I’ve found a simple and tasty dinner menu to serve a group of 20 people: slow cooker Indian style lamb and lentils.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t often cook for 20. Feeding more than the usual number of mouths in our household (especially four times more) brings with it particular challenges. This is especially so if you are a part of the group and would rather spend your time actually hanging out with the other people, not hiding in the kitchen stirring pots and chopping vegetables.
A workable solution is to find a meal that’s simple to prepare, budget friendly and something your group will enjoy. This is a meal that fits the bill as a tasty dinner for 20 people. Of course, it’s easy enough to adjust the quantities if your group is larger (or smaller) than this.
Lamb and lentil dinner menu
The menu looks like this:
- Slow cooker Indian lamb
- Spiced lentils
- Plain yoghurt
- Cucumber and mint
- Banana and coconut
- Chutney and pickles
Keep it simple
A few tips to simplify the process:
- Put your appliances to work and let them do the cooking – in this case the slow cooker and rice cooker. I have a large slow cooker that can handle a 4kg leg of lamb without too much trouble. If yours isn’t quite big enough, think about borrowing a second slow cooker and start out with two smaller cuts of meat. Similarly with the rice cooker, if yours doesn’t have the capacity for 10 cups of rice, consider borrowing a second one.
- Don’t underestimate the time it will take to chop all those vegetables. More people = more vegetables = more time: it’s a simple equation which sometimes I forget to calculate! Make allowances where you can and enlist some help for the chopping stage.
- Speaking of enlisting help, sharing the load just before serving will speed up the process. I often find people are happy to pitch in and help with a small task when dinner is nearly ready. So, put them to work and ask for help with dicing cucumber or slicing banana for the side dishes, or even opening jars and finding serving spoons.
A simple plan for putting everything together
The cooking plan for the day looks something like this (of course, this can be adjusted to fit your timetable and the way you want to work in the kitchen):
In the morning –
- lamb in slow cooker
- approximately 10 cups of rice in rice cooker (or measured out to cook in the evening). The best rice for this dish is basmati, but any rice will be fine
- cook the lentils in the morning, or at least par cook them early and continue cooking before dinner
In the evening –
- start cooking the rice (unless you were able to program it earlier in the day)
- remove lamb from the bone, shred roughly and return the meat to the slow cooker
- either continue cooking, or simply reheat, the lentil dish
- cook the pappadams in the microwave. Set out 4 or 5 pappadams on a microwave safe plate and cook for 40 to 50 seconds on high. Adjust the time depending on your microwave. The pappadams will keep in a bowl until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, dice two or three cucumbers and stir through chopped mint leaves. Slice two or three bananas and stir through 2 tablespoons of dessicated coconut. Set out the yoghurt with a serving spoon.
- An optional yet tasty extra is to spoon out store bought mango chutney into a small bowl or dish. Add spicy pickles if your crowd enjoys tangy food.
- Place each of these items, together with the pappadams, in serving bowls.
When you are ready to serve, set up the dishes to allow your guests to help themselves. Make it easy, and keep the food warmer, by serving straight from the cooking dishes, eg the rice cooker, the slow cooker and the saucepan or dish of lentils. Set out the smaller bowls of side dishes as well.
A large bowlful of mixed chopped vegetables adds bulk and flavour to an otherwise quite “meaty” dish. I used onion, carrot, zucchini, cauliflower and celery, but feel free to add in a mixture of the vegetables you have on hand.
The lentil dish tastes even better when reheated, so it’s a good one to make ahead a day or so in advance if you have the opportunity. I have learned from trial and error that a 375g pack of lentils is more than enough as a side dish for 20 people.
We shared this meal with a group of friends earlier this year. This photo captures me in the act of telling everyone what to do, surrounded by my (slightly anonymous) dinner crowd. The photo was taken on the day we ate this lamb dinner together.
What about you? Do you have a favourite dinner to enjoy with a group of friends or family?