I'm a firm believer in cooking from scratch. I've tried ready meals and hated them all. There is not a thing that I've discovered that I cannot make better myself. When you've got kids you have to cook, it's the best thing for them. I added a well known parenting site to my Tweet list last week (they shall remain nameless for the time being) and since then I've had a constant stream of tweets regarding fussy eating and faux wining about being a bad mother because they feed their kids fish fingers and tweets regarding their offspring's preference for Super Noodles over broccoli. Now, I'm not aware of any two or three year old who can enter a kitchen, get a saucepan, open up the packet, add water, get cutlery and a plate and tip the boiling hot contents onto said plate. I'm pretty sure there would've been a Channel Four documentary about that child by now...
There are times when none of us can be bothered to cook, that you could just collapse on the couch. That feeling also extends to getting the stuff ready for school in the morning, bathing children, resistance to bedtime etc, etc. We seem to muster up the energy to do these tasks but not to spend half an hour cooking a meal. I feel like that often. But if I were to give into that feeling we would live on take-aways and pizza. So with a bit of fortitude, we have to be arsed and get out the pots and pans. I love to splurge on treats and meals out and I can because my conscious is clear as we eat well at home. I wish that people would speak to each other on these sites about cooking and/or feeding kids decent meals so tips and short cuts could be shared more easily and it would seem achievable plus all the hand wringing about feeding kids crap could stop.
So here is how I do our midweek meals. I'm not being a smug bastard, just showing one way of doing it. I'd love feed back and to hear about your own midweek routines. There was a lot of meat on offer this last week in Waitrose, so it's a carnivore carnival. Here is some of the dishes we had last week and these recipes take only 30 - 40 minutes to make.
Roast Pork Ramen
- 400g piece pork fillet (one vacuum packet weighs this much and costs about £3-4)
- 750ml chicken stock
- 1 garlic clove , bruised
- large chunk root ginger , sliced
- 2 red chilli , 1 split, 1 sliced
- 2 pak choi , quartered
- 250g pack ready-to-use ramen noodles (from Waitrose) or cook 125g thread egg noodles
- sesame oil
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- a pinch chilli flakes
- Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. To make the marinade mix 1 tsp sesame oil with the rest of the marinade, ingredients and roll the pork in it. Leave for 10 minutes then roast for 25 minutes, basting halfway through.
- Meanwhile put the stock, garlic, ginger and split chilli in a pan and simmer gently for 5 minutes then strain out all the bits. Simmer the pak choy in the soup stock until tender.
- Blanch the noodles, drain and divide between two bowls. Add the pak choy and pour over the stock. Slice the pork and divide between the bowls. Finish with sliced chillies if you like.
Pork Pan Fry (Serve with mash and salad)
- 400g pork tenderloins fillet
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 250g chestnut mushrooms , sliced
- 1 fat garlic clove , finely chopped
- 300ml vegetable stock
- Coat the pork: Cut the pork diagonally into finger-thick slices. Tip the flour and rosemary into a large plastic food bag, add some salt and pepper and the pork, and toss until the meat is well coated.
- Start cooking: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large wide frying pan. Add the pork and fry for about 3-4 minutes until nicely browned on both sides, turning once. Remove from the pan.
- Fry the mushrooms: Heat the remaining oil in the pan, tip in the mushrooms and fry until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the garlic and return the pork to the pan with any flour left in the bag. Stir in the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the pork is cooked.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions , finely chopped
- 2 carrots , finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves , crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 x 400g/14oz cans chopped tomatoes
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the vegetables and bay leaf. Stir in the sugar with some salt. Gently cook for 10-15 mins until the veg is tender. Stir in the tomatoes and 150ml water. Simmer very gently for 30 mins until the sauce has reduced by two-thirds and is very thick. (If you have doubled or tripled the quantities, this may take up to 1 hr.)
- Stir occasionally, particularly towards the end of the cooking time, so that the sauce doesn't catch on the bottom. If you like your sauce a little thinner, add a splash of water. Serve half with pasta and chill or freeze other half in 1-2 batches for later use.
- 8 large sausages (course-cut ones like Toulouse or Cumberland are ideal)
- ¼ quantity tomato sauce (see above)
- 3 x 400g/14oz cans butter beans or any beans you have in your store cupboard
- 1 tbsp black treacle or muscovado sugar
- 1 tsp English mustard
- In a large casserole, fry the sausages until brown all over - about 10 mins.
- Add the tomato sauce, stirring well, then stir in the beans, treacle or sugar and mustard. Bring to the simmer, cover and cook for 30 mins. Great served with crusty bread or rice.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 chicken leg portions, skin on
- 2 red peppers , deseeded and cut into strips
- 1 medium red chilli , deseeded and sliced
- glass red wine (about 175ml/6fl oz)
- ½ quantity tomato sauce
- 1-2 handfuls black olives
- chopped flatleaf parsley , to serve
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Heat the oil in a deep, ovenproof roasting pan that's big enough to fit the chicken in a single layer. Season the chicken pieces all over, then place the pan on the hob and cook on a medium heat for 7-10 mins on each side until well browned. Scoop out the chicken with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
- Add the peppers and chilli to the pan (there should still be plenty of fat left in it) and cook for 10 mins until soft and beginning to brown at the edges. Pour away any excess fat, then pour in the wine and stir well for 1-2 mins as it bubbles up. Tip the tomato sauce into the pan and stir again. Add a little water (up to 150ml) to achieve a thick, pouring consistency. Nestle the chicken into the sauce and scatter with the olives. Cover, bake for 30 mins, then uncover and cook for 15-20 mins more to allow the chicken to crisp up. Spoon off any fat that has risen to the surface, scatter with parsley and serve with some rice, mashed potato or polenta.