Category Archives: Midweek Meals

Easy Peasy Spaghetti and Meatballs

You will not like this recipe if you don’t eat pork! However I suppose you could try it with beef sausages (oh yeah, the secret ingredient here is really good quality sausages) but the texture and flavour would be much, much different. 

  
To me, sausage and pasta is a match made in heaven. In fact, I was at Grand Italia last week and ordered the Penne Norcina instead of the Penne Piccante, just because I had a hankering for pasta and sausage. Needless to say, it didn’t quite hit the spot (I’m blaming the rich, creamy sauce for that) and I decided I had to whip up a portion of this guy to feed the craving. 

You will need (to feed one):

2 good quality pork sausages

Half white onion

Half red pepper

1 clove garlic

Glug of white wine

Tin chopped tomatoes (or a about half a jar of passata if you like your sauce smooth)

1 tsp mild chilli powder

Salt and pepper

Splash Worcestershire sauce

Splash balsamic vinegar

Pinch caster sugar

Dash lemon juice

Sprinkling of dried or fresh parsley and basil (fresh is best)

Half teaspoon dried oregano

Small dash olive oil for the pan (tiny tiny because the sausage will release a lot of fat)

75g or so of spaghetti to serve (I had wholewheat spaghetti as I’m having to make up for lots of “holiday” eating and drinking.

 
1. Slice the onion and pepper into your preferred shape. Sauté at a low to medium heat until starting to soften then add in the grated garlic clove and cook for a further 10 minutes or so, or until the onion and pepper starts to soften, being careful not to burn the garlic. 

  
2. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skin (you could also cut the skin open and remove the meat but it isn’t as fun) and roll into small balls. Add to the pan and gently brown on a sides. This will let the sausage become crispy on the outside.

  
3. Add the wine and heat until the liquid has mostly cooked out and reduced away. You may need to turn the heat up a bit for this.

4. Add the tomatoes, stir and turn the heat back down to a simmer. Add all the seasoning apart from the fresh herbs. Put the spaghetti on to cook. Continue to simmer.

  
5. Taste and add anything you think is missing, then add the fresh herbs and cook for another 5 minutes or so. If the sauce dries out, swill a little water round the tomato can and add to the sauce.

6. Drain the spaghetti, offering up a tablespoon or so of the pasta cooking water to emulsify the sauce, stir, serve. 

  
Buen provecho!

Beef and Mushroom Stir Fry

When I was in Morrisons last weekend, I spotted some oyster mushrooms and couldn’t possibly have left without buying some. They are expensive though so use sparingly! I also bought some quick fry sandwich steak (3 pieces for £3.30 which made two meals for one greedy person). I also used some of my usual stock vegetables and some tender stem broccoli, as it was only 89p for a change. 

  
There are quite a few ingredients in this guy, such as mirin and rice wine, but you can pick them up relatively inexpensively in most supermarkets or Chinese supermarkets, abs once you have them in your cupboard they’ll help you out with a multitude of other oriental recipes (and by that time they’ll feel like they are free flavour). So, there might be a  bit of an outlet but just go for it….

You will need (to feed 1) (although you can use whichever vegetables and protein you like):

1tbsp mirin

1 tbsp shaohsing rice wine

1 tbsp honey

2 tbsp light soy sauce 

1 clove garlic, grated

1 tbsp ginger, grated

Dash sesame oil

Splash groundnut oil for frying with

Half white onion

Half red pepper

Small carrot

4 florets of tenderstem broccoli

Handful of oyster (or other) mushrooms

Strips of your favourite stir fry beef, I used 1 1/2 quick fry steaks 

Rice or noodles to serve 

  
1. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Grate the ginger and garlic. 

  
2. Add the ginger and wet ingredients into a bowl and mix together. This part can be done in advance if you like, but it doesn’t take long. 

  
3. Slice the beef into strips and place in the marinade. This should be done at least 10 minutes before you plan to fry the beef which, incidentally, should also be out of the fridge for 20 minutes or so before you plan to cook it.

  
4. Heat a large pan or wok on a high heat and add the oil. Chuck in the onions and allow them to start to break down a little. Although I like my carrots to be crunchy and fresh, I prefer onions and peppers to be a relatively softened, and I can’t deal with raw broccoli! The cooking times are entirely customisable to your vegetable crispness preferences. 

5. Once the onions have started to soften, turn the heat down to medium and add in the peppers, carrots and garlic, stirring occasionally so that nothing burns, then add the broccoli and allow all of those to simmer. 

  
6. Once the vegetables have almost reached your desired level of cookedness, push them to the side, turn up the heat and add another splash of oil. If you’re having dried noodles, they should be ready to go on by now too as they will only take a few minutes and will be reheated in the pan. 

7. Add the beef strips, a few at a time, trying not to introduce too much of the marinade to the pan. This will only lead to the beef boiling, which will leave it chewy. When just cooked on one side, turn onto the other and add the mushrooms to the vegetable side. Stir everything together.

  
8. Add the noodles and the marinade and stir through until everything is hot and combined, being careful not to overdo the beef. 

 Serve and enjoy!

Chicken Teriyaki 

This is unbelievably sticky, crunchy, tender, juicy and all round delicious. Add as much spice as you’d like. It makes a great accompaniment to rice or noodles, or you could even use it as lead role in a warm Asian salad, loaded with crisp peppers and topped off with seeds. 

You will need (to feed 4):

2 tbsp shaohsing rice wine

2 tbsp mirin

4 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp grated ginger 

2 cloves grated garlic

1 tsp sesame oil

Splash groundnut oil for frying

Boneless and skinless chicken thighs, at least 2 per person

  
1. Trim the chicken thighs and cut into chunks.

2. Mix the wet ingredients, apart from the groundnut oil, in a bowl big enough to take the chicken. Toss the chicken in the marinade and set aside for around half an hour. You can also do this earlier, but you should cover it and put it back in the fridge then take it back out again around half an hour before cooking it. 

3. Heat the oil in a saucepan or wok then place in the chicken and brown on all sides. Be careful with the honey as it can catch and burn quite easily.

  
4. Turn the heat down to medium and pour in the remaining marinade. Allow to simmer until cooked through. If you’d like to add vegetables, like peppers, broccoli and carrots, add these before or at the same time as the chicken. 

 

Sweet Potato Buns (Breadless Buns)

I’ll admit that this is one of my less exciting recipes, but I thought the theory behind it was too good not to share. I pinched this idea from Pinterest but made up my own recipe. These are essentially roasted sweet potato slices which can be used as a much lighter, much healthier, replacement for burger buns, or indeed any type of hot bread sandwich. 

  
To me, sweet potatoes have to be paired with spice; a little sultry cumin with a dash of fiery chilli, so, for this recipe, you will need:

1 large sweet potato – the girth of which will determine how many of these one potato will make

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Pinch chilli powder

Salt and pepper

Drizzle of your favourite roasting oil (I tend to use olive)

  
1. Preheat the oven to about 190C fan.

2. Cover a baking tray in tin foil and drizzle in the oil. Once the oven is hot enough, pop it in to heat until the oil is starting to smoke.

  
3. Cut two disks from the central of your sweet potato. Sprinkle on the spice and seasoning. Add to the oil and bake for around 25 minutes, or until golden on the outside and soft in the middle. 

  

Preparation is everything! 

I had to travel to Edinburgh for training today, and that’s always a challenging time for eating healthily and thriftily. However, despite being absolutely knackered last night, I spent time packing a big tote bag (I had files to take with me) and making lunch, knowing the temptation of a seldom visited sandwich shop is quite the draw.

  
So I chopped, piled, sorted and cling-filmed salad and fruit boxes, a couple of oatcakes and duck liver pâté (I know it isn’t the healthiest thing to eat but it’s good to have a bit of iron and protein from time to time), as well as setting out cutlery and napkins, and setting aside a yoghurt for breakfast on the go. 

By the time I’d done all that, there was barely time to paint my nails, chat to the fiancé and make a cup of tea, never mind the early night I’d planned to help me on the way to an early train. Not to worry, I woke up early nevertheless, rushed around, and packed my bag. 

Yoghurt on the train, melon and strawberries then an apple for a mid-morning snack to keep me away from the shortbread and Borders biscuits. 

  
And then lunch, finally, after hours of slow progress, it was declared that lunch was on order. As there is rarely such a thing as a fee lunch, I do allow myself to indulge when it’s provided, however, despite my groans at my wasted time, my preparation won the day when 5 sandwiches and 2 pasta salads were produced to feed 11. “Not to worry”, I said, “I’ve brought mine with me” and dived in to my fresh, light lunch box, as the others grumbled and shared the slim pickings available. “What’s that you have?”, “that looks nice”, “get you, Mrs healthy”…like the cat who successfully avoided the cream, I munched my way through my lovely lunch, then allowed myself a small piece of chocolate tray bake.

Preparation…is everything. 

Oatcakes 

This weekend my culinary repertoire was added to by another something I can’t believe I’ve never tried to bake before; oatcakes. Despite being on a big old attempt at a health kick ahead of my friend’s wedding, I treated myself to some snoked duck pâté as a lunchtime treat and accompaniment to salad (you have to take a break from roast chicken occasionally!), so I was looking for something to spread it on without breaking any of my new rules. Although this recipe contains white flour (although I suppose wholemeal would work if you cared enough) , the main ingredient is lovely, fibrous, sustaining oats, with a few seeds to add some good oils and to ramp up the texture and flavour. You can add whichever seeds you like or leave them out if you’d prefer. 

  

You will need: (makes approx. 14 medium oatcakes)

50g butter

100g oats 

100g plain flour

2 tsp sesame seeds

2 tsp pumpkin seeds, chopped 

  
1. Heat the oven to 180C fan. 

2. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan and allow to cool.

  
3. If your oats are large, you may want to grind them up a little in a pestle and mortar. I used a mixture of slightly ground and whole. Add all the dry ingredients into a bowl then pour on the butter and mix well. 

4. Add 5-6 tbsp boiling water until it comes together as a dry dough. 

  
5. Roll out as thinly or thickly as you prefer and cut with a cutter or knife into your preferred shape. Roll up the remnants and repeat.

  
6. Place on greaseproof paper on a tray in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until starting to brown.

  

These give off a glorious smell when baking once those seeds and oats start to toast. This recipe takes no time at all and I will definitely be repeating it!

  
Delicious and crunchy with cheese or pâté and a great lunchtime base that will keep you fed and fuelled for an early evening workout.

Homemade Baked Beans (With Chorizo)

These are an absolute treat as a healthy but filling accompaniment to roast chicken, sausages, fajitas, and so on. As with most of my favourite recipes, these can be customised with whichever additions you prefer (or you can leave some things out to your taste, or if you’d like a veggie version for example). Although I’ve said this is a healthy recipe, I should caveat it by saying I included some chorizo because I thought it would add a nice extra layer of spice and depth (and because I had some in the fridge).  You could add smoked bacon instead, or pancetta, or go animal fat-free.

A big batch will keep for a week or so on the fridge, assuming you store in a sterilised airtight container. I reused a passata jar which I cleaned thoroughly and sterilised in the oven (150C for 15 minutes).

   
You will need:

1 tin chopped tomatoes 

Half jar of passata

4 shallots

1 sausage sized cooking chorizo, or a couple of rashers of bacon

1 tsp tomato purée 

1 tin cannellini beans

1 tin haricot beans

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp chilli powder 

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

  
1. Finely chop the onion and chorizo. Add to as the dry teaspoon on a medium heat.

2. Cook until the shallots are soft and the chorizo has started to leak oil and take on oil. You can blot out some of the excess oil with a paper towel if you’d like. 

3. Add the tomato purée and cook out for a couple of minutes then do the same with the vinegar. 

4. Add the tomatoes, passata, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, lemon juice, mustard and spices and stir. Swirl water around in the tomato can and add this to the sauce. Stir and leave the lid half on at a simmering level for at least an hour, stirring occasionally and adding additional water as and when necessary. 

  
5. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as necessary. Rinse and add the beans. Simmer for another hour or so (the longer the better all in all) and serve or cool and store. 

  
Step away from shop bought! 

Sausage and Pepper Pasta

Leftovers and store cupboard recipes seem to be the order of the day just now (trust me, my bank account is a fan!) so here’s another of my favourite quick midweek meals which largely uses ingredients from the kitchen cupboard and freezer. Unfortunately, the only way to make these types of recipe work in a relatively fresh and healthy way is to add in some fresh vegetables, but they tend to be relatively cheap and easy to pick up at lunch time or on the way home. 

  
You will need: 

1 red pepper

1 onion 

1 clove garlic

1 tin chopped or plum tomatoes or passata

Salt and pepper

Oregano, parsley and basil, 1/2 teaspoon of each 

Pinch sugar

1tsp lemon juice

1tsp Worcestershire sauce 

2 sausages per person

Portion of pasta per person 

  
1. Heat a little oil in a saucepan. Slice the onion and pepper into fine strips and add to the pan. Add the crushed garlic and cook at a low to medium heat until softened. 

2. Add in the tomatoes and stir through. Add the seasoning, sugar, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Allow to simmer for as long as possible.

3. Put the sausages on a foiled tray in the oven and bake at 180C for around 25 minutes or until brown and cooked through.

4. In the mean time, put the pasta in a large saucepan, salt and cook until ready. Cooking time will depend on the shape of pasta you choose. 

5. When the sausages are ready, carefully cut into chunks and add to he sauce. Taste, and add further seasoning if required. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water from the pasta pot to loosen and emulsify the sauce. This really does make a difference! 

  
6. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce then mix through. I prefer to do it this way round to save getting two pots really messy, but make sure the pasta is well drained!

Buen Appetito! 

Pulled Pork

There’s nothing quite like a slow roast on a Sunday afternoon. Especially a meltingly soft, sweet, smoky, spicy, versatile pulled pork shoulder. This has had a lot of bad press recently for being too trendy and a bit past it, but I have never before summoned the courage to try making my own. It was surprisingly simple and has given me one supper and three lunches so far, using a 640g shoulder joint (the biggest I could get). A really nice change from roast chicken salad! 

 

You will need:

1 pork shoulder 

3 tsp smoked paprika

Chunk of fresh ginger, grated

3 cloves of garlic, grated

1 tsp tomato purée 

2 tsp light muscovado sugar

150ml white balsamic vinegar

Pinch dried chilli flakes 

5 shallots, chopped 

  
1. Hold back 3 shallots and the pork and combine all the other ingredients together in a bowl. 

  
2. Line a deep roasting tin well with tin foil. Cover the pork joint with the marinade, cover with foil and leave to soak in for around half an hour.

 
3. Preheat the oven to 180C fan. Pour 300ml water into the tray and put the marinated pork in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn down to 160C and roast for 2 hours or so, basting every half an hour. If the tray bakes dry, add more water.   

4. Don’t worry that it looks a bit ropey, both when you put it in and when you take it out! The beauty is in the inside! Allow to cool for awhile on a dry sheet of foil and pour the juices into a bowl to settle, allowing you to skim the fat off the top. 

  
5. Chuck the rest of the chopped shallots in a frying pan with a little oil and fry on a low heat until soft and translucent. Tip in the rested juices and add in a good cup of water. Simmer until reduced and you’ll have a sweet, sticky, spicy BBQ sauce! It’s great on a roll or as a chutney with a salad.

6. Cut the fat off the pork and pull it apart with two forks – this is a bit labour intensive but it’s worth it! It’s easiest to shred the whole thing while it’s still warm. It’ll cease up once it’s been in the fridge. Be careful of any grizzle or fat though. 

  
Serve in a salad, on a roll, on a pizza or in pasta or noodles….whatever you choose! 

  

Mushrooms on Toast

This is something Mr Brooker introduced to my lunchtime life, and it’s a much healthier version of Pizza Express’ delightful Bruschetta con Funghi (which is loaded with cream). This makes a fabulous lunch, served with salad or alone, a great starter, if served in a smaller portion, or a tasty canapé, if vastly miniaturised. 

  
You will need:

Crusty whole grain bread, toasted 

Mushrooms, preferably chestnut

1 clove garlic

1 tsp parsley

1/2 tsp thyme

Generous knob of butter

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Grinding of black pepper 

  
1. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low to medium heat. Slice the mushrooms, grate or crush the garlic and herbs (unless using dried). 

  
2. Put the toast on and chuck the garlic in the pan to let its flavour release into the butter, without burning it.

  
3. Add the mushrooms and herbs, making sure to spread the mushrooms out evenly. Try not to overheat or over stir. You want these brown and textured, not grey and mushy! 

  
4.When the mushrooms are nearly ready, add the mustard and stir in. Add more if you really like it!

5. Serve over the toast with a grinding of black pepper. You won’t need to butter the toast as the mushrooms will be moist enough. 

  
I know this involves fat and dairy but at least it’s real butter! The flavour simply can’t be replicated any other way!   Just make sure you enjoy it!