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Help with cooking for 30(ish) people every week!

Hi All,

I need some inspiration from you all. Basically I am helping out at my local Rugby club in London (UK) and I have been asked if I can provide the hot food for after the matches (usually around 30 people every week). I enjoy cooking and I'd like to think I can cope with this, but I am only used to making enough food for around 6-8 people! Also their 'Kitchen' is very basic... Just one fairly small oven! The recipes I have at the moment are:

Spaghetti Bolognese
Sausage/Tomato pasta
Macaroni cheese

And due to time restraints (I will probably only have 1.5 hours to make it) nothing like Mashed Potato that would take a while.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Embrace, how nice of you to do this! Would you have access to a slowcooker/Crockpot? This could not only free up the oven, but provide a place to keep warm stuff like stews/mashed potatoes. The mashed I'd do ahead of time.

    Perhaps hot sandwiches now and then....meatball subs, or pulled pork sandwiches, or hot sliced beef and gravy? Sloppy Joes? Tacos?

    A beef stew when the weather turns cold and damp.

    Frittatas and tortas (egg and potato)....good hot or at room temp.

    In hot weather, a huge antipasto platter. A huge chicken caesar salad. Wrap sandwiches with excellent chips (crisps, would you say :-) )?

    Cook ahead stuff you could bring in easily in trays and reheat. A couple of lasagna? A few meatloaves? A tray of stuffed bell peppers?

    3 Replies
    1. re: pinehurst

      Thank you! Some great ideas there :). I think I did see a slow cooker when I had a quick look but it looked a little worse for wear!!! Thanks for the ideas, it's been a great help x

      1. re: pinehurst

        Ok, the slow cooker does not work :( But there is a slow cooker on offer at my local shops for a 6.5 Litre one. Would this be enough for around 25-30 people? Or would I need two?

        1. re: Embrace

          6.5 Litre (6.8 US Quart) will have room for about 20 (US) cups of cooked food, leaving a reasonable amount of space at the top of the container. You'll want at least two, and maybe 3 of those, depending on the appetitie of your athletes.

      2. Embrace, I am in awe of your enthusiasm. You are either going to have to be very creative or do a lot of advanced prepping and cooking to serve 30 meals, particularly for hungry athletes which might be more like serving 60. Your facility likely just doesn't have the capacity to cook, or even safely reheat, that mass of food in that short time.

        I would purchase mostly prepared menu items and concentrate on making a few side dishes like salads and platters of finger foods and a sweet.

        1. Sounds like cooking team dinners for my son's lacrosse team, but I have the advantage of being able to barbecue in the backyard-I do lots of smoked meats, w/ sides of baked pasta & salads that can be prepped in advance. Your saving grace is that hungry athletes will eat almost anything (& in quantity!) & be happy about it-the best tip I can offer is make detailed prep lists, & after your meal, note what worked & what didn't, quantities eaten....

          1. I suggest you have a look at Mennonite Girls Can Cook. They have a lot of suggestions for cooking for a crowd: http://mennonitegirlscancookforacrowd...

            1 Reply
            1. re: maplesugar

              yes - that is one of the best suggestions on here so far - i think I know of the same ladies - amazing women from the beautiful Fraser Valley in BC (which is now largely suburban sprawl but still has some nice farming country out there - and I think some of these ladies are hardworking farmers too) - they sometimes teach at Lepps Farm Market out in Abbotsford BC (suburban Vancouver BC) - if i lived closer i would make a point to go and take part (Lepps is really nice - great little farm market for anyone who is travelling thru - or lives nearby)

            2. Baked potato "bar" with various toppings like shredded BBQ chicken or pork (commercial, reheated), cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, cooked broccoli, grilled onions & bell peppers, etc.

              If your oven is working well, you might be able to cook the potatoes on site. But I've had good luck with this for a company potluck, baked the potatoes at home early in the morning and used an insulated bag to transport and keep the potatoes hot for 3 hours until lunchtime.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MidwesternerTT

                My son's high school marching band used to sell baked potatoes at half time of the football games. You can prebake the potatoes wrapped in foil, then put them into styrofoam coolers with newspaper around them to keep warm.

              2. Foil packet dinners - layer protein, starch, veg, spices/sauce. Prep ahead of time, transport cold, then just pop in the oven. Probably allow 2 (or more) packets per athlete.

                See the very comprehenisive list of foil packet recipes sites that Hank Hanover provided here on CH in 2012

                1. I've always been a fan of the giant-slab-of-pork school of feeding a crowd. A big pork shoulder can be prepared a variety of ways, rubbed with a nice barbecue-type rub, cooked forever (usually overnight), 'pulled' with a couple big forks and served with coleslaw and cornbread. Pernil, a South American preparation for the same hunk o' pig served with black beans and rice. ( I know, I know, pernil is TECHNICALLY a fresh ham, but you can go with the same kind of flavorings and accompaniments), prepared like an Italian pot roast with lots of garlic and tomato and celery and served over polenta...I like the fact that I can put the meat into the oven the night before, and since it has to rest a while once cooked I can use the oven for last-minute things. What a peach you are to offer to do this. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I hope someone has volunteered to help with clean-up!

                  1. what an interesting project

                    i have a couple of stand-by recipes that our english cousins enjoy when they come out here to Vancouver

                    1. corn chowder

                    you can cheat and use Campbells Mushroom soup (canned) as the thickener -

                    did i just say that?


                    actually, i skip the canned soup, i don't even made a roux - you use the starch in the cut up potatoes to thicken the soup. the big risk with this in a big batch is scorching it on the bottom of the pan in your eagerness to cook it and keep it hot.

                    so what i do is cook the taters separately just to get them al dente - then add SOME of the tater water and the taters to the onion/corn mixture. Then add really heavy liquid cream (not skim milk cuz you've added the tater water, right?)

                    for the corn - you can use fresh sweet corn - cut off the cob - or buy a big bag of the very best quality frozen corn at Costco (peaches and cream?) and rinse it to thaw, drain, add to pot.

                    you can start with the cut up bacon in order to cook the onions - or if you need to stay vegetarian - then just use some good high heat cooking oil (canola here in Canada) for saute-ing your onions.

                    garnish with fresh parsley.

                    serve with bread or biscuits etc.

                    the other main dish i've made for crowd is make-ahead - some people call it "christmas morning wifesaver" (google Best of Bridge recipe) http://www.bestofbridge.com/2012/12/0...

                    (i bet you'll find other make-ahead crowd food from the best of bridge - ladies from Calgary Alberta (near Banff in the Rockies) - they know their cooking.


                    get a couple of those big lasagna pans - if necess, get the single-use foil ones from supermarket (double them up) - line with parchment. Assemble the torn-up bread, cheese - pour the egg-milk-dijon mixture over top - cover with saran wrap (plastic wrap) - refrigerate.

                    next day - remove from fridge - preheat oven - cook the "strata" -

                    make sure you use some sharp orange color cheddar - good cheese is essential. You can even add in some small cubes of what we call Cream Cheese (philadelphia type cheese) - makes it creamier.

                    dometimes, I make it w/o the meat and cheddar - instead use blueberries, cr cheese, a bit of cinnamon - makes a sweeter morning brunch make-ahead casserole.

                    back to your supper now - serve the cooked savory strata with mixed greens - you can even cook some breakfast size sausages on the side and serve at same time (or some people add cooked ham or cooked sausage to the strata itself)

                    ps - you can tell when this strata is done when the toothpick comes out clean - like making a custard pie (pumpkin pie for eg)

                    1. ps - i forgot to say when we make chili here at our house - we have folks who don't like ground beef from anonymous sources - anyway - so we use either ground turkey or pieces of turkey. It is very popular and readily avail here in Canada

                      for example - http://www.turkeyfarmersofcanada.ca/r...

                      again a self serve menu - and you can put cornbread on the side (we have boxed mixes for cornbread out here - but it's easy to make from scratch) - or warmed CORN (not white flour) tortillas and salsa and sour cream and guacamole and salad.

                      i always add sweet corn kernels to my chili.

                      and i use various beans (i know, not all chili styles have beans in the recipe) - but I add various beans, always some black beans, to make it look more visually interesting.

                      the other thing i make ahead for crowds at our cottage (where cooking amenities are minimal - so i make ahead and take it with me) - is chicken curry.

                      i start with a big decent pot - hi-heat oil (canola here in Canada) - diced onions - then cool it down. Drain if too much oil but leave some. Raw chicken (skinless and boneless, not pre-seasoned. cut in to bit size pieces - thighs, white meat etc) - now add the chicken, some chicken stock, canned tomatoes (good ones), baby carrots (easy to use from the produce section of your supermarket) - i sometimes add in a can of pineapple tidbits incl the juice to add some acid and sweet at same time.

                      add coconut cream from a can or tetrapak - we get ours in the supermarket here.

                      i add drained canned chick-peas (garbanzo beans) to the mixture to add some interest

                      add your curry (i use paste cuz it's handy) - remember it will intensify if you're making ahead and reheating

                      now you have made your curry -
                      self-serve over basmati rice made in a rice cooker steamer (best tool ever if you like rice) - with sides of rich plain yogurt, dried nuts, dried apricots, homemade chutney (we don't like the store-chutney cuz it's too salty



                      1. You could make a large chicken pot pie if the budget allows and for convenience use the market chickens that are precooked and for more convenience some puff pastry from the freezer section.

                        1. Is there any way you could set up a couple of bbq grills at the site? If so, you could do burgers, chicken, sausages and have all the extras (buns, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, etc plus a couple of side salads (which in the US would probably be potato salad and pasta salad). Almost everything could be done in advance, except the actual cooking. You would have a cooler full of premade burger patties, chicken pieces in a big plastic bag with a marinade, and possibly some sausages. Get the grill fired up during the game, set out the sides and get ready to cook just before the game ends. I would expect very big appetites, probably 2 burgers per person and 2 pieces of chicken.

                          1. If you've got the counter space or a sufficiently long table I'd suggest some meals which the athletes have to assemble themselves. A taco bar, that baked potato bar above, perhaps combined with that big pork shoulder listed above (maybe with a single carver), other wraps, etc.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: nokitchen

                              I had the same thought.
                              A burrito/taco bar would be easiest and very hearty meal for hungry athletes- refried beans, rice, cheese, salsa, shredded lettuce, sour cream/yogurt, jalapenos or hot sauce. A big side salad would be perfect.
                              Baked potatoes with interesting topping- chili with beans, roasted veggies, baked beans, shredded cheeses, onions, chopped tomatoes and a veggies side.

                            2. This website has tasty looking quantity recipes for 25 people or more -- look about halfway down the page for links. The souffle for 25 looks to be within your time constraints, if you can fit it into your oven. Maybe serve with sausages and salads for a full meal.


                              1. Check out Christina Ferrara's chicken enchilada casserole, you can google it. It would be easy to double or triple it.

                                Ina garten has a great roasted vegetable with orzo recipe that you can add chicken to, which will make it a one dish meal.

                                In the summer, make large containers of pasta salad, again with chicken to make a one dish meal. You can always make large quantities of green salads to serve on the side.

                                Giada has a chicken tettrazini dish, that can be doubled or tripled that's excellent.

                                Also, Ina Garten's parties cookbook has lots of ideas.

                                Good luck and have fun. :)


                                1. I think anything you can make at home and transport is a plus. You can put pasta sauces, salads, etc in ziplocks and reheat if necessary at the site.
                                  Rugby players will want really substantial food after a game. I like your ideas. Spaghetti Bolognese, served with lots of garlic bread and a green salad, would be perfect, as would sausage tomato pasta. With the chili, you could add hot dogs, buns, grated cheese and chopped onions, so the players could pile up a chili dog, or put it in a bowl. If you could grill burgers or chicken, that would be great. You could cook a pork shoulder at home for pulled pork sans. I used to cook for 12 men on an ocean going dredge, and I made every recipe so it was for 24! That's how much they ate! Just thought I'd mention it..

                                  1. If you can get the ingredients Mexican posole with pork and hominy is easy and filling. Another thought would be some Indian curries. Easy to make in quantity and very filling with rice.