I feel like I need to preface this post by making it clear that I do not consider myself to be a seasoned chef, a professional cook or a food connoisseur. I enjoy cooking, sure, but I’m rarely allowed to as my dear husband does consider himself to be all of the above. He will occasionally acknowledge me as his sous chef, but more often than not, I’m just plain old pot wash.
However, I do take pride in my role as Chief Supermarket Shopper and Weekly Meal Planner, and most Sunday mornings you will find me sat up in bed with a cup of tea and two snoozing boys beside me (husband and cat), planning the following week’s meals and writing the shopping list. This is always made considerably more difficult when I’m hungover as I was this Sunday morning. Unable to think of anything other than ‘bacon’ and ‘oh god, my head really hurts’, I pondered (for the 100th time) how I really should write up a big old list of our tried and tested simple weekday meals to pick and choose from when inspiration lacks.
So I thought I’d turn it in to a bit of a series on The Utter Blog. A food blog this ain’t, but we all need to eat, and Lordy knows weekdays are for quick, simple meals that are full of flavour and contain at least two portions of veg. I reiterate- some of these meals may seem very basic, but hopefully there’ll be one or two over the series that you’ve never made before and/or serve as some sort of inspiration for when you’re hungover and unable to think creatively. Equally I LOVE to get meal ideas from other people, so if you fancy sharing what you’re having for dinner tonight, or have a suggested weekday meal you think I should try, then please do leave a comment. Sharing is caring, people.
Warning: I’m assuming you can all cook so my methods will be short and sweet.
Additional warning: Paul and I eat a ridiculous amount of chilli and garlic.
1. Spicy Sausage Pasta
Pop the sausages of your choice under the grill and cook per package instructions. (We favour Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Chorizo-style sausages for this particular dish.) Finely dice a white onion, chilli, red pepper and several cloves of garlic, and lightly fry in olive oil until soft. At this point I would add chestnut mushrooms to this frying pan party, but Paul INSISTS on cooking the mushrooms in butter and in a separate pan first ‘because they’re full of water’ before adding them in to the mix. Go mental with dried rosemary and thyme, season with salt and loads of black pepper and finally pour over a can of chopped tomatoes before turning the heat down and simmering gently.
Cook the pasta of your choice as per package instructions (we favour penne or rigatoni) and once the sausages are cooked, chop in to chunks and add to the sauce. Mix in to the cooked pasta, go wild with parmesan, and serve with a rocket salad if you fancy a bit of green.
(Additional extra: If I’m cooking this dish I’ll swirl a bit of cream in to the sauce too, but Paul gets very angry then because he ‘doesn’t like creamy sauces’.)
2. Pesto Fish with Roasted New Pots and a Trio of Veg
This is pretty much what it says on the tin. Cut baby new potatoes in half, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for half an hour. With 15 minutes to go, get your chunky white fish of choice (pollock is nice and cheap) and smear a teaspoon of green pesto on top. Wrap in foil and bake in the oven until cooked to your preference. With 5 minutes to go, chop up and lightly sauté (fry and toss) asparagus, courgette and cherry tomatoes until just cooked, and serve with a big dollop of mayonnaise.
3. Holly’s Poulet Brêton
Inspired by the Cafe Rouge dish, my friend Holly cooked this for me once and I’ve made my own version several times since. Paul gets angry when I make it because it’s creamy and there’s a distinct lack of chilli, but he can’t deny it’s tasty.
Peel your spuds and get them boiling in salted water for mashed potato later on. In a large frying pan, cook onion, garlic, leek, courgette and chestnut mushrooms in olive oil until soft. Add lots of thyme and black pepper and pour over 3/4 of a pint of chicken stock. The final ingredient is Garlic and Herb Philadelphia, a good half a tub will do. Add it to the pan and cook on a reasonably high heat, stirring regularly until the sauce starts to thicken, then turn down and simmer gently.
Mash your potatoes as you like (we use milk, butter, salt and white pepper), and set aside to keep warm. Cut chicken breast in to small strips and flash fry in a separate pan on very high heat for 2-3 minutes, adding a knob of butter halfway through to brown. Add to the creamy sauce and serve with the mash straight away. A bit of fresh parsley on top wouldn’t do any harm either.
4. My Mama’s Simple Salmon Stir-Fry
My mum taught me the basis of this quick and easy stir fry when I first moved in to a flatshare, but we cook it aaaaaall the time now as it’s packed full of veg and flavour. We usually have it with salmon or prawns, hence the fish sauce, but if you prefer it with beef, chicken or pork then just miss this particularly pungent ingredient out.
Wrap salmon fillets in foil and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Finely dice onion, red chilli, garlic and ginger and lightly fry until soft, adding the garlic last to avoid burning. This stir fry is best with an abundance of colourful veg which we usually buy in packs to save time- but carrot, red pepper, mange tout, baby sweetcorn, mushrooms and endamame beans are usually staple ingredients. Add to the pan and cook gently. Add a splash of white wine vinegar, a splash of fish sauce, a splash of sesame oil and several splashes of soy sauce. Lastly add 1/4 a pint of chicken stock and season to taste. Serve on a bed of white rice, place the salmon fillets on top and pour the stir-fry juice all over to finish.
5. Cajun Chicken with Homemade Wedges, Corn on the Cob and ‘Slaw
Another basic but favourite dish, this is good for the end of the week when you’re feeling a bit naughty. Wrap your rolling pin in cling film and beat the living daylights out of your chicken breasts until even and flattened. Marinate in olive oil and loads of cajun spice for as long as you can. Cut your potatoes in to wedges, drizzle with a mixture of olive and vegetable oil, season heavily and roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes (the longer the crispier).
Get your griddle pan nice and hot and sear the chicken for a minute each side before turning the heat down and cooking for a further 5. Serve with corn on the cob and shop-bought coleslaw. If it’s a Friday night and you’re feeling particularly decadent, grate some cheese over the wedges for those extra calories you really don’t need. So bad but soooooo good.
So do any of these take your fancy? It’s pesto fish for me tonight, but I’d love to know about you. Let’s talk food and make ourselves hungry…