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Cooking for 30

October 6, 2014

This weekend just been it was my buddy’s 30th birthday. He decided he wanted to spend the weekend in a country mansion and he found one in Ross & Wye that would take 30 of us.

I agreed to look after all the food, cooking dinner on Friday night, then breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the Saturday. It was the biggest food project I’d ever done so I thought I would make some notes here.

Keeping organised:

It’s important to create a schedule and stick to it. Peeling and cutting vegetables for large numbers of people can take a surprising amount of time. The easiest way to create such a schedule is to work backwards from when you want to serve. If you want to serve 1.5KG of rare roast beef at 8pm. You need to leave 20 minutes for it to rest and another 70 minutes for it to cook. So to serve it at 8PM it should go into the oven at 6:50PM and you should probably give yourself 20 minutes to prep it as well. So the schedule for that might look something like td { border: 1px solid black; padding: 30px; } table { margin: 30px; }

6:10PM Prep roast beef
6:30PM Put roast beef in oven
7:40PM Remove roast from oven
8:00PM Serve roast

The basic idea is to create a list of actions sorted by time. If you don’t do this it’s very easy to end up serving cold meat and undercooked vegetables…

Experimenting:

Before you do anything on a huge scale you should at least run some experiments to make sure it’s going to work. This weekend I was serving a pasta course, each serving of which needed to be finished off in a pan. I had read that the best way to do this was to parboil the spaghetti for 5 minutes, and then rapidly cool it in cold water. After this it could be kept at room temperature and cooked quickly in a pan with the pasta water and sauce to finish it. But since I had never actually done this before I decided to test it with a small quantity of pasta before committing to cook the full 7 kilos.

So any techniques or recipes that you haven’t tried before should definitely be given a test run before being done at a large scale. But that’s generally true of cooking anything for other people.

Scaling recipes:

This was almost entirely guess work. There are plenty of charts and guides to cooking for crowds available on line but they all conflict. Eventually I just did some basic math. I’ve cooked plenty of meals for 5 people. So I used those quantities, multiplied them by 6 and rounded down a little.

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