How to nail a potluck advice and recipes for creating crowd-pleasers best apple crumble recipe ever

Trepidation. Your positivity gives way to memories of agonising over what to make, then traipsing around multiple supermarkets. You spent as much money as you would on dinner at a fancy-ish restaurant, to concoct something that spilt through your car on the way there. Your $75 jamie oliver mac ‘n’ cheese went uneaten. The host thought it was an apple crumble and left it in the fridge with the desserts.

Determination. Perhaps this time could be, would be different, you think. The usual trawling of websites and cookbooks commences; learnings from barry schwartz’s paradox of choice threatening to overwhelm. After canvassing opinions from severely apathetic friends, who accuse you of "over-thinking" it, you settle on a dish, jot down your shopping list, and tootle to the requisite two to three supermarkets to purchase a $10 box of israeli couscous or a similar "exotic" grain.

Shame. Your worst fears are realised. You spend the evening shooting furtive glances at a table laden with dishes, largely also comprised of israeli couscous or similar "exotic" grains.Brush each your contribution to the spread, its jaunty sprig of curly parsley wilting on top, goes untouched by guests other than you. You accidentally get the crowd favourite – chili con carne – on your person, but you stay until someone whips out a guitar and attempts a rousing rendition of bob marley’s redemption song. You cover your exotic grains with a crumpled piece of clingfilm that’s no longer particularly clingy. And you go home.

I sought these foodies’ advice on fail-safe potluck recipes, spurred by the unsavoury experiences I have suffered in my young life. I figured the ideal dish should meet the following criteria: an ingredient list that wasn’t too long, was easy to source, and was easy on the wallet; a recipe that didn’t’ take too much time or skill to execute; a dish that was easy to transport, and didn’t require reheating or assembly at the venue, or spill or melt or spontaneously combust en route.

When it came to the eating, it’d need to be a dish with recognisable, yet appetitising, elements that wasn’t messy (spaghetti), smelly (fish, egg) or embarrassing (anything shaped like a sausage) to consume.Apple crumble

A tall order, perhaps, but corry and butters were well up to the challenge. Butters’ suggestion of this tomato and herb couscous certainly fulfils these requirements. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples; the rest are readily found in gardens or supermarkets at negligible cost. And there’s hardly any cooking required. As butters says: "simply boil the jug."

Corry cited her thoroughly road-tested roast eggplant with whipped feta and walnuts. The weekend after the recipe was first published, corry says, five separate colleagues reported they had made it for barbecues they’d attended.

Corry agrees the potluck concept can be confusing. She suggests guests inquire with the host whether the event will be an intimate dinner, drinks and nibbles, or an extravagant feast; if there’ll be children who might appreciate simpler fare, and whether those who RSVP’d "yes" have any dietary restrictions.

"Don’t take lots of meat to a vegan gathering, don’t take your much-acclaimed peanut butter cheesecake to a party full of people with nut and dairy allergies unless you’re handy with an epipen, [and] don’t turn up with lots of alcohol if the other guests are teetotallers."

Brush each

If hosting duties have fallen to you, corry advises embracing the potluck concept in all its flawed glory, "and take your chances of five people turning up with tubs of supermarket hummus and packets of crisps". Or adopt a dictatorial approach: ask guests to bring a particular type of dish or item.

"Engage your inner instagrammer and create a fabulous platter," she says, adding if all else fails, buy the hosts something they can enjoy at a later date.

1. Place couscous in a large bowl and mix through the salt and oil using your fingertips. Pour the boiling water over, mix well and set aside for 15 minutes. Using a fork, fluff up the grains.

2. Cut half the cherry tomatoes in half. Spray the remaining whole tomatoes with a little oil and grill on a barbecue or grill pan until just starting to char.

4. Add nuts, sultanas, honey and vinegar. Increase heat and cook while stirring until vinegar has almost evaporated.Apple crumble cool slightly then mix into the couscous with the fresh herbs, rocket and tomatoes. Season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

1. Preheat the oven to 200C and line 2 baking trays with foil, shiny side up. Brush each tray with some of the oil, then put the eggplant slices on top. Brush each piece of eggplant with some oil, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until they are golden brown and soft. Set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, put the feta in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add about 2 tablespoons of the oil, the lemon zest and juice and beat well until smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper – it won’t need much salt.

3. To serve, arrange the roasted eggplant slices on a serving platter. Top each one with about a teaspoonful of whipped feta, then scatter over the walnuts and parsley. Drizzle any remaining oil over the top and serve.