Is there anything better than movie night? Feet up, film chosen, food on tray. Ordering something in is often the way to go on such occasions, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Cooking a dish or two for a sofa session takes some planning, true, but a takeout is not the only way to spend a night in. Here are some of my movie-night favourites, dialled right up.
Sticky wings and pickled things (pictured top)
One of the joys of eating dinner on the sofa while watching a movie with the lights on low is that no one can see how messy you get, but make sure you have plenty of napkins to hand for this one. This will make more pickles than you may need here, but they keep for a week in a sealed jar in the fridge and are great in sandwiches.
Prep 15 min
Marinade 1 hr+
Cook 75 min
800g chicken wings
1 tbsp lime juice
For the sticky marinade
1 tbsp gochujang, or red harissa
1½ tsp tomato paste
170ml apple juice
100ml dark soy sauce
2½ tbsp demerara sugar
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely ground in a mortar
¼ tsp szechuan peppercorns, finely ground in a mortar or spice grinder (optional)
2 star anise
¾ tsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground in a mortar
2 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp baking powder
For the pickled cucumbers
2 lebanese cucumbers, or 1 regular cucumber, cut in half lengthways, seeds scooped out, flesh thinly sliced (150g net)
Fine sea salt
2 fresh jalapeño chillies, thinly sliced (if you prefer less heat, discard the pith and seeds)
10g caster sugar
65ml apple cider or white-wine vinegar
20g dill leaves
1 tbsp lime juice
First make the pickle. Put the sliced cucumber in a large colander with a quarter-teaspoon of salt, toss to combine, then set over a large bowl and leave for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the jalapeños, sugar, vinegar and 40ml water in a small pan and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Pour off any liquid from the cucumber bowl, then put the cucumbers and dill in the bowl, pour the pickling liquid over the top and leave to cool completely. Once cool, stir in half a tablespoon of the lime juice.
Meanwhile, whisk all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wings, toss with your hands until well coated, then put them in a single layer in a high-sided, 33cm x 26cm roasting tin and leave to marinate for at least an hour (and up to overnight).
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Cover the wing tray tightly with foil, then bake for 20 minutes. Take off the foil and, using tongs, turn the wings over and roast uncovered for a further 20 minutes. Spoon any marinade left in the pan all over the wings and bake for 20 minutes more, until sticky and charred in places. Remove from the oven, leave to rest for five minutes, then stir in the remaining half-tablespoon of lime juice.
Arrange the sticky wings and any remaining marinade on a platter, scatter half the pickles over the top and serve with the rest on the side.
Peanut butter and sour cherry rice pop squares
These addictive treats bring peanut butter jelly vibes to any movie night or lunchbox. They can be made ahead, if you like – they’ll keep in an airtight box for up to two days.
Prep 15 min
Cook 15 min
Chill 1 hr+
175ml golden syrup
75g unsalted butter
100g natural smooth peanut butter – I like Mani Life’s Deep Roast
100g rice pops
75g roasted and salted peanuts, roughly chopped
75g dried sour cherries, or dried cranberries, soaked for 10 minutes in a little lemon juice, then roughly chopped
40g good-quality milk chocolate, roughly broken
¼ tsp flaked sea salt
Line a 20cm x 20cm square tin with greaseproof paper, making sure there is plenty of overhang.
Put the golden syrup and butter in a large saucepan on medium-high heat, and cook, stirring, for three to four minutes, until bubbling furiously. Add the peanut butter, stir for another minute, until smooth, then take off the heat and, working quickly, mix in the rice pops and 60g each of the peanuts and sour cherries.
Transfer the mix to the lined tin and use the overhanging paper to press down on the top until it is as flat as you can get it. Refrigerate for an hour, until hardened.
Meanwhile, fill a small pan a quarter-full with water and put it on a medium-high heat. Put the chocolate in a small bowl and set it over the pan to melt, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water. Take off the heat and, using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate all over the chilled rice pop cake. Sprinkle over the remaining 15g each of peanuts and sour cherries and the quarter-teaspoon of salt, then put back in the fridge for about 10 minutes, to set.
Remove the tin from the fridge, lift out the cake using the overhang, then cut it into 3cm squares. Arrange these on a platter and serve at room temperature.
Mushroom quesadillas with plum salsa
The plum salsa makes these quesadillas extra-special, but if you are pressed for time, some hot sauce would work as an alternative condiment. If you want to get ahead, make the mushroom filling the day before.
Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
1½ tsp vegetable oil
350g mixed mushrooms, cut into ½cm-thick pieces
Fine sea salt and black pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ tsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 medium flour tortillas
100g low-moisture mozzarella, grated
140g red leicester or mature cheddar, grated
100g soured cream, to serve
For the plum salsa
2 slightly under-ripe plums (210g), stoned and coarsely grated
1 shallot (40g), peeled and thinly sliced
10g coriander leaves, roughly chopped, plus 10g extra to serve
¼ tsp aleppo chilli flakes
1 tsp olive oil
1½ tsp lime juice
1 red chilli, stem removed, cut in half lengthways, then finely sliced (if you prefer less heat, discard the pith and seeds)
Put half a teaspoon of oil in a large, nonstick frying pan on a medium high heat, add the mushrooms and a quarter-teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, for 12 minutes, until golden.
Turn down the heat to medium, stir in the garlic, rosemary, remaining vegetable oil and a good grind of pepper, and cook, stirring, for another two minutes. Add the tomato paste and 100ml water, cook, stirring frequently, for three minutes, until the mix thickens, then take off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix all the salsa ingredients and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl.
Wipe the mushroom pan clean and put it on a medium-high heat. Lay in one tortilla and sprinkle over half the mozzarella, half the mushroom mix and 40g red leicester. Lay another tortilla on top, to sandwich the filling inside, then leave to cook for three minutes, until golden and crisp.
Remove the quesadilla from the pan, sprinkle 30g more red leicester into the frying pan – it should sizzle and melt almost instantly – then lay the quesadilla on top of the cheese and press down. Cook for 90 seconds, then use a spatula to lift the cheese-coated quesadilla out of the pan and invert it on to a wire rack. Make the second quesadilla in the same way.
To serve, cut each quesadilla into eight pieces and arrange these on a large plate. Sprinkle over the coriander and serve with the salsa and soured cream in bowls alongside.