WE ARE CONNECTED BY FOOD
Universally we are connected by food whether we like it or not. We come together to eat no matter where we live, what our outlook is, or what our customs or cultural enthusiasm might be. Even as strangers it can often be the first place where the first conversation can take place or in business to discuss important matters, food is very often involved. The joy of food, creating and sharing connects us all without barriers. Some of us have the intrinsic and compassionate need to want to feed people. This such trait is evident in my own desire to cook and to feed, whether it be my own family or to host and entertain for extended family or friends, it gives me great personal satisfaction.
Never has it felt so enjoyable or so important to be able to cook inherited recipes, try something new, use ingredients wisely and make them stretch further. All those times I spent cooking with my mum, my nana, and my granny have really set a solid foundation to which I can now assist my two children to discover the joy in cooking (and to feed others).
FOND FOOD MEMORIES
Fond memories to share………..Floury salad baps for picnics always taste better when someone has made them for you and learning what can be made ahead of time, why baking 6 apple tarts at a time in one day was just as easy as baking just one. Why making extra to ‘leave over’ for tomorrow’s dinner or lunch was so important, most important due to the demands on the multi-tasking homemaker! How many of each ingredient and when does each element have to start cooking in order to be ready for 12 hungry ‘horsey men’ due back for dinner at 6 o’clock. How one simple ingredient can make a difference to the taste and flavour and why seasoning really makes food taste like itself.
As I make a solid effort to #stayathome and enjoy actual time off from self-employment demands I have reconnected with the weekly process of committing to meal planning. Not to mention the increased demand for food and the frequency of meals as homeschooling and home working has fully commenced. Just like our house kids of a certain age can make many items themselves so lunchtime ready, plateable food, is an advantage in my house. We have also used our school lunch box and bag on certain days to keep that school connection and for portion control.
7 DAY FAMILY MEAL PLANNING
I decided to document our own personal family meal plan and meal prepping for 7 days just for fun. I hope it is of interest to you and if you enjoy or pick up one new thing to try, especially to make life easier for yourself, then surely it was worth a read. I realise I was at an advantage with being taught from an early age, so I hope there is a benefit to those who perhaps did not have such guidance.
Why should you meal plan and what are the key principles? For me it is about thinking ahead to the last day and working the plan of meals back, thinking about the needs of each day. The list of fresh purchases for the week should also have the potential for multiple dish purposes if possible. Accounting for days that are limited with time due to family commitments or work, or if certain meals need to be eaten on certain days and not as a family unit. Not relevant during this period of #stayathome
Preparing your meal plan will prevent overspend and food waste as well as the great temptation to eat unhealthily or binge eat (my weakness is a crisp sandwich).
It doesn’t have to be just 7 days, you can even make it longer or cut it back just a few days and work in sets of 3, it is up to you, the same principles apply. Seven days works for us and reduces time spent shopping. With my 7-day example the benefits are quite evident in that you plan to manage a budget, reduce overall family food waste, and make efficient use of your limited time (and energy). It even works with different tastes and food favourites, in our house of just 4 people, the variety of likes and dislikes present their own challenges, and this has helped shape our 7-day plan. My 7-day plan starts on a Sunday, historically as that was always my diary planning day and when I prepared some food ahead of time, to ensure I had fresh prepared food and it was a great way to relax.
Our food story focuses on:
Simplifying and maximising time and effort.
Planning around a routine and family needs.
Share the joy in cooking and involving little hands.
SUPPORT LOCAL FOOD BUSINESSES
Eating well and supporting local businesses as we try to buy local to increase organic, reduce chemicals, reduce palm oil, support reinvestment in local companies and entrepreneurs.
Leftovers which on purpose I make as ‘Leave Overs’, making extra to leave over, I mean whoever has left-over bacon bits you just need to make a bit more to make sure you can leave over!
Always assume we are seasoning with ground sea salt and ground black pepper.
We are not fat or calorie counters (within reason) so don’t expect allowances for that, you can make your own, after all the fat you cook your food in really sets the flavour of the entire dish.
Lunch: Garden Picnic Sandwiches
One of our favourite things to do as a family of four and one of my fondest, earliest memories is to picnic. When we can’t get out and about in the open air, it is a ‘Carnic’ or we head for our hand-built custom beach hut in the garden. We all have our favourite sandwiches, wraps and salads, so here are a few ideas:
Tomato, cheese, scallions, salad cream
Grapes, cheese, mayonnaise
Ham, cheese, lettuce, pickled beetroot
Ham, mustard & ground pepper
Chicken, bacon, left-over stuffing & chutney or cranberry
Thinly sliced pork sausages and a thin layer of Black Butter
Gem Lettuce or tortilla wraps with grilled chicken in chilli oil, mayonnaise & parmesan
Wheaten bread, smoked salmon, cream cheese and selection of salads
Prepare Ahead: Crusts that would never get eaten on the sandwiches are cut off the children’s rounds and cut into small squares. Using a traditional pan loaf from the bakers gives you this crusted edge. Store in the fridge to make into tasty herby croutons for soup (or late-night snack with dipping oils).
Dinner: Soda bread pizzas (fresh soda or frozen for when they are needed).
Fresh or frozen soda bread (lifted out to defrost) cut into open portions to top with simply ingredients from the fridge and cupboard, with fun for the kids to make their own.
Grill very lightly before adding the toppings, test to feel the bread has firmed up but not over brown.
Our agreed topping for 4 is tomato base sauce, chopped ham, grated cheddar, grated parmesan, crumbled feta cheese with a drizzle of basil infused oil. In the summer with an abundance of tomatoes in our weekly vegetable box collection we make our own tomato sauce and pesto to store in a jar in the fridge to use during the week.
Recipe: Roasted Tomato Sauce or Pesto
Roast the punctured tomatoes in the over, covered in plan or basil rapeseed oil with several cloves of garlic, roast until burst and blitz smooth. Add in a dash of Balsamic if desired or even pin nuts to make a pesto style paste.
Prepare Ahead: Baby new potatoes and eggs to be boiled for potato salad in the week as well as chop and prepare some salad veg needed for ‘deli fridge boxes’ to use in the next few days for salads and snacks.
Lunch: Potato Salad, Spinach, Tomatoes & Boiled Eggs with Dressing
Ready in the fridge just to ‘plate up’ needs to happen at least 3 days in the week in our house. With everyone at home, homeschooling and the home office fully engaged there is limited time to prepare every single meal. Having lunch ready to plate is convenient, saves energy and lets lunchbreak be enjoyable. It also means each person can eat at their own time if they want. Little hands of a certain age can help themselves or be in charge preparing lunch for everyone.
Add in your store cupboard items or left-overs/leave-overs you have such as grilled chicken, bacon pieces, chopped sausages, tinned chickpeas, lentils and or other veg.
Recipe: Potato Salad
Boiled baby potatoes with mayonnaise, enough to coast and 2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard. Add in scallion is you love them too. For variety use pesto instead of mustard to make a great tasting alternative.
Recipe: Salad Dressing
I can’t believe I am giving you my recipe, my secret weapon. Mix garlic rapeseed oil with balsamic vinegar about 2:1 ration and a teaspoon or wholegrain mustard, with loads of black pepper. It is amazing and keep it in a jam jar in the fridge for a week, just shake up and pour when you need it. A little goes a long way.
Dinner: Mash Potatoes, Cabbage, Leeks, Peas, Grilled Chicken & Gravy.
Mashed potatoes finished with plenty of butter, cabbage (savoy & oriental leafy), leaks cooked slowly in butter, frozen petit pois peas, oven cooked chicken from local butcher & store cupboard gravy on the side.
For the parent’s I cook cabbage in a separate wok to let me add in Broighter Gold Thai Infused Rapeseed oil to give a real kick and adding in the colour of black onion seeds just perfects this new way of enjoying cabbage.
Prepare Ahead: Add an extra 2 large potatoes to boil for leave-over lunches. Next week with leave over mash I’ll be trying Thai fish Cakes by The Isolated Chef.
Whilst chopping veg, set some aside, chop as additional and put in the fridge for a pot-luck Minestrone Soup for the slow cooker (store bowl of chopped items in the fridge until ready to cook).
Lunch: Potato Scones
Use your leave over mashed potato to mix with sieved flour, milk, butter, baking powder & eggs. I also added chopped scallions. We had left-over sweet potato as well so added it in just for fun….turned out just amazing!
Fry original rapeseed oil and plain butter in the pan and cook scone shaped patties of the mixture, I was able to cook 5 at a time. The first batch warmed in the oven whilst batch two cooked.
Serve up with some scallions, cream cheese (we used garlic & chive it’s a staple in our fridge) and other options such as left-over bacon pieces or newly grilled bacon, plate up with a spinach and tomato salad. We had ours with left-over soup (lentil & bacon from last week lifted out of the freezer) and store cupboard tomato soup.
Recipe: Potato Scones
250g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 50g butter, plus extra for cooking, 2 tsp rapeseed oil, 3 tbsp milk, 2 eggs beaten.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the butter, milk, eggs and the mash, with plenty of seasoning and mix into a sticky dough. Heat the oil and butter in a pan, frying round patties/dollops of mixture for about 3 minutes on each sound, until brown.
Dinner: House Omelettes
With 4 in the house and all different tastes it’s a relay of omelette making so prepping all the ingredients first is key. Ideal is a 3 egg mix with 2 eggs for the little ones.
The omelette combinations in our house goes as follows:
Spinach, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, parmesan and scallion.
Simply cheese, just one or all 3.
Cheese, tomato, scallion and chopped ham.
Prepare Ahead: None
Preparing for today and the next few days comes from cleaning the fridge weekly on a Wednesday, with all the veg sitting out on the bench I can study and decide what to make the rest of the week. Suddenly there are several meal opportunities and no need to buy more ingredients or no need to throw anything out.
Lunch: Potluck Minestrone Soup for 1, Scrambled Eggs, Soda Bread, Black Pudding Potato Bread Ann’s Pantry
I am the only one in the family that likes Minestrone Soup, so it is made exactly for me for my lunch and 3 frozen portions for when I need them.
Cabbage, leeks, peas, purple sprouting broccoli, cherry tomatoes (too soft to eat), scallions, jar of store cupboard herb passata, a few ribbons of spaghetti broken into small pieces, stock cube and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Remember some the veg was already chopped on day two.
Tip: use any veg and keep veg that’s just on the turn for this very tasty lunch full of vitamins and looking after your reduction in food waste.
Dinner: Mash Potatoes, Carrots, Broccoli, Peas & Grilled Fish in a Butter, Shallot & Lemon Sauce OR Grilled Sticky Salmon OR Bacon-wrapped Chicken with Gravy.
Mashed potatoes finished with plenty of butter, carrots, purple sprouting broccoli, petit pois peas, bacon-wrapped chicken with store cupboard gravy. Alternatively, we would have grilled fish or pan-fried fish in a shallot and lemon butter sauce.
Prepare Ahead: Remember to cook a few extra potatoes for some leave over mash for another meal. If only using part of a packet of bacon, then cook the rest and use for extra cooked bacon in the fridge for lunches etc.
Boil all the broccoli (leave what is not needed for this meal in longer to go soft) to use in tomorrow’s lunch pesto!
Lunch: Broccoli Pesto Pasta
Use the already boiled soft broccoli, lemon juice, shallots, pine nuts and cream cheese to make a pesto and serve with al dente pasta and parmesan shavings.
Prepare Ahead: Always cook extra pasta to keep for another meal. It’s one of my daughter’s favourites to have with pesto, spinach, nuts and any cheese. Or simply add oil, balsamic or pesto with tomatoes, spinach and feta.
Dinner: Stir fry Veg Balti Curry Sauce for 2, Leave over Mash, Pigs & Blankets & Gravy for 1 and Pigs & Blankets Bap for 1.
Stir fry veg (we had peppers, shallots, garlic, scallions & broccoli) with meat of choice or none, adding a can of coconut milk and a 1-2 tablespoons of Balti Curry Paste (we use Geo Organics).
Let over mash, gravy, pigs and blankets we had frozen and one portion served with baps.
Prepare Ahead: Whilst chopping for stir fry make extra to make a stuffed pepper lunch ready for the oven tomorrow. With 2 peppers we cut off the tops and cleared out the insides, using the tops cut up fine as part of the stuffing mixture. Add to a bowl with chopped scallions, spinach, feta cheese, cream cheese and panko breadcrumbs. Mix together and stuff the pepper. Put in an oven tray, cover with tinfoil, store in the fridge and ready for the oven tomorrow
Lunch: Stuffed Peppers, Potato Salad & Waldorf Salad.
With this lunch we made a salad from fruit needing used up along with nuts in the store cupboard which we always have. It was also a great topic for homeschooling as I shared the story of how the Waldorf Salad was invented. We used grapes, apples, walnuts, feta, raisins and the final few portions of potato salad left-over (no celery, it never enters our kitchen!).
Dinner: Organic Burgers & Homemade Warmed Spiced Potato Wedges
Nothing like tasty burgers served up in floury baps, my favourite is Ballylagan Organic Burgers, a layer of cheddar and dollop of Ballymaloe Original Chutney. We have also made our own burgers which the kids love taking responsibility for and great pride in grilling for dinner or on the BBQ.
Wash potatoes and chop into even wedges, use original rapeseed oil to cover the wedges evenly (using your hands) then add the seasoning mix and use your hands again to ensure even coverage. Seasoning mix of cumin, turmeric and smoked paprika mixed together in a pestle & motor.
Prepare Ahead: Make extra wedges for a tasting lunch for 1 tomorrow (selfishly for me).
Lunch: Left-over Potato Wedges for 1, left-over Pesto Pasta Salad for 1, Cabbage Carbonara for 2.
Using a savoy cabbage, shred, stir-fry with shallots and garlic, add in garlic & chive cream cheese, top with grated parmesan (amazing).
Wedges with chilli infused rapeseed oil and grated parmesan.
Dinner: Pizza with our own toppings made with pizza dough from Ann’s Pantry.
Roll out the pizza dough with favourite tomato sauce and toppings, our favourites are tomato pesto or chopped tomatoes, garlic or basil infused rapeseed oil, chopped fresh tomatoes, 1 type of cheese or our 3 favourites, chopped ham, chopped pineapple. Just before serving my favourite is to add chopped spinach which wilts with the heat and no cooking necessary.
Prepare Ahead: Prepare your recipe for Leek & Potato Soup, chop up your leeks and potatoes for the slow cooker tomorrow morning. Your next 7 days commences.
Serve up for dinner, blended with some cream and croutons or any bread starting to go stale? Remember good old Melba Toast, it’s so delicious and perfect.
Recently I made the latest coffee craze Dalgona coffee and loved hearing about the recipe and how to make from a fantastic food enthusiast Lorrain Elliot of Not Quite Nigella. We met last December on her personal Toast The Coast Food Tour when she visited from Australia https://www.notquitenigella.com/
One of my favourite things when planning my meal planning is to have breakfast of a bakery pancake, naked or with jam it is equally as delicious, and a coffee in my favourite china mug.
RECIPES & LOCAL CHEFS
Slemish Market Supper Club Chef Rob Curley https://www.facebook.com/slemishmarketsupperclub/
The Isolated Chef Pol Shields https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbFf6F3rV-BlQWRLzjXcgfQ
Tartine at Distillers Arms https://www.facebook.com/Bushmills140MainStreet/
Little Oaks Cookery School https://littleoakscookeryschool.squarespace.com/
There are several other chefs who can share recipes if you need them, they just don’t have pages set up online so if there is something you are looking for we can help source it. Equally, if you would like to be added to this list please let me know.
Jubilee Farm Vegetable Boxes
Dromona Cheese & Butter
From Granny’s Pantry Chutney & Ketchup
Ballymaloe Original Chutney
Irish Black Butter
Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil
Ann’s Pantry Bakery
Glenarm Smoked Salmon
Glens of Antrim Potatoes
Ballylagan Organic Farm Shop
FRUIT & VEGETABLES THIS WEEK
Broccoli (purple sprouting this week yummy)
Balsamic Vinegar Range
Rapeseed Oil Range
Balti Curry Paste
Crusty /Bakery Pan Loaf Bread
I hope you have enjoyed the read, let me know if you need extra recipes from our local chefs, let me know if you liked the read and found it helpful, let me know if you would like to hear about another week.