Meal plan: 1 April 2012

Easy meals have been the order of the day in the Bangers & Mash kitchen now that I’m working pretty much full-time. Life is manic; it feels like everything has stepped up a gear. Or two. Or three.

Of course, the extra work is a good thing. As a freelancer, and particularly in the current economic climate, work is very much welcome. But it does rather tend to put a strain on family life.

So my latest meal plans have been full of quick suppers and pre-prepared meals from the freezer. I’m not a naturally organised kind of person, but I’ve learned it does pay to plan ahead. On a day when you do have the time, cook up some big batches of tasty grub and freeze them in individual portions. There’s something very rewarding about getting home after a hectic day at work and simply heating up a homemade pie or stew.

One Monday evening I spent a good few hours in the kitchen with a few glasses of wine and some banging tunes on the stereo. As well as cooking that evening’s supper, I also made a big pot of ratatouille, the girls’ favourite chicken rice, and a vat of spicy cauliflower soup. I know it sounds a bit full on to do so much cooking in one go but it’s worth the effort and helps me to retain my sanity.

Here are the latest ups and downs in the Bangers & Mash kitchen…

Cottage pie is one of my all time favourite meals, especially when my husband makes it. That’s part of the beauty of meal planning. Not only do I get to decide what we eat, but who cooks it and when. For some reason my husband’s best dishes generally feature minced beef: cottage pie, Bolognese, chilli con carne. Is it a bloke thing? Anyway, that made for a delicious mid-week supper after a long day in the office.

My husband’s cottage pie – complete comfort food

You may recall me raving recently about a recipe for Chicken Thigh Yakitori from Dom at Belleau Kitchen: sumptuously tender chicken in a sticky leek  and soy sauce. When I saw his next chicken thigh recipe post I just had to give it a try; Moroccan Chicken Thighs. It was very good but didn’t compare to the Yakitori I’m afraid – just a tad too sweet for me. I did like the idea of it though, so will try again but may leave out the apricot jam and carrots next time…

Moroccan chicken thighs

If you want a quick supper, cous cous is perfect. I started making this chicken, courgette and cous cous dish when my oldest daughter was getting to grips with proper solid food. It’s an adaptation of an Annabel Karmel dish. It started out as something I’d make especially for Jessie but when I realised how good it was, it became a regular family meal. Plus it’s perfect when you’re short of time.

And here are those weekly meal plans in all their glory:

Monday 19 March
Lunch: cheese and pickle rolls
Dinner: Moroccan chicken thighs

Tuesday 20 March
Lunch: scallion and sweet potato soup (F)
Dinner: cottage pie

Wednesday 21 March
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: chicken and courgette cous cous

Thursday 22 March
Lunch: spicy cauliflower soup (F)
Dinner: kids – tasty chicken rice (F); adults – wraps with beetroot, carrot and apple salad

Friday 23 March
Lunch: hummus, breadsticks and salad
Dinner: cauliflower cheese and garlic bread

Saturday 24 March
Lunch: sausage and cabbage bake
Dinner: garlic Portobello mushrooms and salad

Sunday 25 March
Lunch: Mia’s birthday party picnic
Dinner: ratatouille and rice (F)

Monday 26 March
Lunch: hummus and salad sandwiches
Dinner: Flamiche (Belgian leek pie)

Tuesday 27 March
Lunch: baked potatoes, ham and cheese
Dinner: beef casserole (F) with rice and broccoli

Wednesday 28 March
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: cauliflower curry (F) and onion bhajis

Thursday 29 March
Lunch: spicy cauliflower soup (F)
Dinner: chilli con carne (F)

Friday 30 March
Lunch: carrot and coriander soup
Dinner: grilled chicken and salad

Saturday 31 March
Lunch: OUT
Dinner: pappardelle with courgette, basil and lemon

Sunday 1 April
Lunch: roast chicken followed by rhubarb crumble
Dinner: bread and cheese

F = from freezer

Easter baking: hot cross buns

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny, two a penny
Hot cross buns!

As regular readers of Bangers & Mash will know, I have a few insecurities when it comes to baking. Probably because around 50% of my efforts are complete flops. I put it all down to not being taught to bake as a child. But enough of the self-psychoanalysis. I am turning my baking life around. Who cares if a cake doesn’t rise occasionally and what’s a burnt biscuit or two between friends? The more I try, the better I get. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

One of my hands down successes recently has been hot cross buns. When I took these little beauties out of the oven, I can’t tell you how proud I felt. They looked just like proper hot cross buns. And they smelled amazing, simply filling the kitchen with sweet, spicy goodness. It’s going to be difficult bringing myself to eat the shop-bought variety again.

So if I can make these bad boys, anyone can.

What surprised me most wasn’t the fact they were easy to make. They were. But how quick they were to make. Isn’t bread supposed to be complicated? I did the first part before ballet lessons on a Saturday morning (OK there was a  15-minute kneading session, but I found that rather enjoyable), leaving the dough to rise while the girls did ‘good toe, naughty toe’. Then they took another ten minutes work when we got back, plus a little more rising time and then into the oven. You just need to factor in time for rising. They also freeze really well, so great to make in advance and simply whip them out when you need them.

This recipe is by The Fabulous Baker Brothers aka Henry and Tom Herbert, which appeared in the April edition of Delicious magazine. I’d been thinking about trying hot cross buns for a little while and when I saw them on the front cover I took it as a sign. I stuck pretty much to their recipe except I swapped zest for mixed peel, only because I still have a big pot left over from Christmas I’m trying to use up.

We ate some of the buns warm from the oven with butter and cheese for a light lunch, and some the following morning with strawberry jam. The rest went in the freezer for some easy homemade home-baked pleasure whenever I fancy!

Hot cross buns

Makes 16

680g strong white bread flour
2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
10g salt
100g caster sugar
80g soft butter
15g mixed spice
175ml milk, tepid
175ml water, tepid
1 egg
80g currants
80g sultanas
40g mixed peel

For the cross
100g strong white bread flour
Pinch of salt and sugar
25g butter, melted
125ml water

For the glaze
75ml boiling water
1 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of mixed spice

Into a big mixing bowl put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, butter (make sure it’s really soft), mixed spice, milk, water and egg. Stir well (you’ll need to put some effort in here) until  you have a loose dough. Add a little more water if the mixture looks dry.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth. Gently work in the dried fruit and mixed peel. I stretched the dough out flat, scattered on a handful of fruit, folded the dough over and kneaded. And then repeated this until all the fruit was worked in.

Plop your dough back into the big mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for at least 45 minutes until it has doubled in size.

Before...
...and after!

Line a baking tray with good high sides with baking paper. Turn the dough out of the bowl and cut in half using a plastic scraper. Divide each half into half again, then keep repeating until you end up with 16 pieces.

Roll the pieces firmly  in your hands to make pert round shapes. Arrange them in the baking tray in a four by four formation with half an inch between each bun. Cover the tin with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes or so until the buns have doubled again in size.

Preheat the oven to 210ºC/gas mark 6-7.

Combine the dry ingredients for the cross in a bowl and gradually whisk in the melted butter and water until you get a smooth mixture. Pour into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Cross the buns by piping continuous lines across the length and breadth of the tin.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden. While they’re in, make the glaze. Boil the water with the sugar and mixed spice for half a minute, then put to one side. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush the tops with the spicy glaze.

 

The Little Loaf is hosting the Fresh from the Oven challenge this month and as the theme this time is hot cross buns I thought I might enter mine. Now, the Little Loaf is an amazing baker so I’m a little nervous with my amateur offering but hopefully she’ll appreciate my enthusiasm!

Meal plan: 18 March 2012 (and how to poach eggs)

In the words of dear Britney, oops I did it again.

It’s been a fortnight since I last posted a meal plan. And I’m ‘supposed’ to put them up at the end of each week. I don’t suppose the world is going to crumble as a result now though is it?

The last couple of weeks have been really busy. I’m working full-time at the moment, three days in-house for a client and the remainder working from home on a number of freelance projects. It’s proving really rather challenging fitting in the blogging around the working and the cooking and the being a mum and a wife. And trying to fit in some semblance of a social life.

But what I have discovered this last fortnight is just how much I enjoy blogging. When I haven’t very much spare time, I’ve found that blogging has been one of the things high up on my priority list. What started as a bit of an experiment is turning into a bit of a passion.

But something I’ve also promised myself is that I won’t beat myself up on the days when I find it hard to fit in the blog.

Anyway, time for the highs and lows of the last couple of weeks in the Bangers & Mash kitchen…

The highs

It was my birthday last weekend and to celebrate my husband cooked one of my favourite dishes: Elizabeth David’s poulet a l’estragon. It was a gorgeously summery dish on a beautiful spring day. Superb.

Tarragon chicken for my birthday lunch cooked by my husband. I'm a very lucky girl.

Everyone knows how popular sausages are in our house. They appear regularly on our weekly meal plan and I’m always looking for new ways to cook them. We tried out this sausage, onion and potato bake from Lavender & Lovage and it was an instant hit and one I’m sure we’ll be cooking again and again.

Sausage potato and onion bake. Cheap and cheerful, this truly is fabulous family food.

Eggs are in my eyes a real super food. If you have a carton of eggs in the cupboard, you can fix yourself a meal in minutes. I love eggs cooked all ways but think I’m addicted to poaching these days, particularly for a weekend breakfast or brunch.

Just a couple of months ago I wouldn’t have dared poaching an egg. But at Christmas I offered friends staying with us a cooked breakfast in the morning and asked how they wanted their eggs, fried or scrambled. Jake asked instead for a poached egg. When he saw my face, he went on to give me the best ever instructions on how to do it.

I'm rather partial to a poached egg

There are no tricks other than using the freshest eggs possible. Simply crack your egg into a pan of boiling water and cook for three minutes. Don’t worry about how it looks. When you come to serve it, the egg white all comes together on your serving spoon. I was amazed at how easy they are. No vinegar. No swirling the water. And now I’m making them all the time.

Pasta appears regularly on my meal plans as a quick mid-week meal when my husband and I are both working. I tried this pasta, peas and pancetta dish from the Legal Tart, and highly recommend it. It’s very easy and very tasty.

Pasta with peas and pancetta - a great quickie dinner

The lows

I’m quite pleased to say that from 14 days of eating I could only come up with one low point. I cooked a beef pie and had very high hopes for it.

In the morning I put the casserole in the aga to slow cook while I was out at work and it was smelling fantastic when I returned home. I popped on a simple pie crust and I was almost there. I had the camera out ready to get some great close-ups when it came out of the oven. And then I went and burned it. It was still edible. Just. But not particularly pretty.

And now it’s time for those meal plans in blow-by-blow detail…

Monday 5 March
Lunch: ham salad rolls
Dinner: homity pie with spring greens

Tuesday 6 March
Lunch: hummus and cucumber rolls
Dinner: Chicken with mushrooms and cream, boiled rice

Wednesday 7 March
Lunch: tuna pasta salad 
Dinner: grilled chicken breast with baked fennel

Thursday 8 March
Lunch: carrot and coriander soup (F)
Dinner: cauliflower cheese

Friday 9 March
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: beef casserole and cornbread

Saturday 10 March
Lunch: leek and potato soup with garlic bread
Dinner: sausage onion and potato bake

Sunday 11 March
Lunch: poulet a l’estragon
Dinner: cream tea

Monday 12 March
Lunch: chicken sandwiches
Dinner: spaghetti with tomatoes and peas

Tuesday 13 March
Lunch: cheese and salad rolls
Dinner: pasta with peas and pancetta

Wednesday 14 March
Lunch: chicken pasta salad
Dinner: beef and vegetable pie

Thursday 15 March
Lunch: hummus, breadsticks and salad
Dinner: chilli con carne

Friday 16 March
Lunch: ham salad rolls
Dinner: pumpkin and parsnip cassoulet (F)

Saturday 17 March
Lunch: hot cross buns with Cheddar cheese
Dinner: homemade pizza

Sunday 18 March
Lunch: pub lunch for Mother’s Day
Dinner: cheese and beans on toast

F = from freezer

Homity pie

 

Before I go any further I want to say that Cranks today is probably quite different from how I remember Cranks growing up in the 1980s.

My step-mum was a big fan of Cranks. When we went shopping in the West End, we’d invariably end up in the Cranks restaurant just off Carnaby Street and we ate many dishes from their recipe book.

In case you don’t know Cranks, they’ve been around since the 1960s and were one of the first brands I’m aware of that were exponents of healthy eating. This of course is fantastic. But as a kid, I grew to associate Cranks with worthy food: brown rice, heavy wholemeal pastry, nut roasts and – this for me was the worst part – wholemeal pasta. Now I know we need roughage in our diet. But there is a right way and a wrong way to eat your fibre, and a bowlful of wholemeal spaghetti is for me most definitely the wrong way.

I’ve just taken a peek at the Cranks website. They are still going strong it seems and they look very different from the Cranks I knew growing up. There are some recipes I’d actually be quite interested in trying.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Cranks as a youngster, there was one dish that my step-mum could make time and time again from their recipe book and I’d be happy, and that was Homity Pie – a tasty open cheese and potato pie. OK so it was made with wholemeal pastry but I could cope with that when balanced with the lovely buttery, cheesey, garlicy potatoes and onions. As with all my favourite foods, so very simple and so very delicious. In fact, when I left home for university, this was the only recipe I copied out to take with me.

I’ve played with the recipe a little. I use half wholemeal and half white flour for the pastry. Sometimes I add ham or bacon to the filling. And quite often I add whatever leftover vegetables I happen to have in the fridge. Last time I baked it, I used half a celeriac I had hanging around, so this appears in the recipe below.

Homity Pie

For the pastry

100g plain white flour
100g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100g butter
3 tbsp water

For the filling

300g potatoes, peeled and diced
300g celeriac, peeled and diced
3 tbsp olive oil
450g onions, peeled and chopped
50g butter
handful fresh parsley, chopped
150g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp milk
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 220°C/gas 7.

To make the pastry, place the wholemeal and white flour, baking powder and salt in a basin and rub in the butter with your finger tips until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Gradually add the water and mix in with a knife to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large pan of salted water, boil the potatoes and celeriac until just tender, then drain and return to the pan.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently sautee the onions until golden. Add the onions to the potatoes and celeriac along with the butter, parsley, 100g of the cheese, garlic, milk, salt and pepper and combine well.

Butter your flan dish – I use one that’s 25cm diameter. Take your dough out of the fridge and roll out on a floured board. Don’t worry if it’s quite crumbly. Mine always falls apart a bit and I end up moulding it into position to line the flan dish.

Simply tip your ingredients into the pastry case, flatten it out a bit so the pastry is well covered and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar cheese.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and the cheese topping has melted and is golden brown.

Chicken and pea risotto

There are certain dishes that make you feel good simply by preparing them, even before you get to the eating of them. This risotto is, for me, one of these dishes.

It’s partly because it consists mainly of leftovers. The chicken comes from a roast chicken we enjoyed a couple of days earlier, while the stock was made from the bones of the same bird. Spreading ingredients over two or three meals in this way makes me feel quite virtuous, like a proper old fashioned cook.

And then there’s the way you cook a good risotto. It takes care and patience. You can’t turn your back on it for too long. It takes love, and in return you feel loved for making it.

People can be put off making risotto because they dislike the idea of having to stand over the pan, constantly stirring the rice. I know I used to be. But really, it’s only 20 minutes of your life, and it can be almost therapeutic to stand there and let  your mind wander. It’s almost like meditation.

Finally, of course, it tastes so good. Just a few simple ingredients and a bit of stirring and you end up with a creamy hug on a plate. Most definitely my idea of the perfect comfort food.

Chicken and pea risotto

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
320g arborio risotto rice
300g (approx) cooked chicken, torn or cut into bitesized pieces
1 litre hot chicken stock (homemade or from stock cubes)
250g frozen peas
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Gently cook the onion in the olive oil in a large frying pan for around 10 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and rice and fry for another couple of minutes.

Stir in the hot stock to the rice a ladleful at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. Keep going until you have added almost all the stock.

As the last ladleful goes in, throw in the peas and the chicken and stir together for two to three minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the Parmesan cheese and a grind of salt and pepper to taste.

Meal plan: 4 March 2012

Oh dear. My good intentions to post my family’s meal plan at the end of each week have gone to pot recently.

I blame my mother. She came to stay for four days and distracted me with shopping trips for clothes and perfume and drinking lots of red wine.

So I have two week’s worth of meals to share with you now. I promise I’ll be good from now on.

The Highs

Chicken thigh Yakitori from Belleau Kitchen has to have been one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever eaten. You’ve got to try it. Salty, sticky and scrumptious. Even better, my husband cooked it. So, simple too.

Roast vegetable lasagne – lovely

Roast vegetable lasagne is a bit of a family favourite; really satisfying and so full of flavour. I’ve entered this recipe into the Pink Whisk Challenge to raise awareness of Save The Children’s No Child Born to Die campaign. Why don’t you submit one of your family favourites?

I was surprised at just how good my Chinese style soup turned out

I had a go at creating my own Chinese style soup using Chinese sausage, noodles and Savoy cabbage and it was surprisingly good.

For a quick and cheap mid-week supper we tried  a recipe for creamy bacon and leek linguine from the fantastic Gourmet Mum. I didn’t have any linguine so used penne instead. It was very simple and very tasty.

Chicken and pea risotto. The perfect way to use up leftovers from a roast dinner.

And my final high of the fortnight was another very simple dish – chicken and pea risotto, using leftovers and stock from a roast chicken a few days earlier.

The Lows

It’s been a very good fortnight for food but there was one big fat dud. I tried making a goat’s cheese and onion tart and it was simply terrible. Bland and boring. I’d bought a cheap goat’s cheese on ‘special’ and it tasted of absolutely nothing. I won’t be doing that again.

Right then, time for the full breakdown…

Monday 20 February
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: mutton casserole and rice (F)

Tuesday 21 February
Lunch: hummus and cucumber rolls
Dinner: Pancakes (cheese & ham and lemon & ricotta)

Wednesday 22 February
Lunch: chicken and pea risotto  
Dinner: Chinese sausage and noodle soup

Thursday 23 February
Lunch: cheese and pickle rolls
Dinner: baked Portobello mushrooms with garlic butter, baked potatoes and salad

Friday 24 February
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: creamy leek and bacon linguine

Saturday 25 February
Lunch: beans and cheese on toast
Dinner: beef casserole with celeriac mash

Sunday 26 February
Lunch: Chinese chicken, spare ribs, pak choi and egg fried rice
Dinner: Bread, cheese and salad

Monday 27 February
Lunch: ham and salad rolls
Dinner: chicken madras and rice (F)

Tuesday 28 February
Lunch: cheese and salad rolls
Dinner: ratatouille and rice

Wednesday 29 February
Lunch: olive and mozzarella muffins (F) 
Dinner: roast vegetable lasagne

Thursday 1 March
Lunch: scallion and sweet potato soup
Dinner: chicken thigh yakitori

Friday 2 March
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: left over lasagne

Saturday 3 March
Lunch: OUT
Dinner: carrot, beetroot & apple salad and wraps

Sunday 4 March
Lunch: sausages and winter vegetable colcannon
Dinner: left over chicken and colcannon

F = from freezer

Roast vegetable lasagne

Lasagne has always been one of my favourite foods. I loved it when my mother cooked it when I was little and I now love making it for my own children.

It’s not a quick dish to prepare though. In fact I used to think it was a bit of a faff. But these days, when I’m juggling work and family, it’s one of the meals I’ll make once the kids are tucked up in bed and I have the kitchen to myself, generally listening to Jo Whiley on Radio 2, all ready to eat the following evening. There’s nothing nicer than getting back from work and simply having to pop supper in the over and it’s all done.

We’re trying to eat less meat in our house. It’s partly to save money, partly for environmental reasons and partly to eat more healthily. And this is one of those vegetarian alternative meals where you really don’t miss the meat. It’s packed with big bold flavours and the aubergine and courgette give it lots of substance.

Because this meal is such a favourite with my clan, I’m submitting the recipe to The Pink Whisk Challenge, which is dedicated to raising awareness of Save the Children and the Hidden Hunger campaign.

Save the Children is asking everyone to Name a Day, a day when they will do just one thing to help save children’s lives. And they are asking David Cameron to do the same. It is a terrible fact that we live in a world with enough food for everyone, yet hunger is still able to kill 7,000 children every day.  Can you help Save the Children put an end to this Hidden Hunger?

All the recipes gathered for the Pink Whisk Challenge will be collated and published in a Save the Children e-book to be sold to raise awareness and funds for the campaign. Do you have a family favourite to add? Please do. You have until 31 March 2012. Full details over at The Pink Whisk.

Use lots of fresh rosemary and keep the vegetables nice and chunky

Roast vegetable lasagne

Serves 6

For the roast vegetables

1 small onion, peeled and quartered
3 courgettes, chopped diagonally into thick slices
2 aubergines, chopped into large chunks
1 red and 1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
6 cloves of garlic, skins removed
handful of cherry tomatoes
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
olive oil

For the cheese sauce

50g butter
40g plain flour
450ml milk
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 x 400g tins chopped plum tomatoes
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

250g lasagne sheets
Extra grated cheese for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 200°C/gas 6.

Begin by roasting your vegetables. Place them all in a large roasting tray along with the rosemary and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper, pour over some olive oil and toss together to cover the vegetables well. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through, until they are tender and beginning to brown.

The roast vegetables with garlic and rosemary smell sensational

While the vegetables are roasting prepare the two sauces.

The tomato sauce is very simple. Fry the onions in the olive oil until golden. Add the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and stir together. Simmer gently for around 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.

A very simple tomato sauce

For the cheese sauce, place the butter, flour and milk in a saucepan. Whisk over a gentle heat until it has thickened. Then stir in grated cheese until it has melted into the sauce. Again, season to taste.

When the vegetables are roasted, place a layer of these in the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. (Mine isn’t particularly large so I use a medium sized one and a small one.) Make sure you pull out the thick rosemary stalks. Nobody likes chewing on twigs.

Pour some tomato sauce over the vegetables and then cover with a layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat this process until you have filled your dish, ending with a layer of vegetables and then sauce.

Now pour over the cheese sauce. I like to wiggle the dish from side to side a little to make sure the cheese sauce seeps down the sides and through all the cracks.

Finally scatter some grated Cheddar cheese over the top. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbly and a knife inserted goes easily through the pasta.

Perfect served with a salad and some homemade garlic bread.

Who can resist the molten cheese on top of a big bowl of lasagne?

Meal plan: 19 February 2012

Meals are getting better and better in the Bangers & Mash household.

Firstly I put it down to the meal planning, which has made me think much more carefully about what and how we eat.

And secondly, it’s due to writing this blog, which I’ve been doing for almost three months now. It’s certainly helping to keep me on my toes, forcing me to be more creative in the kitchen, try out lots of new recipes and even develop my own dishes.

This week, I think, has been a particularly good one mealwise. Lots of highs and not a single low.

As it was the half term holidays, we got to enjoy some big meals at lunchtime with lighter meals in the evening. I much prefer eating this way. We even had roast chicken for Friday lunch, which is always such a treat.

The first high has to be our romantic Valentine’s meal, once the children were tucked up in bed. We enjoyed a scrumptious pan-fried duck breast salad with mixed berries and walnuts from a recipe by the wonderful Karen Booth over at Lavender & Lovage.

Pan-fried duck salad from Lavender & Lovage

I can’t plan a romantic meal without chocolate featuring on the menu, so we followed the duck salad with a gorgeous chocolate and raspberry mousse, adapted from a recipe I found on the Riverford website.

Chocolate and raspberry mousse

Later in the week I cooked a delicious celery and blue cheese soup. I don’t mind admitting it was out of this world. I know soup isn’t normally something to get excited about, but there was something really quite sexy about this one. Again I promise to post my recipe in the next few days.

Celery and blue cheese soup with crispy smoked pancetta

I tried out some lemon and ricotta pancakes as a mid-week pudding, ahead of Shrove Tuesday, and these were a fantastic success. I adapted a recipe I found in The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, which I borrowed from the library at the weekend. I look forward to testing out and playing with more recipes from here in the coming weeks.

Lemon and ricotta pancakes

And my final legal high of the week was a spicy chorizo and butter bean soup I made for a light supper on Saturday evening. I wasn’t really expecting much but it was packed full of gutsy flavour. Yet again, recipe to follow shortly.

So here it is then. Last week’s meal plan in its entirety…

Monday 13 February
Lunch: butternut squash soup (F)
Dinner: tortilla and salad

Tuesday 14 February
Lunch: ham salad rolls followed by love heart jam tarts
Dinner: (kids) beef casserole and baked potato (F) (adults) pan-fried duck breast salad with mixed berries and walnuts, followed by chocolate and raspberry mousse

Wednesday 15 February
Lunch: hummus and salad wraps
Dinner: pumpkin & parsnip cassoulet with homemade garlic bread

Thursday 16 February
Lunch: celery and blue cheese soup followed by lemon and ricotta pancakes
Dinner: chilli con carne (my husband made a mild version for the children)

Friday 17 February
Lunch: roast chicken, roast potatoes and steamed vegetables
Dinner: leek and potato soup

Saturday 18 February
Lunch: baked potatoes and salad
Dinner: Spicy chorizo and bean soup

Sunday 19 February
Lunch: mutton casserole and spicy corn bread (F)
Dinner: Bread, cheese and salad

F = from freezer

Lemon and ricotta pancakes

If you are looking for a twist on the traditional pancake this Shrove Tuesday, why not give these delicious lemon and ricotta pancakes a go?

Adapted from a recipe in The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano, they are temptingly light and fluffy with a hint of citrus zing.

Lemon and ricotta pancakes

Serves 4

4 eggs
250g ricotta cheese
35g plain flour
50g caster sugar
2 unwaxed lemons
50g butter for frying
Honey to serve

Separate the eggs into two large bowls. Whisk up the egg whites until they form soft peaks and put to one side.

Give the egg yolks a quick beat. Zest the two lemons and add to the yolks. Sieve the flour onto the yolks, then add in the ricotta and sugar. Gently mix together.

Fold in the egg whites gently so you don't lose all that air

Spoon a quarter of the egg whites into the rest of the pancake mixture and carefully fold in. Once combined, gently fold in the remainder of the whites.

Melt enough butter to cover the bottom of your frying pan. Spoon in the pancake mix. You need around a tablespoon of mixture for each small pancake, and you should be able to cook around four at a time, depending of course on the size of your pan.

Fry your dainty pancakes until golden

Fry the pancakes for a couple of minutes until tiny holes appear on the surface. Flip them over and cook for another two to three minutes until a gorgeous golden colour.

Keep the pancakes warm until you’ve cooked them all. Then serve immediately with a drizzle of honey and a good squeeze of lemon.

Meal plan: 12 February 2012

Another week, another meal plan. And some rather tasty meals. Here’s the week that was in the Bangers & Mash kitchen…

Highs

My other half has requested that I let him cook more often. Since I’ve been meal planning, I’ve tended to choose dishes I’ve fancied cooking and my husband is feeling a little left out when it comes to happenings in the kitchen. His wish is most definitely my command, in this instance anyway.

For ages he’s been talking about having a go at a chicken tikka massala. You know, like they do in Indian restaurants. It took him three days but he got there. And it was bloody gorgeous. Thanks to The Curry Guy for the recipe.

Chicken tikka massala

Another high was a delicious pasta and aubergine dish I read about on Feeding Boys and a Firefighter, Pasta alla Norma; one I’ll definitely be making again.

Lows

I felt such a domestic goddess on Saturday night, when the rest of the family were tucked up in bed, stirring up the mixture for  spicy corn bread to bake in the morning for breakfast. While it was very tasty, the corn bread just didn’t work first thing in the morning with our bacon and eggs. Just too stodgy. So we decided it would be best to eat the remainder with a meaty stew later in the week.

Spicy corn bread

So here is a day-by-day guide to our last week of food…

Monday 6 February
Lunch: cheese and chutney rolls
Dinner: salad wraps with haricot bean and garlic dip

Tuesday 7 February
Lunch: ham salad rolls
Dinner: squash risotto

Wednesday 8 February
Lunch: hummus and roasted vegetable wraps 
Dinner: Pasta alla Norma

Thursday 9 February
Lunch: cottage cheese with pineapple rolls
Dinner (kids): fish fingers, chips and peas (adults): ham & cheese omelette and salad

Friday 10 February
Lunch: olive and mozzarella muffins
Dinner: ratatouille with garlic bread

Saturday 11 February
Lunch: chicken tikka massala
Dinner: sausages and mustard mash

Sunday 12 February
Lunch: AWAY
Dinner: Bread, cheese and salad

F = from freezer