Tag Archives: food

Week 8 – easy all-in-one turkey roast

Having picked up a rolled 1.5kg piece of turkey breast at a bargain price the other week, I went in search of a suitable recipe for how to roast it – it needed to be something not too awfully complicated and that wouldn’t mean spending the entire afternoon in the kitchen. After quite some searching around and drawing a blank, M found this recipe (in German) and we decided to follow it. I haven’t found a direct equivalent in English so am going to write up my version of it here, including some modifications to the original. It was amazingly tasty, and the best thing about it was that you had the meat, vegetables and a magically generated gravy all in one roasting tin…

Stuffed rolled turkey joint with vegetables

Ingredients

2-3 cloves of garlic, cut into slivers
75g fresh spinach (we actually used a bag of baby-leaf salad, containing spinach, chard and rocket)
a medium-sized onion, finely chopped
125g mozzarella, diced (I might try feta next time)
1.3-1.5kg rolled turkey joint (the original recipe suggested the piece should be about 3cm thick)
6 slices Parma ham (or equivalent variety)
2tbsp olive oil
750ml chicken stock
200ml dry white wine
1kg root vegetables, cut into largish bite-sized chunks (I used potatoes, carrots, celeriac)
250g shallots, peeled (halved or quartered if larger ones)
several peeled, whole cloves of garlic (optional)
fresh thyme
 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C or equivalent. Roll out the turkey on a chopping board. Make small incisions in it and push the garlic slivers into these. Then lay the ham slices over the turkey, followed by the spinach leaves (removing any thick stalks beforehand), chopped onion and mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper, and you could also sprinkle over some thyme. Then roll up the turkey as tightly as you can and tie it up securely with kitchen string. Place in the centre of a generously sized roasting tin (any stuffing that fell out during the rolling process can be placed under the joint) and brush with olive oil  – you might not need the whole 2tbsp if the turkey still has skin on it. Mix the chicken stock and wine in a jug and ladle some of this over the meat before putting it into the oven for 45 minutes. You will probably need to ladle over some more of the liquid once or twice during this time so that the bottom of the pan doesn’t dry out and burn.

2. When the 45 minutes have elapsed, add the vegetables to the tin, along with some fresh thyme and the rest of the reserved liquid. Give the veg a good stir in the juices, then return the pan to the oven for another 45 minutes.

3. Leave the meat to rest briefly when it is done, then cut into thick slices and serve with the vegetables and gravy.

turkey

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Week 2 – taking stock and tackling nasties

Well, after the excitement of some new furniture and redistributing stuff in the first week of the year, week 2 was rather more sedate and more a case of small jobs (plus one big one which I didn’t do myself but will report nevertheless).

First things first, though: It had been bothering me for ages that a cupboard above the fridge that had been transformed from a junk hoarding place into a – in theory at least – practical storecupboard for spare tins, jars and packets of food had ended up really not very practical at all, given that I wasn’t actually tall enough to either see or reach the things right at the back. Fetching a stool to stand on every time I just wanted to check whether I had something seemed a waste of effort. To cut a long story short, I took all the stuff out, put my baking tins (which are rarely used) into the cupboard instead, where they have a LOT more room and now don’t fall out when I open the door (note to self: maybe this will make me more favourably disposed towards baking in future!), and in turn put the food storecupboard contents into the much more accessible cupboard that the baking tins came out of. Result!

This was also the week that saw me missing the Christmas tree, so what better to do than to go and plunder the post-Christmas sales (up to 70% off!) to buy more (yes, MORE!!) decorations for next year’s tree. I got a pack of eight medium-sized gorgeous orange baubles for about €1.80 plus various other bits of bling – nothing tacky, mind – that will also look rather nice in situ.

The achievement of the week – and now we get to the thing that I can’t really take any credit for – was getting the bathroom into rather better shape than it’s been in for some time, and hopefully sustainable shape, too. The mild, damp winter had led to some mould patches on the ceiling – especially above the shower and by the window – becoming more and more apparent and ominous. So, one day in this second week of the year, M donned his oldest clothes and set to work – carefully! – with rubber gloves, safety glasses, a spray canister of strongish bleach solution, and a scrubby sponge. An hour or two later, the ceiling was spotlessly white (and his clothes, in places, decorated with white spots).

Having removed the surface evidence, we needed to tackle the source of the problem: a bad combination of moisture and poor ventilation. Now here I have a confession to make. In all the 13 years I’ve lived here, there’s been a suction ventilator (is there a technical term for these things?) built into the wall that has never worked, and no one had really thought to investigate its innards as its absence of function wasn’t really an issue until this winter. I’d taken the front cover off a couple of times, thinking there might be a switch inside, but there wasn’t and so I’d simply shrugged, closed it back up and forgotten it again. On this occasion, though, M decided that investigative open-heart surgery was probably needed, so he took off not just the front cover but also unscrewed the outer panel of its inner workings. And guess what: it wasn’t even wired up to the mains, hence the lack of functionality. So we deactivated the mains circuit in the bathroom temporarily while the loose wires were screwed into the right connectors, and now we have a very powerful ventilator that kicks in immediately when you switch the bathroom light on, and switches off with a time delay of 5-10 minutes after you turn the light off again. And it sucks. Which is what it’s supposed to do – you really notice that the steam disappears much more quickly after a shower. It isn’t exactly silent – which is why the people who were in the flat before me might have disconnected it – but compared to mould, I know what I’d rather put up with.

Big thanks to M for his sterling work. xx

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Quick mango and lemon cake

Yesterday I found myself needing to produce a cake fairly quickly and at short notice. I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m not much of a one for baking, and as usual I spent far too long leafing through cookery books and magazines, only to find that I couldn’t find a recipe that I really fancied and that matched the ingredients I had. The one “must-use” ingredient was a very ripe mango that was getting dangerously close to the point at which it would suddenly become not very appetising any more, but all of the (not very many) mango baking recipes I could find were either very complicated, too rich for my taste, or a bit odd sounding (mango and chilli cake, anyone?).

I ended up having to improvise on both the recipe and the final list of ingredients, though the final result was a great success. And now it’s time to write it down before I forget…

Ingredients

1 ripe mango
1tbsp cornflour
a handful of raisins
a dash of lemon or lime juice
150g self-raising flour (or plain flour with a generous teaspoonful of baking powder)
150g soft butter or margarine
125g sugar (I used fine light cane sugar)
150g ground nuts (I used half almonds, half hazelnuts)
1tsp ground cinnamon
½tsp ground nutmeg
½tsp ground allspice
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon

 

Method

1. Peel and dice the mango, mix with the raisins, cornflour, lemon or lime juice and set aside.

2. Mix the other ingredients thoroughly and divide this mixture roughly in two.

3. Spread half the mixture in the bottom of a greased, loose-bottomed 18cm diameter cake tin.

4. Pour the mango mixture in on top of this, and spread it around a bit.

5. Add the other half of the cake mixture on top of the mango, distributing it as best you can. I put it on in small clumps, and the finished cake had quite a pleasant bumpy look to it – like a thick, almost solid sticky streusel topping.

6. Bake at 180°C (fan 160°C) for about 50 minutes. Check it after about 30 minutes, and if it is looking too brown, cover in foil.

7. I left the cake in the tin to cool, which probably helped to conserve some moisture. It was certainly easy enough to remove it from the tin.

Variations on a theme

  • I love the combination of mango and root ginger, so next time I might add some finely grated ginger either to the cake batter or to the fruit mixture. Having said that, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a cake recipe that asked for fresh root ginger (instead of stem ginger or ground ginger) – is there a good reason for that, I wonder?!
  • The cake would probably work well with any softish fruit; I might use a bit more sugar (say, 150g total) for the cake mixture if using a fruit that was more acidic than mango.
  • I’d love to try the recipe with a fresh dark cherry filling, and grated dark chocolate instead of the spices.

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Great British Food Revival: sardine beccafico

This last week we’ve watched several episodes of the current BBC series Great British Food Revival, and it’s been GREAT fun as well as very informative and mouthwatering watching all the different chefs’ fresh takes on forgotten or out-of-fashion ingredients. The (half) episode on sardines was one of the most interesting so far in that it celebrated this wonderful little fish that is plentiful off Britain’s shores but whose image was marred for many of my generation by it being presented most frequently in tinned form, as pilchards. I was lucky to rediscover it in its fresh form at some point in the mid-1990s but I have to admit that I’d more or less forgotten it again since.

We decided fairly spontaneously that we really NEEDED to get hold of some proper sardines and cook one of the recipes from the programme this weekend. All the Mediterranean-inspired recipes suggested by Giorgio Locatelli sounded great, but we decided that we’d have a go at the sardine beccafico, just because it struck us as more different and unusual than the other recipes included.

First catch your sardines: well, we’re lucky that we have some shops with really good fish counters here (which really doesn’t go without saying in Southern Germany!), but as (bad) luck would have it, we weren’t able to get hold of any fresh sardines. A 500g container of whole frozen sardines would have to do, so into the fridge it went to defrost. The recipe called for 4 medium-sized sardines (and the ones in the picture acompanying the recipe are certainly very sizeable), but instead we had about ten rather itty-bitty ones, which made filleting them a bit fiddly, but we managed it in the end.

I became rather less enthusiastic once it came to assembling the stuffing. The ingredients suddenly struck me as a pretty odd mixture, and after blending my olives, capers, almonds and lemon juice I was left with a rather grey, slimy sludge that tasted quite odd. And the next batch, including raisins, pine nuts, anchovies, parsley, orange juice and some smuggled-in garlic turned out a very unfetching beige and tasted really very strange indeed. All this was mixed with a load of breadcrumbs and I had the distinct feeling that my concoction could best be used to stick some bricks together.

But I soldiered on and stuffed my sardine fillets as instructed, and actually assembling the dish was a lot less fiddly and messy than I’d expected. The fish rolls went into the oven for all of about 8 minutes total, and meanwhile we prepared a green salad and some crusty bread to accompany them.

The end result was – not forgetting all the misgivings and challenges that had crept in during the preparation – actually pretty tasty, and quite different from anything else I’ve cooked. For me, oily fish HAS to be served with something acidic, and from that point of view the strong citrusy taste of the filling was an excellent foil. Overall, though, the citrus taste was probably too dominant (for our tastes at least) in that you couldn’t really detect the normally quite punchy taste of a lot of the other ingredients olives, anchovies, capers etc.). Admittedly, we did use fairly mild, not overly salted olives and anchovies, but even so…

We’ve decided that we’ll definitely use this recipe again, but we want to try it with some different elements next time:

  • some more substantial kind of fish fillets, maybe herrings or mackerel
  • more garlic and maybe some finely chopped shallots in the stuffing, to make it more savoury – the increased cooking time needed by more substantial fish would mean that this could also have a chance to cook through better
  • a bit less citrus: juice and zest of a both a lemon AND an orange was slightly overpowering overall, though we are slightly conflicted as to which of these to leave out
  • this same (modified) stuffing, maybe with a little parmesan or feta added, would also make a great crust for baked white fish
  • depending on the choice of fish, a punchier choice of herb such as thyme might work really well

By the way, I did take a picture of the finished dish, but as it wasn’t a patch on the one you can see on the BBC website I decided not to include it. You can view my latest Flickr uploads via the right-hand sidebar, though ;).

 

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100 foods to eat before you die

Cutlery (colour)

Knives and forks

Continuing the food-related themes I’ve been writing about of late (not that I intend this to be my sole source of subject matter), I was intrigued to come across this 100 foods to eat before you die list. It’s been doing the rounds as a Facebook app and there are countless blog entries that deal with it, so I can’t reliably say who came up with it, only that I found the complete, unedited list here.

It seems to have originated in the United States: although there is quite a bit of diversity of cuisines and ingredients included, it contains quite a significant number of things that are easily identifiable as quintessentially American, including chicken and waffles, clam chowder, biscuits and gravy, as well as a number of other things I hadn’t heard of and that don’t seem to have found international recognition. Some of these I have looked up in the meantime, but any items that baffled me initially I have marked with a question mark.

I’ve crossed off all the items on the list that I’ve tried, and the grand total is: 54. This compares really very favourably with the predicted average total of twenty items, though I am still some way behind friends who have travelled more widely, grew up with a wider range of these foods or have more adventurous palates.

I’ve also picked out a few of my personal favourites (comments in green) as well as a few items I either don’t like or think are overrated (comments in red). At the end of the list you can find out which further items I’d most like to try, those I’d prefer to avoid, and a few suggestions of my own.

  1. Abalone
  2. Absinthe
  3. Alligator
  4. Baba  GhanoushI adore aubergine, and although I find this dip fiddly to make, the taste is SO worth it
  5. Bagel and lox
  6. Baklava
  7. Barbecue ribs
  8. Bellini
  9. Bird’s Nest Soup
  10. Biscuits and gravy
  11. Black Pudding - one of those foods from home that I miss here (German Blutwurst is similar, but not the same and tends to be served differently)
  12. Black TruffleI can’t really understand the appeal of either black truffle or white truffle. They both seem to add a slightly mildewy note to things
  13. Borscht
  14. Calamari
  15. Carp
  16. Caviar
  17. Cheese fondue
  18. Chicken and waffles
  19. Chicken Tikka Masalapossibly not my favourite curry ever (I prefer ones that are more coconutty and a bit hotter), but definitely one of the best items on this list
  20. Chile Relleno ?
  21. Chitterlings/Chitlins ? (I’ve heard of this but can’t remember what it is)
  22. Churros
  23. Clam Chowder
  24. Cognac
  25. Crabcake
  26. Crickets
  27. Currywurstdefinitely not a favourite: I don’t like sausage and chips, or the sauce, or the sprinkling of curry powder
  28. Dandelion wine
  29. Dulce de leche
  30. Durian ?
  31. Eel
  32. Eggs benedict
  33. Fish Tacos
  34. Foie GrasI’ve written about my dislike of this before – I really don’t see the appeal at all (and it’s not exactly good for the goose or for the person eating it)
  35. Fresh Spring Rolls
  36. Fried Catfish
  37. Fried Green Tomatoes
  38. Fried Plaintain
  39. Frito Pie ?
  40. Frog’s Legs
  41. Fugu ?
  42. Funnel Cake ?
  43. Gazpacho
  44. Goat
  45. Goat’s milk
  46. Goulash
  47. Gumbo
  48. Haggis
  49. Head CheeseI’ve only had this once, in France, in a truckers’ hotel we ended up in at the end of an exhausting 100km+ bike ride. The most welcome meal ever! It’s called fromage de tête in French, which sounds so much more poetic, doesn’t it? ;) (edit: originally had this in red, but could also be green, hence “neutral” black…)
  50. Heirloom Tomatoes
  51. Honeycomb
  52. Hostess Fruit Pie ?
  53. Huevos Rancheros
  54. Jerk Chicken
  55. Kangaroo
  56. Key Lime Pie
  57. Kobe Beef
  58. Lassi
  59. Lobsteralthough I went through the whole of my childhood seeing the piles of lobster pots at the harbour in Aberystwyth, it wasn’t until well into adulthood that I actually tried lobster. Verdict: wow!
  60. Mimosa (I guess a strong Buck’s Fizz counts ;))
  61. MoonPie ?
  62. Morel Mushrooms
  63. Nettle Tea
  64. Octopus
  65. Oxtail Soupin its tinned variety, a childhood trauma (and I haven’t felt moved to try a better version since)
  66. PaellaI got to know and love this dish at a shooting club in Tübingen, of all places. The (public) restaurant there was run by the Spanish wife of the guy who ran the outfit, and a large group of us would often go there on special occasions, when Carmen would serve up these huge pans of garlic-infused goodness
  67. Paneer
  68. Pastrami on Rye
  69. Pavlova
  70. Phaal
  71. Philly Cheesesteak
  72. Pho
  73. Pineapple and cottage cheesecottage cheese is excellent stuff and I could eat it by the carton, but I really don’t like pineapple in combination with anything savoury
  74. Pistachio Ice Cream
  75. Po’ boy ?
  76. Pocky ?
  77. Polenta
  78. Prickly Pear
  79. Rabbit Stew
  80. Raw OystersI’m inclined to say these are highly overrated, though I have had them only once and that was without any kind of dressing (other than a bit of seawater and sand): I’m told a good vinaigrette makes all the difference
  81. Root Beer Floatdefinitely doesn’t float my boat. The two ingredients should be served separately
  82. S’moresIn my case, s’lesses (far too sweet and sickly)
  83. Sauerkraut
  84. Sea Urchin
  85. Shark
  86. Snail
  87. Snake
  88. Soft Shell Crab
  89. Som Tam ?
  90. Spaetzle
  91. Spam
  92. Squirrel
  93. Steak Tartare
  94. Sweet Potato Fries
  95. Sweetbreads
  96. Tom Yum
  97. Umeboshi ?
  98. Venison
  99. Wasabi Peas
  100. Zucchini Flowers

A few things on the list I’d like to try

Borscht – not really sure why I’ve not had it before (I prefer the impossible-looking German “beatbox” spelling Bortschsch)

Crabcake – I’ve got several recipes for Thai-style crabcakes, so this is something I should definitely try making

Dandelion wine – the sound of this has always had a magical quality. I expect you can create your own fairytale world if you drink enough of it. I have recipes for wine made out of various common or garden plants among the old recipes I wrote about here.

Kobe beef – just to see what all the fuss is about

Snails – they’re a fairly local speciality here, so I think I should try them

A few things on the list that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole

Abalone, bird’s nest soup, sea urchin, snake – these all sound ecologically and/or ethically dodgy in some way (though maybe the same could be said for many of the things I’ve eaten and enjoyed. Hmm)

Chicken and waffles, chitterlings (I have now looked them up), crickets, squirrel, sweetbreads – I find all of these ideas a bit stomach-churning

Items I’d add to the list

Pakistani mangoes – I love mangoes in any case, but the elongated, yellow Pakistani ones – which Kavey introduced me to – are the most exquisite in flavour, perfume and texture

Traditional mature Cheddar cheese – I’ve tried a lot of cheeses in my time, but nothing beats this. It’s such a pity that the mainstream market (esp. outside Britain / Ireland) is flooded with poor imitations

Fresh tuna steak – I know there are ethical issues with particular species of tuna, but if you can get a sustainable, reliably sourced and dolphin-friendly variety (feel free to add any further criteria I may have forgotten), then do try it. I’m happy enough to eat tinned tuna, but the fresh stuff is something else entirely.

Pickled walnuts – eaten with cold meats after Christmas, pickled walnuts remain one of my favourite foods in the festive season (not that there is any reason not to eat them at other times!)

San Daniele ham – this is cured roughly in a similar way to Parma / serrano hams, but I find the flavour superior

Suet crust – another of my favourite comfort foods from home

Morellino di scansano (red wine) – this comes from the same area of Tuscany that produces the prestigious (and pricy) Brunello di Montalcino. It’s a fraction of the price and on almost every occasion I’ve been able to compare the two wines one to one, this one has been the distinct favourite. As the name may suggest, it has a deep cherry flavour, and it’s been one of my favourite wines for years now.

Have you tried any of the more unusual things on the list? Have I missed out on anything spectacular in the dishes I put a question mark next to? I’d love to read about other people’s “scores” and experiences with any of these foods / dishes.

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Digesting last week’s meal plan

Just a very brief post today – I’ll try to get something more substantial out later this week, but I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on the meal plan thing I did last week.

Positive outcomes

  • no messing around spending too long deciding on meals when tired.
  • shopping was quick and easy, even catering for the extra days around Easter when the shops would be closed.
  • varied and tasty meals, no sameyness.
  • fewer not-very-necessary appetite-led purchases, and overall it didn’t seem an expensive week in terms of food shopping.
  • the new recipe – Goan fish curry – was really fantastic, and I’ll certainly use the spice mix as a basis for a range of curries in the future.
  • I also made progress with falafels – they were significantly better than on my first attempt, AND I managed to use up a slightly over-ripe (but still delicious) mango to make a sauce that went really well with them and was a nice contrast to the yoghurt-based sauce.
  • there was definitely less food wastage through being able to foresee opportunities to use up anything I’d forgotten about.
  • the one meal we had out at friends’ made me realise – delicious and beautifully cooked as it was – that I’ve actually done a better job in terms of balancing food groups and general nutrition considerations (on the whole).
  • I had various people commenting on this idea over on Twitter, and a big bonus is that I actually got sent some really tasty looking new recipes, which I will definitely be trying out soon.

Negative outcomes

  • Silly me did rather miss that frisson of “Ooh, what shall I cook tonight?” spontaneity, even though overall it was a good thing not to have the attendant cluelessness.
  • If I do it again, I might want to be a bit less specific about exact components (though I did vary things a bit as it was – we ended up with rabbit on Sunday rather than lamb or chicken, but it was healthy and less pricy than lamb).
  • It’s made me think that I should have thought harder about what I eat over the course of the day, not just in the evenings – my breakfasts are quite variable and I could have done a better job adapting them to complement whatever was on the menu later in the day.

Still, overall the negative points are far fewer and pretty mild, really – I had to think a lot harder to come up with them! I think I’ll carry on with the weekly planning, making a few adjustments based on the points outlined above. I shan’t be blogging it every week, though (that would be tedious), but if I discover any interesting new recipes or combinations I might write about those from time to time.

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On (not) making a meal of things…

I’ve seen a number of bloggers doing a weekly Monday post about meal planning for the week (known as “Meal Planning Monday”) and thought I’d have a go, mainly as an experiment to see whether I fancy sticking to it and to see if it saves me any effort in thinking or ambling cluelessly around the supermarket during the week.

I’ve never got into the habit of planning meals a great deal in advance, mainly because I’ve not felt the need to: I’m not responsible for feeding a horde of people on a daily basis, I manage to shop and subsist fairly cheaply as I don’t buy much convenience or “luxury” food, AND I have five supermarkets, an organic food shop, a health food shop and the local market all within 200m of where I live. I very much value the flexibility and choices that I have and don’t see compelling reasons to give them up. When I was mostly cooking for one, my substitute for daily meal planning was to cook a big pot of stuff that would last me several days; nowadays, though, I quite enjoy cooking almost every day, partly because there are more often than not two (and sometimes more) of us eating together, and partly because I find it somehow creative and therapeutic.

However, there are things about the day-by-day way I subsist that sometimes bother me. Food waste is the biggest one. While I am, on the whole, really good at using up leftovers and using as much as one can of the ingredients I buy, very perishable foods do sometimes get the better of me, for example dairy products such as cream or yoghurt: while it’s no doubt better for the waistline to use just part of a carton of cream in preparing a meal rather than a whole one, there’s no virtue whatsover in letting the other half go rancid and nasty at the back of the fridge, only to throw it out in disgust some time later. I’ve improved a lot when it comes to yoghurt, but there’s still a way to go yet…

As for fruit and veg, you can only feel smug about the “healthy” content of your shopping basket if you actually eat the stuff… I have to admit that a significant factor here is laziness and the time pressure of going shopping after work, at the last minute: a one-stop-serves-all-purposes trip to the supermarket is often all I can fit in, and the supermarket I tend to find most convenient on the way home sells a lot of its fruit and veg pre-packaged in quantities that are frequently a bit too large. I’d do better to buy hand-selected quantities elsewhere (ideally at the market, in season) for the things I find hard to use up in the bulky pre-packaged quantities – mushrooms and spinach being good examples (and frozen spinach simply isn’t the same). I also need to re-programme myself to take some fruit with me to work – I really don’t have a sweet tooth whatsover and don’t see the point of leaving space for dessert – therefore I find it really hard to get a decent amount of fruit into my diet, except perhaps in very hot weather. I do like fruit smoothies, but I seem to labour under a permanent misapprehension that they are time-consuming and messy to make (stupid, I know, but the lazy part of my mind is the most stubborn, it seems).

Better planning of meals might get me to shop better in this respect, but I’m also hoping it might help me to balance my diet more evenly. If I know I’m having meat, cheese or whatever for the evening meal, I can eat something else earlier in the day. Yesterday, though, I had cheese three times, in an example of particularly poor planning, and the fact that I also cycled nearly 60km still doesn’t excuse that lack of variety, even if it means not all of it will immediately land on my hips. I also find that if I’m feeling tired, uninspired or particularly hungry after a day that has not left much time for eating, I am more likely to go for something meat-based that may also be quite fatty. Normally I have no problem using more white / lean than red / fatty meat and having a good representation of fish and seafood, vegetarian and the occasional vegan meal on the menu, but a bit of more careful monitoring might be a good idea nevertheless.

But anyway, enough sounding off about nutrition and food use: what exactly am I going to cook this week? Here is what I’ve come up with…

Monday: Potato and courgette bake

I bought a pack of five courgettes at the weekend and still have two or three left: I’ll certainly use up two in this recipe, as well as some potatoes that are still perfectly good but have been around for a while. Ditto for a handful of wild garlic leaves: I’m going to blend them with some fresh (home-grown!) sage and a small leftover amount of ricotta to add a bit of sauce to the bake.

Tuesday: Baked chicken breasts with asparagus

There was green asparagus on special offer today and I snapped up a pack as it tends to sell out quickly. It’s great baked in a dish in the oven with a little olive oil, lemon juice and garlic (if I still have a courgette left after tonight, I’ll chuck that in as well), and I’ll simply bake the chicken breasts at the same time. I may stuff the breasts with herbs or marinate them first – I’ll see what’s available. This is a quick and easy dish that is really tasty as well as being fairly healthy (depending what you stuff the chicken breasts with!).

Wednesday: Falafel with pita bread / wraps and salad

I love pretty much anything made with or out of chickpeas, and they’re a great basis for a load of meat- and dairy-free dishes (though I certainly have nothing against combining them with those ingredients, either, and will be doing so here). I made falafel for the first time the other week, having found several recipes that appealed to me because they used tinned chickpeas (something I always have in, as opposed to the dry variety) and were done in the oven rather than fried. I think I used this recipe but added a bit of olive oil to the mixture and then simply baked them on baking parchment. To be served with pita bread or wraps, a Greek-type salad, and a mint and yoghurt sauce. At some point I’d like to find a really tasty vegan sauce as an occasional alternative to the yoghurt-based one, but I don’t like tahini, hummus is too samey as it’s made out of chick-peas, and I don’t much fancy a tomato-based sauce with them. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment!

Thursday: Pasta

This will probably be penne, though I haven’t decided on a sauce yet – in all likelihood it’ll be based on tinned chopped tomatoes and whatever fresh vegetables are available – I always try to put plenty of veg in pasta sauce – though possibly with tuna and anchovies, or a small amount of bacon. Whatever it is, it’ll be a fairly simple dish as Wednesday’s and Friday’s dinners will be a bit more fiddly to make.

Friday: Goan Fish Curry

I’ve written before about my love of Indian food, and I was very excited when Dave brought this recipe to my attention. Not only does it promise just the kind of curry I enjoy most – coconutty and hot – but the description talks about all kinds of variants and different ways of preparing the dish. I’m really very excited about trying this and decided that Good Friday – traditionally a fish day – was probably as good a day as any to give it a go.

I’ll probably simply do rice to go with it, plus a raita of some sort, which will use up the rest of the large pot of yoghurt I’ll be buying for Wednesday’s meal (see? I’m getting better).

Saturday: tbd

Saturdays are most frequently a day for entertaining, and as I don’t yet known what is going on, who is around or who will get to do the cooking, I’ll leave this one empty for now.

Sunday: Roast lamb or chicken

I don’t make a big deal out of Easter and definitely won’t be scoffing chocolate all day, but I like the excuse of a special holiday to do a roast dinner. M may want to be in charge of this one and he certainly does a mean roast – I’ll let him decide whether it’s to be lamb or chicken. Whichever of us is chef de cuisine for the day, I think it’s more or less a given that we’ll have the baked/roast potatoes out of the Hamlyn Herb Book (whole potatoes sliced almost through at ~3mm intervals, brushed with olive oil & sprinked with rosemary and sea salt before roasting about an hour in the oven) and something green on the side.

How do you plan your meals, and what are your main challenges when it comes to trying to make sure you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet?

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