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stephanie conley

Lifestyle, Lifestyle & Social

Stephanie Conley’s tips for easy cooking at home during isolation

4th May, 2020

With a successful career as a fashion designer, with the likes of Naomi Watts and Kim Cattrall wearing pieces from her eponymous label, Stephanie decided to follow a different path, one that would allow her to follow her passion for food. Having studied at the Le Cordon Bleu and a brief stint in catering, she decided to start her blog, The Hostess. The hugely successful site is now where Stephanie is able to share her love of food with the world. From her favourite recipes to helpful entertaining tips, Stephanie’s aim is to make cooking and hosting friends and family a fun, exciting and enjoyable experience.

With all of us now having to self-isolate, and with more time spent at home, it means we’re all getting very acquainted with our kitchens and cooking is on the cards every night. To help make getting dinner on the table nightly an easier but also tastier exercise, I turned to Stephanie to share her top tips for quick, easy cooking that will still impress.

Get organised at the start of the week

“Thinking of a new dish to cook every night for the family can be a challenge. Make no mistake that cooking and the time it takes to get a meal on the table is not a quick fix. I always say the only way to combat this is to be organised. At the beginning of each week take the time to sit down and work out your menu for the week ahead, you can be ahead in what you need to buy which will give you more time to do other things rather than continuously go to the market to pick up food.”

Stock your freezer

“I always have a few things in the freezer that I can easily take out and defrost. If you can make two of something and freeze the other you can have a cheat day!”

Set a time limit

“When thinking of meals to cook, choose weekly dinners that can be prepped and cooked in around 30-45 minutes. More involved recipes should be for the weekend or when you can take your time and enjoy the cooking process.”

Stephanie’s new cookbook At Home with The Hostess will be available this week

Experiment with condiments

“Focus on experimenting with salsas and sauces that can add flavour quickly and using lots of fresh herbs. Fish tacos are a great way to get the kids to eat fish, make a simplified version for them then spice yours up with a quick salsa and cabbage slaw. I always have meatballs in my freezer and the kids love them with pasta but I like to add black olives and chopped parsley to mine and have a rocket and fennel salad.”

Stock up on the basics

“Have a pantry stocked with the basics such as oils, vinegar, dried herbs, spices, nuts, grains, beans and pasta. Look to these pantry staples for inspiration. Other great ways to simplify your cooking is to gravitate to recipes that can be cooked in one pot or meals with 5 ingredients, it takes the pressure off  and they are quick and easy to pull together.” 

Have go-to weekly dinner options

“Some of my favourite weekly dinners are fish tacos with fresh salsa, meatballs in tomato sauce, beef stroganoff, roasted veggie bowl with freekeh, seared salmon nicoise and beef burgers with homemade pickles. We love to have a BBQ which is very simple but I always make great sides of salad and veg to keep it interesting. I like to focus of fresh produce and home cooked simplicity.” 

Fashion

Christmas entertaining tips with Stephanie Conley

11th December, 2019
Stephanie Conley is the founder of the hugely successful lifestyle blog, The Hostess

With Christmas just around the corner it’s not uncommon for stress levels to start skyrocketing, particularly if you’re the one playing host to family and friends. So to help make it easier, I’ve enlisted the help of Stephanie Conley—a former fashion designer turned founder of the successful lifestyle blog, The Hostess, Le Cordon Bleu alumni and Electrolux ambassador to share her top tips for making hosting any gathering over the festive season a breeze.

It can be an overwhelming task hosting family and friends during the festive season. What are some things you suggest people do to help make it easier?

Being organised is key to a successful and enjoyable day. Perhaps you could delegate desserts to other family members so you can concentrate on the main meal, it will take a lot of pressure off.

What are the key trends you’re seeing when it comes to entertaining that people may want to keep in mind for any gatherings over Christmas?

Creating a large grazing table is a great way to entertain and feed a large amount of people. Plating individual meals is very time consuming and often stressful if you have 20 plates to do. Get creative and dress your table with beautiful fresh blooms, use wooden boards and crates to sit platters on, as well as Christmas decorations, fresh fruit and nuts.

What would be on your ideal Christmas menu? 

Seafood is my go-to dish at Christmas, so a classic prawn cocktail, grilled scampi, an abundance of fresh salads and a citrus honey glazed ham. For dessert I always make pavlova and homemade rum and raisin ice cream.  

What’s something you think people should spend less time on when it comes to entertaining? 

Food – it doesn’t have to be 3 Michelin star! Rustic, casual and simple cooking is the best way to cook at home and entertain. The most important thing is to have fresh local produce, use good extra virgin olive oil and cook with love.

A well dressed table should be a focus for any host

What’s something you think people should spend more time on when it comes to entertaining? 

The table is where the focus is, so some effort is needed in the presentation of your table. Invest in some lovely linen napkins and a table cloth or runner. Buy some small table vases perfect for small arrangements that don’t take over your table or block the view of your guests. Update your salt and pepper shakers and flatware. All these little touches create ambience and once you have them you can keep adding and creating different looks for your table.

What are some shortcuts people can take to help put an event together easier?

There are a lot of items you can buy ready made and then just spend time on their presentation. For example an easy Christmas starter would be a fresh seafood platter of prawns, oysters, assorted sashimi and make or buy a dipping sauce. Arrange it all on a large platter with wedges of lemon and toss some watercress over the top with some crusty sourdough.

Glaze a ham and serve with assorted mustards and chutneys. Roast some root vegetables drizzled with maple syrup and rosemary then make a green salad with walnuts, cranberries and crumbled fetta cheese.

And for desert vanilla bean ice cream with fresh mango and crumbled ginger nut cookies on top.

This is a very simple and fuss free menu that everyone can do and would enjoy and it could be done the day of.

What are your key tips when it comes to decorating an event? 

Flowers are always a key item as they just brighten a room.

Beautiful blooms are key to making any event look amazing

What are your tips for styling a table that’s sure to impress?

A centrepiece of low fresh blooms, candles and an element of layering, whether that is using placemats or using a table cloth or runner to create some depth.

What are some things a host can do to ensure that when they’re hosting an event, they’re not spending all their time in the kitchen? 

A secret helper, someone to pour drinks, stack the dishwasher and clear the plates – find a helping hand who wants to do a few hours work so you can enjoy the fruits of your hard work. Also, having large appliances, like the Electrolux RealLife XXL Fully Integrated Dishwasher, is great so you can wash more at one time.  

What are three must-haves for any host? 

1. A well-stocked bar

2. Good food

3. A great playlist-music is essential

Want more tips from Stephanie? Check out her new podcast, in conversation with her husband Oskar Buhre where they discuss Christmas traditions, entertaining and staying organised.