Monday, 5 September 2011

The menu challenge

During the past couple of months I have been trying to have a list of dishes to cook before doing our online grocery order, with two aims: saving money and getting more organised.

I am a freelance translator with a husband and a 14 month old, I work from home to deadlines, my jobs arrive and are delivered by email, most jobs are required "yesterday/asap/would 4pm on Sunday be ok?", so deadlines can be quite tight and, unless I am working on a large job which is not meant to be delivered until two weeks later, I don't tend to know what my weeks are going to be like (in fact they can be quite chaotic), having the right ingredients and the recipes all lined up has been helping me enormously, even if I don't always follow it to the letter.

It all started one day when, after visiting the zoo with LittleT, we decided to take a trip to Waitrose but, once there, we had no clue what we needed or where to start and Waitrose can be dangerous as we always end up spending a fortune. We decided to take a look at the recipe magazines, bought the August 2011 issue of Delicious and bought the ingredients for the recipes we liked. Since then I have decided to go through our many recipe book and the lists keep on growing.
This is the menu for the following days (none of the recipes are too complicated or take ages, most are ready in 30-40 minutes):
The menu: I have already scratched out a few dishes that, while placing the order, I decided not to include

On Saturday afternoon I placed an Ocado order, it arrived on Sunday afternoon and today I cooked the first dish: Roast meatballs with tomatoes from the September 2011 issue of Delicious Magazine
I didn't actually follow the exact recipe as published (do I ever?). It was tasty if a bit dry, next time I think I would add perhaps a bit of lemon juice.

Roast meatballs with tomatoes

The rest of the recipes include:

- Maple-glazed chicken (Delicious, August 2011) a firm family favourite already, so easy and tasty and with enough leftovers to make another dish the following day.

- Thai fried chicken rice (Delicious, August 2011) with the leftover chicken, really quick and fabulously tasting dish. *10th Sept. 2011 update* This recipes calls for mint and pistachios but I have never added them and it is extremely tasty without them.

- Mini meatloaves (Nigella Lawson) these will be frozen individually. I have done them before, they defrost quickly to spice up lunch in front of the computer on a week day.

- Summery chorizo stew (Delicious August 2011), I have been dying to try this one and finally got my hands on the Merchant Gourmet grains thanks to Ocado. *Prepared this for the first time on 12/09/2011, it was yummy, I shall be cooking it again soon, even if the recipe name says "summery", it's perfect for Autumn/Winter. Very easy to prepare.*

- Sesame-crusted halloumi with Mediterranean veg (Delicious August 2011), perfect for a nice weekend lunch, really easy. *Update 10th September 2011* We don't tend to add olives to this recipe in the Tapas household (I'm a huge fan of olives but I think this recipe works even without them)

- Chilli coriander prawn tagliatelle (Delicious August 2011) super easy and super quick, I now tend to have the prawns in the freezer and a bag of fresh tagliatelle in the fridge (they tend to have a long best before) ready for this. *Update 14/09/2011 - I just realised I have never ever used one of the ingredients of this recipe, the 150g pack Marks & Spencer Edamame Soya Bean Salad (edamame beans, broad beans, fine green beans, sugarsnap peas and rocket) and it tastes lovely without them.*

- Sticky ginger and chilli chicken (Delicious August 2011), I have already cooked this dish a couple of times and always on a Friday night, it's a good substitute for the Chinese takeaway, it's a bit more laborious than the other dishes but still very easy, tasty and well worth the effort. Unfortunately I can't find it on their website.

- Pesto pasta, as easy as adding the contents of a jar of ready-made pesto to cooked pasta. What can I say, sometimes I'm just too tired for anything else, Mr Tapas spices it up with roasted pinenuts.

- Chicken saltimbocca with green beans and shallots, another perfect weekend lunch or mid-week dinner, LittleT loved this one.

- Pork, lemon and herb meatballs with orzo salad (Olive August 2011), I have cooked this before, it was lovely and easy for a mid-week dinner and the yoghurt dip was particularly successful.

Who fancies taking the menu challenge with me? Do come back and let me know if you try or have already tried any of these recipes and what you thought.
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