinda So. Copyright © 2010 Jennifer Joyce. Excerpted by permission of Murdoch Books Pty Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Getting Started,
Stews & Roasts,

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