Make Ahead

A Simple, Make-Ahead Menu from Ottolenghi’s Latest Cookbook

Just in time for your next fall dinner party.

October 16, 2018

In celebration of Ottolenghi Simple—the latest from the best-selling cookbook author and New York Times contributor—we've partnered with Ten Speed Press to bring you the dinner party menu of your dreams.

Ever since my friend Sara gifted me my first Ottolenghi cookbook, I’ve eagerly awaited each new release, returning to them again and again once they’ve found their home on my bookshelf. The celebrated London chef’s recipes are reliably appealing, incorporating fresh flavors and ingredients that are just different enough from my typical repertoire that they feel exciting to tackle. But the real reason I keep coming back is because they’re easy to execute, whether I’m following a recipe to a T or just using the pretty pictures and flavor combinations as inspiration.

Photo by Rocky Luten

The latest Ottolenghi cookbook takes that idea and distills it even further, which you can probably guess by the name alone: Simple. The concept explores a few different definitions of simple, derived from each letter of the title like an acrostic poem (not to get all English major on you, but you probably made one of those out of your own name in first grade...remember?).

  • S is for “short on time,” and denotes recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or fewer.
  • I is for 10 ingredients or fewer, meaning you won’t have to buy a whole new pantry to cook this book.
  • M is for make-ahead, and is exactly what it sounds a point. The book walks you through things you can totally make ahead, but also dishes that can be easily prepped ahead, for seamless assembly right before serving.
  • P is for pantry, and while Ottolenghi cautions his pantry might be different than yours, he outlines a few items (with long shelf lives) you can pick up to more closely mirror his.
  • L is for lazy. (That’s not an insult!) Think one-pot, sheet pan, and slow-cooked stews you can put on to simmer and forget about for hours.
  • E is for easier than you think. No lie!

In practice, that means this book is filled with things you can pull together in a snap, as well as hours-long set and forget weekend projects; there are as many dishes that introduce you to new ingredients as there are those that rely on things you’ve definitely got laying around; you’ll find ideas for spur-of-the-moment meals and game plans for perfectly planned out dinner parties.

While all aspects of Simple are useful, that last point caught my attention. I love entertaining, but too often get caught up in ambitious recipes that mean I’m still sweating and covered in flour when my guests arrive. While my friends couldn’t care less if I’m sporting a stained apron when I greet them, I love anything that helps me get the hard work out of the way before the buzzer rings.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“May i ask how you warmed through the patties? Could this be done in the oven to save frying food whilst your guests are there? Thanks ”
— Katie B.

After browsing through all the recipes, as well as the menu suggestions in the back of the book, I couldn’t wait to put together my own menu of Simple make-ahead dishes, and test them on my friends. Below, check out the menu and the game plan for pulling it off without a hitch:


The following spread—featuring smoky grilled grapes, bread if you wish, savory lamb patties, a simple salad tossed to taste, and a colorful couscous dish, rounded out with a cheesecake topped with honey and thyme—is plenty for a small crowd. (If you want to pepper in other favorites, like roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce or any dips or spreads for snacking while people filter in, I'd recommend starting with some of Ottolenghi's old stand-bys.)

  1. Burrata with marinated grilled grapes
  2. Pita or other bread
  3. Pistachio & lamb patties with sumac yogurt
  4. Arugula tossed with lemon & Parmesan
  5. Couscous, cherry tomato & herb salad
  6. Honey and yogurt set cheesecake


Up to 5 days ahead:

Do all your shopping (or order your groceries online if you’re into that). Pick out the wines you’ll be serving, and/or let guests know the flavor profile that will go well with the meal if you’re asking them to bring anything. (I went with a chilled Gamay.)

2 days ahead:

Make the cheesecake. (You can also do this 1 day ahead if you prefer.)

1 day ahead:

Wash and marinate the grapes. Make the lamb patties (keeping them raw, covered, in the fridge) and make the sumac yogurt sauce. Make the couscous, onion, and raisin mix. (Save the tomatoes for day-of.)

A few hours to 6 hours ahead:

Cook the lamb patties through. (You can also do this once guests are there as it’s fast, but they need a bit of attention in the pan, so I recommend doing it ahead if you can swing it.)

An hour or so ahead:

  • Take the couscous out of the fridge to come to room temperature.
  • Thread the marinated grapes onto skewers and grill them off.
  • While they’re grilling, chop herbs for the couscous (plus some extra for topping dishes) and shave Parmesan for the arugula salad; set both aside.
  • Fry the tomatoes. Fluff up the couscous, add the herbs, and top with the tomatoes.
All your guests will see is the beautiful, ready-to-go spread! Photo by Rocky Luten

30 minutes before guests arrive:

  • Wash any dirty dishes that have accumulated!
  • Take out the burrata and arrange the grilled grapes and cheese on a platter; garnish with extra marinade and some torn basil. (I served this as a first course/snack alongside some bread.)
  • Throw pita or bread into a warm oven.
  • Take out the yogurt sauce, stir it up, and garnish the bowl.
  • Take off your apron and pour yourself a glass of wine.

When you’re ready to serve:

  • Add bread to a bowl or basket for passing with the burrata.
  • Warm the lamb patties.
  • Toss arugula with lemon, olive oil, salt, and shaved parmesan.
  • After dinner, warm the honey and drizzle it over the cheesecake. Release from the pan and slice.

If you’ve got your hands on the cookbook—it dropped today—let us know what you’re excited to make in the comments!

Who says planning a dinner party has to be stressful? Ottolenghi Simple, co-written with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth, features 130 approachable, flavor-forward recipes that showcase the beloved chef's signature Mediterranean flavors.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Katie B. February 13, 2019
May i ask how you warmed through the patties? Could this be done in the oven to save frying food whilst your guests are there? Thanks
Author Comment
Cory B. February 13, 2019
I warmed them in the oven! But if you've already cooked them earlier in the day, I think you could also just give them a quick flash in a cast iron skillet—wouldn't take long at all.
Katie B. February 14, 2019
Thanks for your reply I'd actually prefer to do it in the oven. May i ask what temperature you used, how long your warmed them through for and did you cover them in foil? Thanks so much =0)
Daphne M. October 16, 2018
I watch for my copy everyday I can hardly wait to get started,can’t wait