A low-cost dinner party menu by Adam Liaw

6 July 2024

  • Entertaining doesn’t need to be expensive. Adam Liaw shows you how to serve a three-course meal for less
  • Adam’s moussaka is made with budget ingredients to create a hearty and filling dish
  • His spinach and rocket salad is tossed with a salad dressing made from ingredients you already have
  • A mille-feuille is a low-cost yet decadent dessert that can elevate your party menu

Video: Adam Liaw shares a cost-effective way to impress dinner guests on The Brighter Side

Entertaining friends doesn’t need to be off the table when you’re on a budget. Adam Liaw’s secrets include a bit of planning and giving your ingredients some love to bring out their best flavour. Adam suggests starting with a moussaka that makes use of great-value ingredients like mince and vegetables and is layered with a white sauce that’s made with staples such as butter, flour and milk. One the side? A simple spinach and rocket salad, served with a DIY dressing that costs next to nothing. To finish, impress friends with a strawberry mille-feuille – layers of pillowy pastry filled with cream and strawberries. The budget tip here is to use whatever fruit is in season – it will taste great and cost less. Get your friends to bring the wine and your dinner for less is served. 

Adam Liaw’s moussaka with a spinach salad


  • Prep time: 30 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins plus 10 mins to stand
  • Serves: 8


  • Approx. 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium eggplants, sliced into 1⁄2cm slices
  • 2 brown onions, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1kg lamb mince
  • 125ml white wine
  • 2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 2 cups shredded tasty cheese


  • 75g butter
  • 750ml milk
  • 75g flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1⁄4 tsp grated nutmeg


1. Place a large frying pan over heat and add a bit of the oil. Add the onions and garlic and fry for a few minutes until softened. Then add the mince and fry until browned. Add the wine and bring to a simmer then add the tomatoes, oregano and cinnamon and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes partially covered, stirring occasionally.

2. Heat your oven to 180°C (fan-forced). In the frying pan, add a little of the oil. Fry the eggplant in batches, adding oil as needed until browned. It doesn’t need to be completely softened. Remove the eggplant from the pan.

3. For the bechamel, heat the butter in a small saucepan and add the milk. Stir and cook for about three minutes. Then add the flour a little at a time, stirring to avoid lumps as the mixture thickens. Simmer for a few minutes, then stir through the salt and nutmeg.

4. Layer a third of the meat mixture into a large baking dish and top with a third of the eggplant. Repeat two more times, then pour the bechamel over. Smooth the top and scatter with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Then stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Mille-feuille

  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 25 mins plus time to cool
  • Serves: 8


  • 1 1⁄2 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • 2 punnets of strawberries, sliced with a few left as halves to decorate

Vanilla cream

  • 300ml thickened cream
  • 50g icing sugar, plus extra to serve
  • 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g mascarpone


1. Heat your oven to 200°C (fan-forced). Halve the whole puff pastry sheet (to give you three half sheets) and place them on a lined baking tray. Place another sheet of baking paper on top and add another baking tray to sandwich the pastry. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is dark brown and caramelised. Allow to cool completely.

2. Whip the cream, vanilla and icing sugar to soft peaks then fold through the mascarpone and whip a little more until the mixture is firm but not over whipped.

3. Spread one piece of pastry with a third of the cream and cover with sliced strawberries. Add another piece of pastry on top and repeat. Then add the third piece of pastry, cover with cream and decorate the top with strawberries. Scatter with a little extra icing sugar to serve.

Spinach and Almond Salad

  • Prep time: 5 mins
  • Serves: 8 as a side dish


  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1⁄2 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1⁄2 a lemon
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 120g mixed baby spinach and rocket leaves, washed and spun dry
  • 1⁄2 cup roughly chopped toasted almonds


1. Combine the mustard, honey, vinegar and lemon juice in a large bowl and slowly whisk in the oil. Toss the spinach leaves with the dressing and transfer to a serving plate. Scatter with almonds to serve.

Things you should know

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