Get the idea: Spring wonders for the week-night cook
It must be hard to be the only cook in a household and to be responsible for coming up with appetising meals most days of the week. Though chefs also have to come up with meal ideas when writing menus, it happens less often and in a different way.
I think everyday domestic cooks are definitely the unsung heroes of the culinary world, often completely taken for granted (my reply to any complaints from our kids when they were young was a sardonic “are you complaining about the catering?” which usually brought any gwetching to an end. Both my kids are good cooks now).
Of course, all good cooks build up a repertoire of tried and true well-liked recipes that can be used over and over again but this repertoire should be expanded when possible. Don’t be a “dinner party cook” who tries to make something different every time, this is not only ridiculous and almost impossible but also counterproductive to building up a repertoire.
A repertoire of recipes are those that you have practised many times. There is nothing wrong with repeating good recipes. I can think of many that regularly featured on our family’s day-to-day menu.
It is officially spring and I have a strange optimism about just about everything at the moment. I certainly want lighter meals and the following are a few ideas.
Make walnut-sized meatballs from well-seasoned minced pork mixed with finely chopped garlic and rosemary, raisins and roasted pinenuts. Panfry in extra virgin olive oil until cooked through and serve on warm boiled green lentils tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil and with sliced red onion, lots of halved cherry tomatoes, blanched green beans and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Blanch plenty of sweet stem broccoli in boiling water until just softening, drain and reserve. Gently fry chopped onion, finely diced carrot, sliced celery, chopped garlic, lots of finely diced pancetta and lemon zest in extra virgin olive oil for about 10 minutes without browning until the onion is soft. Add the broccoli and slow fry until the broccoli is soft. Serve this mix tossed with al dente short pasta such as fusilli with plenty of ripped up kale leaves, well rubbed with extra virgin olive oil and roasted at 200C for 6-8 minutes, piled on top and plenty of freshly grated Italian parmesan.
Warm soft baps in the oven and stuff with sauerkraut, thin slices of fillet steak panfried in a little oil for about 30 seconds each side, asparagus spears tossed in extra virgin olive oil and roasted until browned in a 200C oven, roasted tomatoes, garlic mayonnaise and rocket leaves.
Place baby leeks side by side in a roasting dish, add a little extra virgin olive oil and a splash of dry white wine. Place in a 200C oven for 20 minutes or until browned and tender. Place the leeks on a warm serving platter with halved boiled new baby potatoes, sliced red onion, pitted kalamata olives, thin sliced organic chicken breast that has been gently poached in salted water, thin sliced chives and an extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard dressing.
Place fillets of firm white fish side by side in a roasting dish. Mix panko crumbs with a little finely chopped garlic, thin sliced semi-dried tomatoes, finely diced preserved lemon peel, chopped parsley and melted butter. Sprinkle this evenly over the fish and bake at 200C for about 20 minutes or until the fish is just cooked. Serve with a crunchy green salad and very thinly sliced peeled agria potatoes, tossed in extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper, made into a free form cake shape on a baking paper lined oven tray and baked for about 45 minutes at 200C or until tender and well browned.
Toss boneless organic chicken thighs in extra virgin olive oil, several squashed cloves of garlic, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and reserve to marinate for 30 minutes. Discard the garlic and barbecue or fry the thighs on a ridged grill until cooked through. Remove and serve with steamed asparagus tossed with butter, capers, chopped anchovies, lemon juice and zest and a few finely chopped pitted kalamata olives, and plenty of new baby potatoes tossed in butter and chopped mint.
Cook hulled millet the same way as rice using the absorption method (ie; in a rice cooker or in a saucepan with enough water to come 1½ cm above the level of the millet, brought to the boil, covered, heat turned down to lowest setting on the smallest stove element, not uncovered for any reason for 20 minutes, uncovered and fluffed up). Serve with plenty of diced peeled roasted beetroot, thinly sliced red onion, crumbled creamy feta, rocket leaves, lemon zest and a dressing of plain unsweetened naturally thickened yoghurt mixed with lemon juice, chopped mint, a dollop of tahini and a little chopped garlic.
Thinly slice skinned boned pork belly across the grain of the meat, toss in a little naturally brewed Japanese soy sauce, ginger juice (made by grating ginger and squeezing out the juice) and crushed garlic. Stir fry the pork slices in a wok until cooked and browned and serve tossed through hot rice noodles, halved cherry tomatoes, peeled deseeded diced cucumber, blanched snow peas and asparagus, Vietnamese mint leaves, coriander sprigs, sliced spring onions, a dressing of equal parts fish sauce and lime juice well sweetened with crushed palm sugar and a good sprinkling of crushed roasted unsalted peanuts.
Put very thinly sliced fennel bulb, radishes, red onion, blanched snow peas, capers, kalamata olives, ripped up radicchio leaves, chopped anchovies and finely diced preserved lemon peel in a bowl and dress with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Taste and season. Serve this piled on top of fried fish fillets with steamed jasmine rice on the side.
Fill warm flour tortillas with plenty of barbecued scallops (or flaked smoked fish or both), drained warmed canned kidney beans mashed with lime juice and extra virgin olive oil, sliced avocado, thin sliced baby cos lettuce, a dollop of naturally made sour cream and a big drizzle of your favourite hot sauce.