Saturday Salsa

Saturday’s dinner was based around some beautiful purple sprouting broccoli I received in my weekly Oddbox delivery and with a vegetable as pretty and fresh as this, I wanted to keep the meal simple. I opted to fry the broccoli for a few minutes and served it with shop bought breaded Cod and a homemade salsa, which enabled me to use up some tomatoes, onions & coriander that I had in.

Salsa is so simple to make, you simply mix tomato, onion & coriander with oil & vinegar and you’re done. Generally for dressings I follow a rule of 3 oil to 1 vinegar. Rough quantities that I used are:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 x small onion (red or yellow)
  • 2 x tomatoes (or use a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 x handful of coriander
  • 1 x tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • 3 x tbsps Olive Oil

METHOD

Slice onions really thin (I use a mandolin) and chop tomatoes & coriander

Mix all ingredients together

Season, chill in fridge and serve.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to show you how I generally try to portion out a meal for my 20 month old son the next day (he’s 20 months so eats far too early for us). Saving a portion of our evening meal for him means less prep for me and more variety for him. It’s not always practical and I’m always conscious of not adding salt & sugar to his portion, alongside ensuring safe storage & reheating but it’s something that generally works really well for us.

Dill & Gin Mojito

Herbs have got to be one of the worst things for buying in too large a quantity for me, I try to avoid/substitute where possible and if I’m organised enough I’ll dry/freeze them. I have an old blog post on that here.

I’ve also started to grow my own but only have a very small selection at the moment as I’m very good at killing plants, so I’ll keep you all updated on the progress.

Anyway, this week I had a lot of dill left over (which is allegedly 10 days past it’s Best Before date but is still looking pretty good looking to me). I figured it was something that would probably go quite well with gin as I consider it to have that same spring fresh taste as cucumber which compliments some gins very well.

A quick internet search threw up this wonderful Gin Dill Mojito from Meg is Well and I can now safely say, I’ll never have leftover dill again. This months gin of choice from Craft Gin Club is Cuckoo Gin from my home county of Lancashire. (If you refuse to count Greater Manchester as a county that is). I’m now wondering what other herbs would go well in cocktails, any suggestions?

Ingredients (serves 1) – original recipe from Meg is Well.

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Weekly Meal Plan – 20.05.2021

It’s been a long old time since I last blogged and a lot has changed. I’ve had a baby, moved house, joined Instagram and lived through a global pandemic. My one constant through all this time though has been my commitment to food-waste and my love of a weekly meal plan. Therefore it seems apt that my first post back is about how I meal plan, the recipes will follow throughout the week.

When to meal plan?

This is completely dependent on when you have the time to do so and when you’re planning on doing your weekly shop. For me I tend to meal plan twice a week for 3/4 days at a time, the reason for this is that I receive my weekly vegetable box from Oddbox on a Wednesday morning and I hate going to the supermarket at the weekend, therefore on a Wednesday, I tend to meal plan from Wednesday through to Sunday and do one large weekly shop for everything I need to see me through to the end of the week. When I get to Sunday, I then review the contents left-over in my fridge and plan the meals for the Mon/Tues. Leaving a few days blank in the meal plan also leaves a bit of leeway if something hasn’t gone to plan such as an impromptu night out (extremely rare in these days of Coronavirus) or a lazy emergency pizza night after a long day at work.

For a lot of people meal planning at the weekend might be best and it might make more sense to leave the weekends unplanned if they’re the times you are most likely to eat elsewhere/off-plan. This is something you need to make fit in with your own personal life-style.

Where to start?

I always start by cleaning my fridge on a Tuesday night and assessing any left-over ingredients that might have been forgotten about, my fridge is normally pretty empty by the end of the week so this isn’t a big job. The leftover ingredients from the previous week will be the ones I aim to use up first.

When my Oddbox arrives, I then look at all the ingredients together and try to come up with a number of recipes for the week ahead, incorporating as many of the ingredients as I possibly can.

Where to get inspiration?

For this part I use a combination of sources; my own personal experience & ideas, the internet and recipe books. As an idea, below are the ingredients I have this week.

IMG_1360IMG_1357

The first picture is of the leftovers from the previous week, and the second picture is of the Oddbox ingredients received this week.

Of the old ingredients which I want to use first, I couldn’t think of any combination containing courgette & red cabbage but the internet tells me that a Chana Dal is a good option so I’ll be adapting this recipe from One Green Planet. This recipe is great as I can also throw in the coriander and spinach, I also know that I have the chana dal / split lentils in my cupboard.

Moving on to the other ingredients, my boyfriend saw the celeriac and asked for a gratin which will make use of the potato, onion & half of the celeriac, we’ll get at least 4 servings out of this and the only additional ingredient I’ll need to purchase is some form of cream. I’ll probably throw in some of the Rosemary and serve it with pork chops as pork and celeriac go really well together.

Each week Oddbox suggest a recipe in their news-letter, this week they suggested a pesto pasta using up the peppers. This is a super quick & simple mid week dinner that I’ll make 4 portions of and have the leftovers for lunch.

I fancy keeping the broccoli simple, so I’ll serve this as a side with some fish and also use the tomato, onions & coriander to make an accompanying salsa.

For the additional courgettes I had no inspiration this week so I picked up one of my recipe books and searched for courgette recipes. The first one that came up was a Chorizo & Courgette Salad from the Hairy Bikers One Pot Wonder book. I’d never have dreamed of combining these ingredients so I’m excited to try it. 

With my recipe books, I tend to pick a different book each week for inspiration and I find it’s a great way of trying out recipes and actually using the books as opposed to just looking at the pretty pictures.

The above meals incorporate all of the ingredients above except the dill which I’ll probably serve with the fish and I might also consider a salmon, cream cheese & dill bagel for lunch. I confess that I will struggle to get through the whole packet before it’s past it’s best so I’ll probably have to get creative in finding a use for it.

What next?

Next I need to determine what days I’ll be eating each meal on and do the shopping list. For the latter I’ll work through the recipes and figure out do I already have the ingredients I need in, if not can they be substituted for something else, and if not then I’ll add them to my Alexa shopping list. We keep Alexa in the kitchen solely for this purpose and it’s great to be able to add items to the shopping list as you run out of them. Using Alexa in this way means we rarely end up at the supermarket wondering if we do or don’t have something in.

To determine what days to have the meals on, I tend to consider what’s going on that week and what ingredients need using first. I’ll try to use the older or more perishable ingredients  to start with and I also consider what days I’m likely to be the most busy on as these are the days that call for easy recipes or leftovers. My partner and I both work from home at the moment which means we can prep throughout the day sometimes, I’ll often prep my veg at lunch which takes some pressure off in the evening however as we potentially return to the office we may lose this luxury. My other consideration here is what do I want to eat at the weekend, I’d rather have the more unhealthy or naughtier meals at the weekend which is just a mental reward thing for me to differentiate the weekends from mid-week.

Once I’ve done all this, I write the plan up on my kitchen blackboard and that’s it.

Below is the plan for the week ahead (we’re busy on Thurs/Fri which is why the plan doesn’t start until Saturday. I’ve also cancelled next weeks Oddbox as we’ve got plenty of food in to see us through the week), I’ll share more of my plans in the weeks ahead and of course post any recipes that I create.

What are your tips to meal planning, I’d love to hear.

Meal Plan

Saturday

Dinner: Fish w. Broccoli & Salsa

Sunday

Dinner: Celeriac Gratin & Pork Tenderloin

Monday

Lunch: Leftover Pork Sandwich

Dinner: Courgette & Red Cabbage Chana Dal

Tuesday

Lunch: Leftover Courgette & Red Cabbage Chana Dal

Dinner: Leftover Celeriac Gratin w. Eggs & Pancetta

Wednesday

Lunch: Salmon, Cream Cheese & Dill Bagel

Dinner: Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

Thursday

Lunch: Leftover Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

Dinner: Chorizo & Courgette Salad

Fridat

Lunch: Leftover Chorizo & Courgette Salad

Dinner: TBC

Pinto bean chilli and taco shells

Growing up, my mother struggled to get me to eat my greens, and if anything had even the slightest fleck of spice or herb, a food tantrum would ensue.  Over the years, I've managed to introduce so many vegetables and flavours into my diet that I'll now happily eat meals that contain purely vegetables without complaint.

This dish here is made with a whole host of leftover vegetables but the main star of this dish is the dried pinto beans which are a good staple to keep in stock for bulking out meat free dishes into cheap, nutritious and protein filled dinners.

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g pinto beans
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 x garlic cloves crushed
  • 6 x mushrooms chopped
  •  1 x carrot diced
  • 1 x red pepper
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 1x green birds eye chillies
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 300 ml veg stock
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD

Soak beans overnight & cook according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile cook the onion and garlic for 2 mins before adding the spices and chilli and continuing to fry for a further 2 minutes

Add all of the other ingredients and cook for 2 mins before adding the vegetable stock. Stir well and scrape all of the spices off the bottom of pan.

Finally add the tomatoes, oregano and bay leaf, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Limp lettuce

Lettuce!!! I love a crispy iceberg, but nothing upsets me more than when it's started to turn brown and limp its way towards the bin.

I thought hey, there's got to be a solution, and according to the internet there is. Ideas range from storing your lettuce in water (too messy), separating all the leaves and storing each layer between kitchen roll (too fussy) and my favourite…cooking it!

Now this sounded weird to me at first but I thought id give it a whirl, there's various recipes in this excellent Guardian article such as lettuce soup, lettuce pesto or my personal favourite – stir fry.

Lettuce stir fry sounds strange but really what's the difference between a Chinese cabbage and a lettuce? In the grand scheme of things, absolutely nothing.

So I followed recipe number two from the above article and to test out its success, I served it to my better half without mentioning the secret ingredient, and guess what – approval all round.

Never again will the be a limping lettuce in my salad drawer again.

Cheese and Bacon Pin-wheels

A while ago, I posted a recipe idea for puff pastry pinwheels which can be served as a tasty crowd pleaser when entertaining, or with a salad as a quick and easy mid week meal.

The best thing about these pinwheels is that you can make them with a whole host of leftover ingredients including cheese, vegetables and meat. They are also super easy and quite fun to prepare, so why not get the kids to help you out with this recipe during the summer holidays?

Here’s a recipe with my favourite combination of cheese & bacon, but I’d love to hear what ingredients other people use in their creations.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 x bacon rashes, diced
  • 250g pre-made puff pastry
  • 100g Wensleydale cheese, grated
  • 50g blue cheese, crumbled
  • Tomato purée

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200c or as per the puff pastry packet instructions.

Fry the bacon for a couple of minutes, until it starts to brown.

Roll out the puff pastry, squeeze over the tomato puree and spread, ensuring the whole sheet is covered.

Sprinkle the pastry with the cheese and bacon, or whatever ingredients you are using. (In this instance, no seasoning is needed, as both the bacon and blue cheese are already very salty).

Cut the pastry into 8 strips, approx. 2cm wide each and then roll each strip into a wheel.

Place the wheels on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden in colour.

Store Cupboard Essentials

In many of my recipes I talk about using store cupboard essentials, which are items that I deem to be kitchen cupboard staples, ingredients that can turn the most mundane leftovers into a tasty wholesome family meals and so I thought that it was only right to share with you what these items are.

OLIVE OIL – not only used for frying but also great for making marinades and salad dressings. I never buy pre-made dressings as they tend to go off quickly and can contain many additives, home made dressings can be whipped up with very simple combinations of oil, vinegar or lemon and herbs.

WHITE WINE VINEGAR – as above, it’s great for salad dressings and marinades and can also be used to add acidity to a large range of dishes.

SOY SAUCE, SESAME OIL & HONEY – the holy trinity for any Asian cuisine enthusiasts out there, these three ingredients make a great base for a quick teriyaki sauce and can also be coupled with other ingredients to open up a huge array of Asian inspired recipes.

WORCESTER SAUCE – I believe that this is a traditional English ingredient and I’m not sure of it’s availability worldwide but it is an excellent tool for adding a bit of je ne sais quo to casseroles and a Kung Fu kick to the humble cheese on toast.

RED CHILLIS/ CHILLI FLAKES – an instant flavour hit, chilli is used in many cuisines, fresh red chillies can be cut, deseeded and stored in the freezer but if this sounds like too much effort, dried chilli flakes also make an excellent substitute.

FLOUR – simple flat breads or rotis can be knocked up in minutes with the addition of a bit of salt or sugar, flour can also be used to whip up a white sauce for pasta and to thicken up casseroles.

EGGS – one of the few fresh ingredients that I insist on keeping in stock. Omelettes are a speedy and simple way to use up leftover vegetables and cheese and the humble egg is also a fabulous source of protein.

GARLIC – not much to say here apart from that it’s used in pretty much every dish I cook, also ignore the best before date as it’s pretty obvious if garlic’s off when it changes colour or dries up

TOMATO KETCHUP – yes indeed, believe it or not but many chefs use ketchup as a flavour agent; it can be used in casseroles and stir-fries as an effective sweetener

STOCK CUBES – I always have beef, vegetable and chicken stock cubes in as they are the bases of many sauces, simple gravy can also be made with flour, butter, water and a stock cube. If you make your own stocks you can freeze in ice trays to be use at a later date.

TINNED TOMATOES – one of the most versatile ingredients out there, there’s absolutely no need to buy expensive jars of pasta sauce as the humble tinned tomato can be the base for creating your own.

PASTA/RICE/NOODLES – dried items that have a long shelf life can be used as the carb portion of your meal when you have fresh ingredients to use up.

HERBS – so many herbs to chose from but no need to but them all. Whilst fresh herbs might not go off, they do lose their flavour. Many herbs can be used as substitutes for another, make sure to check out website here before you run out to buy a new jar of something you don’t have. I’d recommend having mixed herbs, paprika and chilli powder in as a start.  You can even create your own dried herbs by drying out leftover fresh herbs.

And that’s it, a rather comprehensive list of almost all imperishable ingredients that can help to make a delicious dish out of pretty much any leftover.

Sausage & bean winter casserole

It’s supposed to be spring but it’s still absolutely freezing outside so I’m resorting to cooking casseroles to keep me warm. From a food waste perspective casseroles are an absolute dream; it’s a dish that you can produce by mixing the simplest ingredients together and turn into something tasty by throwing in a few store cupboard essentials such as stock cubes, tomato sauce or Worcester sauce.

The humble sausage is the main basis for this meal, a cheap and tasty ingredient that can be used to create a hearty protein filled evening meal. A lot of the other ingredients in this recipe were from my freezer, I needed to empty my freezer as I was moving house and this recipe enabled me to use up loads of fresh ingredients that I’d previously frozen. You can find tips on freezing fresh items here and I promise that I will do a follow up blog post soon with further tips.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 x sausages cut into 2.5cm chunks
  • 400g pinto beans
  • 2 x sticks celery roughly chopped
  • 2 x carrots sliced
  • 1 x onion thinly sliced
  • 1 x parsnip diced
  • 8 x mushrooms cut into quarters
  • 16 x cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 x cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 x red chilli finely sliced
  • 1 x tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1 x bay leaf
  • Dash of Worcester sauce

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.

Fry the sausages for approximately 4 minutes or until browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until the onions start to soften.

Add the crushed garlic and sliced red chilli and cook for 1 minute before adding the paprika, stir well so that all the ingredients are covered in the spice and cook for a further minute.

Add the white wine or a splash of stock to the pot and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon, turn up the heat and bring the casserole to the boil, continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half.

Add all the remaining vegetables to the pan, bring back to the boil and cook for 3 minutes before returning the sausages to the pan.

If using, add the cherry tomatoes to the pan along with the stock, Worcester sauce and seasoning. Bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 40 minutes, adding more stock if needed.

Finally remove the lid, add the pinto beans and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, serve with crusty bread.

TIPS

If you prefer a thicker sauce add a tbsp of flour towards the end, or more if required.

Substitute the vegetables for any others that you need to use up.

Wine Ice Cubes

On the 8th day of Christmas…

Wine Ice Cubes

Following on from yesterday’s post for using up leftover prosecco to make jellies, here is another alcohol inspired tip.

If following the new year your liver can’t quite face finishing off any leftover wine but you can’t bear to throw the final dregs away, a good idea is to freeze the remnants into ice cubes that can later be used for cooking as and when recipes call for it. Not only does this mean you get to avoid tipping any leftover wine down the sink, but also that you don’t have to open an entire new bottle when a recipe may only call for a splash.

I freeze any leftover wine in ice cube trays, once frozen I tend to remove from the ice trays and store in freezer bags. If you’re a meticulous cook, you can always measure the volume of each ice cube  so you now how many to use in a recipe, however I must admit that I always just throw in an indiscriminate amount of ice cubes when needed, either taking them out to defrost in advance or sometimes just throwing them in still frozen.

It’s a great tip that can also be used to freeze items such as leftover stock, curry pastes or lemon/lime juice. In fact I’m a big advocate of freezing ingredients when I’m unable to use them up before they’re likely to spoil and have written about this previously  here, if you’d like some further ideas.