“The best meals are those prepared by loving hands.”
― Ken Poirot
This week I have a bit of extra time on my hands. So I can delve into a passion of mine that has been seriously neglected in the past couple of months: cooking. yes, preparing delicious family meals!
I have been working such long hours in the last couple of months that when I get home in the evenings dinner is all about convenience and how long it will take to make. Now that I have a bit of a break, I can spend some more time on my cooking, and enjoy what I’m preparing.
Therefor I have planned a special dinner menu for the week, filled with family favorites for us to enjoy together. I am really looking forward to preparing these meals for my family.
Monday to Thursday are meals for the whole family; including the kids. On Friday however I am recreating a very special meal from my husband and my relationship. The meal that I cooked for us on our first Valentines day. Why am I doing this now, and not on the next Valentines day? Well, very simply because we have both been working so hard, and long lately. We need a bit of we time, and something a bit special. This meal is a great memory from when our relationship just started, and it was still just the two of us (we were still in high school).I think it’s important to remind yourself of where your relationship began every once in awhile.
Monday: Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
Makes 4 servings
For the tomato sauce:
1.5 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cans chopped chopped tomatoes
small bunch basil leaves
For the topping:
1 tubs mascarpone
1.5 tbsp milk
1 balls mozzarella, sliced (approx 125g)
For the filling:
1 tubs ricotta
200g dried cannelloni
- First make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the garlic for 1 min. Add the sugar, vinegar, tomatoes and some seasoning and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. Add the basil and divide the sauce between 2 or more shallow ovenproof dishes. Set aside.
- Make another sauce by beating the mascarpone with the milk until smooth, season, and then set aside.
- Put the spinach in a large colander and pour over a kettle of boiling water to wilt it. When cool enough to handle squeeze out the excess water. Roughly chop the spinach and mix in a large bowl with 100g Parmesan and ricotta. Season well with salt, pepper.
- Heat oven to 180C. Using a piping bag, squeeze the filling into the cannelloni tubes. Lay the tubes, side by side, on top of the tomato sauce and spoon over the mascarpone sauce. Top with Parmesan and mozzarella. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Tuesday: Lamb and Potato Bake
Makes 4 servings
400g lean lamb mince
1 tsp cinnamon
660g jar tomato pasta sauce
350g ready-made cheese sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
- Heat oven to 200C/180C. Boil the potatoes for 10-12 minutes or until half-cooked. Drain.
- Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Brown the mince in 2 batches, breaking up any lumps with the back of a wooden spoon. Tip all the mince back into the pan, add the cinnamon and fry for 1 min. Pour in the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can without breaking the slices.
- Layer the mince and potatoes in a 1.5-litre baking dish. Season each layer and finish with a layer of potatoes. Spread the cheese sauce on top and bake for 35 minutes until golden and the potatoes are tender.
Wednesday: Spring Roast Chicken
Makes 4 servings
8 chicken thighs, on the bone, skin on
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 pocket baby potatoes, halved
1 lemon, cut into wedges
4 shallots, thickly sliced
4 rosemary sprigs
small pack chives
450g asparagus spears, trimmed
100g feta, crumbled
- Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put the chicken thighs in a large shallow roasting tin, season and toss with the olive oil, lemon zest and wedges, shallots, rosemary and tarragon. Arrange the chicken thighs, skin-side up, and roast for 40-50 minutes until the skin is crisp and golden.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the halved baby potatoes and boil for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the asparagus for 3 minutes or until tender, adding peas for the final minute.
- Drain the potatoes and vegetables and toss in with the chicken, coating well with the cooking juices. Crumble over the feta and serve.
Thursday: Fish Pie
Makes 4 servings
1kg Potatoes, peeled and halved
5ml of butter
1 tbsp of milk
4 spring onion, finely sliced
200g Hake fillets
200g Smoked Haddock fillets
1 tsp Dijon mustard
12g pack of chives, finely snipped
200g frozen sweetcorn
250g frozen peas
200g grated cheddar
- Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180. Put the potatoes in a saucepan and pour over enough water to cover them. Bring to the boil and then simmer until tender. When cooked, drain thoroughly and mash with a splash of milk and some butter. Season with ground black pepper.
- Meanwhile, put the butter, flour and spring onions in another pan and heat gently until the butter has melted, stirring regularly. Cook for 1 -2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk using a balloon whisk if you have one. Bring to the boil, stirring to avoid any lumps and sticking at the bottom of the pan. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes until thickened.
- Take off the heat and stir in the cheese (if using), fish, mustard, chives, sweetcorn and peas. Spoon into an ovenproof dish or 6- 8 ramekins.
- Spoon the potato on top and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Pop in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden and bubbling at the edges.
Friday: Recreating our first Valentines Meal
Makes 2 servings
Starter: Tossed Honey Almond Salad
1x packet almond flakes
3 tbsp Honey
1 head of lettuce
Few grapes, sliced in half
1 Pomegranate (optional)
- Heat a pan on the stove.
- Add the honey.
- When the honey is completely heated add the almond flakes.
- Stir lightly until the almond flakes are completely covered by the honey.
- Spoon the honey covered almond flakes onto a plate and separate as much as possible. Allow to cool completely.
- Wash and shred the lettuce and put in a bowl. Cut the cucumber into slices and add to the lettuce. Add the grapes and pomegranate to the lettuce.
- Add the honey covered almond flakes to the lettuce and cucumber.
Main Course: Pan seared fillet of steak, served on a bed of mashed potatoes and spinach.
2x 250g pieces of nice fillet steak
1 packet of spinach
6 big potatoes
3 sprigs of green onion
2 tbsp feta
1tsp butter (to fry steaks in – can use vegetable oil as well)
- Bring a pot of water to the boil.
- Trim any unnecessary fat from the fillets.
- Peel and dice your potatoes and add to the pot of boiling water. Boil for 15 minutes or soft all the way through.
- Wash and chop your spring onions.
- Mash your potatoes using a hand masher. Add the butter and cream and mash further. For a smooth texture, pass your potato mixture through a sieve.
- Add the Spring onions and season to taste.
- Put the spinach in a large colander and pour over a kettle of boiling water to wilt it. When cool enough to handle squeeze out the excess water.
- Add a little bit of butter to a pan and melt.
- Once the butter is melted and the pan is nice and hot. Add your steaks and sear on both side.
- Once your steaks are seared, season them to taste.
- Cook the way you prefer (medium – rare, medium, well done).
- To plate up, put some mash in the center of your plate, top with wilted spinach and feta, and the steak right on top. (I prefer my steaks as is and not covered in a sauce, but if you want to add one it would look amazing served over the top).
So there you go. My Pamper me family meals for a week. Do you have family favorites? Share yours in a comment below.