Hi-ho, hi-ho it’s back to work we go

January 10, 2013 in Food and cookery

It was back to work for many of us this week, including Himself and I, and I don’t know about you but I’ve had a little trouble re-adjusting to the nine-to-five routine again. Getting out of bed at 5:30 when you’re used to 7:30 takes some time to get accustomed to again.

I’ve also been struggling with meals, from the planning to the preparation, which has left me feeling frustrated to say the least. I really needed a good kick up the behind but wasn’t sure what that kick had to be. As luck would have it an email from one of my favourite recipe websites popped into my mailbox so, in order to extend the meal-planning procrastination further, I opened the mail and followed the links through to the website to read the latest articles. The website in turn popped up a reminder that I hadn’t added anything to my recipe binder recently and “halleluja”, my epiphany occured. I had completely forgotten about the recipe binder function and when I went into it I found that when I had added recipes I had sorted them into categories to make my life easier in the future. That future had just happened and I dived into the Weekday Meals section without further ado.

It was a wonderful reminder of things I had cooked in the past which hadn’t come to mind right away when I was trying to put a meal plan together for the week. I had done a thorough fruit, vegetable and pantry restocking the prior week and the only constraint I imposed upon myself is that the week’s meals had to evolve out of what I already had on hand, no running to the shops to pick up one or two ingredients for specific recipes.

Tip 1
Those pantry essentials that are listed at the front of most recipe books these days (Jamie Oliver is particularly good with that kind of thing) – keep them on hand, it makes knocking up a meal from what’s on hand a whole lot easier.

Discovery 1
Challenging myself to not buy anything extra really brought out the creative side of me as I felt less bound to follow recipes rigidly. Sometimes we need a bit more spontaneity in our cookery.

Here’s how I used my staples and freezer stock this week…

– Chicken prego rolls using rolls and prepared pregos which I had in the freezer, excess from a barbecue function a few months ago.

– Frozen fish, a can of coconut milk and some storecupboard spices became a fragrant fish mollee (recipe below);
– Tuesday’s dinner of stuffed pita’s came courtesy of lamb mince and pita breads (both from the freezer), fresh mint and parsely (from the garden) and a few warming, middle eastern spices like cumin and coriander. Combined with tzaziki and grilled, marinated aubergines this was good enough to beat a take-away any day of the week and leftovers went on to become the next day’s lunch.
– Linguine carbonara was the order of the day on Monday thanks to frozen bacon and a carton of long life cream.
– A semi-stale ciabatta bread was reincarnated as a beautiful tomatoe, basil and olive bruschetta and accompanied a roast chicken (freezer) and braised greens (using some past best green veg lurking at the back of the fridge) one evening. Again, leftovers were judiciously used for the following day’s lunch bags.

So, as you can see, we ate very well indeed without a single extra trip to the supermarket.

The important things to remember are:
– Let your ingredients inspire and guide you. Don’t be a slave to the recipe book.
– Take a few minutes each night to think about the next day’s meals so that you can take the necessary things out of the freezer in good time.
– Don’t throw any food away without considering what else can be done with it. That amazing bruschetta I mentioned above would never have graced our plates if I had just tossed out a stale old lump of bread without another thought (and how many of us do that). By the way, stale bread can be cubed and frozen to be whizzed into crumbs or fried as croutons at a later date (use your common sense here, if it’s growing hair or some hitherto undiscovered form of life, then toss it).

And my very personal tip – the prego rolls (the bread bun bit) at Sloane Meat Market in Bryanston are the business. They freeze exceptionally well and defrost in under 2 hours in summer. I always keep at least a dozen in my freezer for hamburgers, pregos, salad rolls, garlic bread, croutons, breadcrumbs etc etc. In other words, they are very useful.

Curry for beginners (cooks and diners alike)

This mild and fragrant curry is suitable for the whole family and a good way to introduce children to more exotic spices. You can use any white fish but something meaty like monkfish or yellowtail will work particularly well. If you use something more delicate, such as hake, reduce your final cooking time a little to prevent the fish from disintegrating.

500g white fish, cut into 2.5cm cubes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1.5 tsp turmeric
Juice of a lemon
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp prepared ginger
A few curry leaves (optional)
1 green chilli, deseeded but left in one piece
1 tin coconut milk, approx 400ml
A handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
Fresh coriander for garnishing

– Mix the fish, cumin, coriander. turmeric and lemon juice together in a non metallic bowl and allow to marinate for 1-2 hours.
– Heat a little sunflower oil and add onion, curry leaves, garlic, ginger and chilli. Gently sweat the onion and spices for a few minutes.
– Add the marinated fish and juices to the pan together with the coconut milk.
– Season with salt and pepper.
– Reduce heat and simmer until the fish is cooked, around 10 miutes depending on the type of fish you are using.
– Check spiciness at intervals and if the sauce is becoming too fiery for your liking remove the chilli. By keeping the chilli whole when adding it to the pan it is easier to find and fish out when you need to.
– When the fish is cooked adjust the seasoning, stir through the tomaotoes and serve with steamed rice.

If you want to elevate the flavouring even more, try adding a teaspoon of fish sauce and a good squeeze of lemon or lime juice at the end.

And so it’s downhill to the weekend. See you on the other side.


4 responses to Hi-ho, hi-ho it’s back to work we go

  1. Very inspiring!!!!

  2. I enjoyed reading your Blog. I wish I could cook like that. You should enter Master Chef.

  3. Where do you get the time? Fantastic ideas, and you ‘re-cycle’.?
    Brilliant blog Jen…. so proud of you

  4. Interesting and fun read

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