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.

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.

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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

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.

Cheese, Onion & Potato Pasties

I’d managed to overbuy some potatoes for this weeks meals, and having already peeled & diced the potato, I wasn’t quite sure what I could do with the leftovers.  It turns out that potatoes can be frozen, providing that they are blanched first to prevent them from turning black.  To blanch potatoes, you simply immerse in boiling water for about 4 minutes before quickly transferring into a bowl of iced cold water until cooled (about 10 minutes).  Once cool, dry the potatoes using kitchen roll or a tea towel and transfer to freezer bags before placing in the freezer to be used at a later date.

As well as the potatoes, I also had a packet of puff pastry left over from a family party where I’d used it for canapés, and as a Northerner born and bred, I love a good pasty, I already had some cheddar cheese in the fridge so Cheese, onion & potato pasty was the obvious choice for me.

 Whilst I could have just gone ahead and made Cheddar cheese & onion pasties, I love the bitterness of white crumbly cheeses, such as Lancashire & Wensleydale, so I decided to use a mix of Cheddar & Lancashire cheese in my pasties, but any cheese you have to hand will do.

As a side note, ready made puff pastry is one of my favourite time saving ingredients, you can do so much with it; canapés, pies, a twist on a pizza etc. and the results always look really impressive, when in reality, you haven’t had to try that hard, as you’ll see from the following recipe.

20140413-202229.jpgINGREDIENTS

  • Knob butter
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 small potato, cubed
  • 375g packet of puff pasty
  • 75g cheddar cheese
  • 75g white crumbly cheese

Serves 4

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180c

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over gentle heat

Add the onions and potatoes and sweat over a low heat with the lid on for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally

Season well with crushed black pepper (I tend to avoid adding salt as it should get this from the cheese & butter)

Mix in the grated cheese and allow to cool otherwise the heat from the mixture will make the pastry difficult to work with

Whilst the potato & onions are cooling, cut the pastry into 4 circles approx. 6cm diameter (I use a bowl to measure). You’ll find that you will need to reroll the in order to get all 4 circles

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Add about a quarter of the mixture to one half of each pastry circle; leave about 1/2 cm gap between the mixture and the edge of the pastry. Don’t overfill the circles with mixture or you’ll find it difficult to close your pasty.

Fold each circle in half and press the edges together with fingers or a fork, cut a couple of small incisions in the top of each pasty

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Brush the pasties with egg and place in oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown

TIPS

Egg works best for glazing the pasties, as it will give nice golden colour but you can use milk if you’d prefer (which I did in this recipe)

If you have too much mixture for your pasties, bake it in oven for 15-20 minutes and it will make a lovely accompaniment for a meal

The pasties can be frozen when cooled and are equally delicious, whether served hot or cold

Wild Mushroom Parcels

One of the ingredients I had to use up in this weeks batch cooking attempt was a packet of Filo pastry that had been festering in my freezer for a bit too long.

I generally find Filo pastry really difficult to work with and I also find that it doesn’t freeze very well despite the packet recommending that it’s perfectly fine to keep frozen for up to a month.

Searching through my cupboards and freezer I discovered that had some leftover dried porcini mushrooms, dried apricots, some chicken breasts and some flaked almonds. From these ingredients I decided two dishes that I could cook up were some Wild Mushroom Parcels and a Chicken, Apricot & Almond Pie (recipe to follow).

The only additional ingredients that I needed to buy to enable me to create both of these dishes were some cream (or I used Crème Fraiche), a packet of button mushrooms and an onion. And here is how I created the Filo Mushroom Parcels.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 x Sheets Filo Pastry
  • 6 x Porcini Mushrooms (Soaked and Chopped)
  • 300g Button Mushrooms (Washed & Sliced)
  • 1 x Onion (Finely Chopped)
  • 200ml Crème Fraiche or Cream
  • 2 x Garlic Cloves (Crushed)
  • Dash of Stock or White wine (optional)
  • Knob of Butter
  • Parsley (Dried or Fresh)

METHOD

Soak Porcini mushrooms according to the packet instructions (save water for later).

Preheat oven to 180c

Heat butter over a medium heat in a saucepan; once melted, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions soften and become translucent.

Add in chopped button and Porcini mushrooms and continue to cook for a further five minutes.

Once mushrooms have started to soften, add in a dash of stock or white wine (I used frozen wine ice cubes that I’d made from left-over wine) and continue to cook the mushrooms over a low heat until the stock has reduced by half.

Add in 200ml cream (or Crème Fraiche) and some parsley, cook the mushroom mixture for a further 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and become a rich brown colour. For additional richness you can add in some of the water used to soak the Porcini mushrooms.

Season to taste before removing the mixture from heat and allowing to cool slightly.

Fold the Filo pastry into a triangular shape and place 2-3 tbsps (depending how big you want your parcels to be) of the mushroom mixture in the centre of the pastry.

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Fold the corners of the triangle into the centre to create a parcel and brush with milk or egg to seal.

Place the parcels in the pre-heated oven and cook for 15-20 mins until golden brown.

TIPS

You don’t have to use Porcini mushrooms if not available, normal mushrooms will do just fine.

Why not add some chilli flakes or bacon for additional flavour.

If you don’t have Filo pastry, the filling would also taste great with puff pastry or topped on a bruschetta with a sprinkle of Parmesan for some cheesy goodness.

The cooked parcels can be frozen and reheated at a later date.

As mentioned at the beginning of my post, I find Filo pastry incredibly difficult to work with and probably will refrain from buying it in future and I’ll definitely avoid freezing it.  Due to the crumbliness of the pastry I struggled to actually form a parcel so the finished product looked a bit misshapen. I certainly wouldn’t win any points on Masterchef for presentation, but the parcels tasted great and I managed to get rid of a couple of ingredients that had been lurking in my cupboards/freezer for a bit too long.

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