Friday, 5 February 2016

Peri Peri Chicken Pot (Homemade Pot Noodles!) Prep. Ahead Meals

20160121_195126This was a ‘staff room’ recipe from Beth, who turned up at school one lunchtime with a pot of rabbit food. Well, I say that, but actually, when I tried it, it was far more delicious than rabbit food and even had some meat in it! And what’s more, its one of the quickest recipes you’ll try, especially if you prep. ahead and get all the chopping done beforehand.


You’ll need to slice peppers (yellow), carrots and spring onions. I used the mandoline so they were super thin, but thinnish strips will be fine. Pop these into a zipped freezer bag and add mange tout, corainder leaves and baby spinach. (I told you it was a little like rabbit food!) To fill the bags, put them into an empty large mug so nothing spills. Chop some ready cooked chicken (or leftover chicken from the roast if you have any!) and add that, along with a good splash of ‘sauce’. I used Nando’s Peri Peri Medium, but you could add a dollop of Hoi Sin, or Sweet Chilli – really, whichever flavour you fancy. Remember to check the date on the chicken so you know when to eat it before. DSC_1422

I really prefer to bag these as individual portions, then they become a ‘grab and go’ dinner or lunch. And I also freeze them all, but you’ll need to remember to thaw in the fridge overnight for the next day. If I ever need a lunch, I just get one out the night before and take it with me, along with a noodle nest and stock cube.

To make the ‘meal’ you add noodles and stock. That’s it! I prefer the vermicelli rice noodles, but traditional egg noodles work just as well. I also opt for the ‘soft’ straight-to-wok noodles rather than the dry ones as they simply require heating, rather than cooking, making the dish even quicker. You can even add these soft noodles to your ready-prepped bag, but in this case, I wouldn’t freeze them. It’s just as simple to grab a nest of noodles on the day of making.

So, the initial idea with these was that you store all the ingredients in a Kilner jar, even the noodles, and simply pour hot stock over the top and eat. We all agreed, however, that the dish just isn’t hot enough like this, so I’ve found the best method to be tipping out your prepped veg. into a shallow bowl and adding the noodles. Boil the kettle and add half a stock cube to around 200ml hot water. Pour over the veg. and noodles and microwave for a minute until piping hot. It’s essentially a homemade pot noodle, I know, but with all that veg. surely the little bit of salted stock is balanced out?!

And I promise, it’s much tastier than you might think!


Thursday, 4 February 2016

Slow Cooked Chilli – Prep Ahead Family Meals

I’ve never made a chilli in the slow cooker before, but have a good standard recipe I’ve always used that a colleague passed on several years ago. It’s delicious and can cetainly be prepped ahead of time.

Pop an onion, courgette and red pepper into a food processor and blitz until they’re finely chopped. Keep in a sealed tub or zipped freezer bag until the morning you intend to cook it. This was another recipe that I also used the food grinder for and again, it worked well. Since I knew I was going to slow cook it, I chose a cheaper cut of meat, braising steak, that was prechopped into chunks, and fed it through the grinder. Don’t forget to check the date on the meat so it’s still in date on the night you need it!


On the day you’re making this meal, pop the meat and chopped vegetables into the slow cooker. (If you have time, fry off the mince and brown it first – if not, don’t worry!) Add a drained and rinsed can of kidney beans, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some chilli powder to taste. Give it all a good mix around and check the liquid covers the ingredients. If it doesn’t, tip in just enough water to cover them. As it’s slow cooked the usual ‘lid-off’ reduction won’t happen as it’ll be covered, so you don’t want too much liquid. Turn onto low for the day and leave for at least 5 hours. If it is still too runny at the end, transfer the crock pot to the hob if it’s allowed, and bubble on high until it has reduced.

Serve with soft tortillas, soured cream and grated cheese.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Bangers, Mash & Spinach–Prep. Ahead Family Mealtimes

Now, this is one to try if you really want to know what goes into your sausages! Otherwise, it’s always a quick and easy tea, especially if you use ready mashed mash. I hate doing mash, the phaff involved in peeling, then boiling, then mashing the potatoes, only to produce a rather lumpy dollop of something. So I’ve started buying frozen – looking at the ingredients, it has exactly what I would put in: potatoes, salt and pepper and butter, so I don’t really see the problem!
Anyway, if you use it, this becomes a super quick meal. Pop the susages in the oven for a healthier ‘cook’, microwave the mash and spinach and knock up a ‘ready made’ Bisto-type gravy. Easy.
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, then why not have a go at making your own sausages? Jimmy recently demo’ed how to do this on Friday Night Feast with Jamie, so I couldn’t wait to give it a go! My first attempt involved ‘mincing’ the meat in the food processor and using a piping bag to fill the sausage skins. Now this does work especially if you’ve got a sharp blade on your processor, but the fat needs chopping very small before beginning, so it’s not a brilliantly quick option. Also, the effort required to squeeze the meat out from a piping bag into sausage skins is incredible – and you could do with another pair of hands to be honest. And so it came about that I ordered the Food Grinder attachment for my KitchenAid, along with a sausage stuffer! And I bought skins from Lakeland rather than the ‘natural’ hog casings suggested. 
sausage making
My second attempt took just as long, but was much less effort! I used a small shoulder of pork (from Tesco, about £3) and a small pack of strips of pork belly (again, about £3) . Use a sharp knife to cut this into small strips and feed into the grinder. I’ll post a video next time I make them so keep an eye out for it. Now, some reviews had said that the grinder sometimes grinds it’s own metal, leaving a grey metallic goo in the meat (! – yuck) but I found this is only the case if you don’t keep the fat from from entangling itself around the blade and ‘grater’ plate. If you keep this are free-flowing, it works a treat. Add a good handful of dried breadcrumbs to the mix, and much pepper. A little salt also helps flavour and a selection of your favourite dried herbs. This way, you know exactly what has gone into each and every sausage. Once combined, re-feed back into the grinder with the stuffer attachment attached. Guide the mince through, leaving a little space in the casings to twist into sausages, but no air. I made between 12-14 sausages, and you could divide the batches and use different flavourings for each if you’d like.
Cook in a high oven. Use the browning juices from the tray to begin your gravy. Simply chop some onions and fry off gently in the sausage pan with a spoonful of redcurrant jelly. Once softened, sprinkle a little flour over and add water or stock to your taste.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Pesto Mediterranean Tarte

An easy weeknight meal that simply needs assembly on the night. I put a little spin on it for my daughter, calling it Pesto Pizza. Chop all your toppings in advance and store in a tub or sealed freezer bag. I chose peppers, tomatoes, mushroom, chorizo and mozarella, but you really could put on anything you fancied...grilled aubergine, seared asparagus?

Unroll the sheet of puff pastry (I've always believed life is too short to make your own puff!) and score a light border around the edge. Spread your pesto over the base, top with toppings, making sure the wetter ones, such as tomatoes, are on top so they don't make the pastry soggy, and top with cheese. Bake in a hot oven until the base is crispy underneath - you may need to cover the top with foil to ensure it doesn't burn. Serve with a crispy green salad.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Prep Ahead Weekly Meal Planning - February

This week's menu might be a little more 'prep on the night', but I don't think anything took longer than 15 mins, so still fairly quick. In fact, only the duck and the tarte needed this for the assembly and the greens respectively. 

Monday: Mediterranean pesto tarte with salad
Tuesday: bangers, mash and spinach
Thursday: slow cooked chilli
Friday: peri peri chicken pot

I haven't planned for the weekend as the other half is away so me and F will grab what we fancy when we fancy it. Click on the duck for the recipe as this is something we had a couple of weeks ago. F declared she didn't like duck, then proceeded to eat two full buns of the stuff, so this week I bought four legs rather than two! The batch of buns I'd made stored well in the freezer, tho I had a panic when I got them out that they'd be very heavy. But, again, I was proved wrong and, when simply resteamed, they puffed up perfectly again! 

This week, I also used the new meat grinder attachment for the KitchenAid to homemake sausages and beef mince for the chilli. It worked well, although making from scratch took me an extra 45 minutes of prep. Worth it though to know what's gone into your food. If you don't have one, simply throw the meat into the food processor, or ask your butcher to grind your chosen cut of meat. He'll do it for free. 

The shopping list is here.

Hope you enjoy the ideas this week...please comment under the posts to let me know how you got on!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Prep. Ahead Family Meals – Sticky Chicken Thighs

This make ahead meal is a Jamie classic onepot from his Jamie at Home book. It’s very simple, but also very tasty and perfect to make ahead, pop in a bag and tip into a roasting tin when you want it.
Buy boneless skin-on chicken thighs if you can and cut into three strips. Bag up separately from the rest of the ingredients. Buy a range of different coloured tomatoes and plunge into boiling water for a few minutes til the skins peels away easily. Put these into your freezer bag. Boil some new potatoes until just tender, drain, the squash slightly til your hear and feel the skin on one side split. Add these to the bag. Pop in salt and pepper, a few strands of fresh oregano (dried will do), a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and a large splash of red wine vinegar. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator.
sticky chicken
On your chosen night, lightly fry off the chicken, skin side down to get a bit of colour. It doesn’t need to be cooked through. Tip that, and the bag of tomatoes and potatoes into a hot roasting tin along with any liquid left in the bag. If it looks a bit dry, another glug of oil and vinegar should do the trick. Depending on how large your pieces of thigh were, roast at 180 for between 25 and 45 minutes. Serve with something green – a bag of spinach is quick, easy and nutritious!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Prep. Ahead Family Meals–Tortilla Pizzas

This is another really easy one and great way to use up any leftover veg. I planned this specialfially as we had half a pack of tortillas left from the week before’s Spicy Fajita Wraps, so didn’t add them to the shopping list this week. It’s definitely a money saver planning ahead.
For the tomato pizza topping, I heated a carton of value passata along with a splodge of tomato puree, a splash of red wine, pepper, dried herbs, crushed garlic and a pinch of sugar to take the acid away from the tomatoes. Leave this to simmer on the hob for between 20 and 40 minutes until it begins to thicken. Store in a sealed tub or jar. You can freeze this too if you wanted to make a bigger batch. As for the toppings, choose your favourites. We were lucky enough to have a lovely chorizo brought back from Spain for us (much more useful than a straw donkey!) and as a family, we seem to enjoy the salty flavours of this combined with pineapple – very American I know! I also sliced red peppers and mushrooms. Once all the ingredients are prepped, seal into a bag and refridgerate. You could also grate cheese, or pull apart Mozzerella at this stage too, but I’d bag it separately. It’s as easy to simply grate the cheese from the packet on the night in question.
I was lucky enough to have been sent an Oxo Goodgrips Simple Mandoline Slicer (£40) last year and have been using it intermittently ever since, especially when everything needs to be cut to the same thickness, but when there’s lots of prep. to be done, it really comes in handy. I use it on both hard and soft vegetables and also the chorizo – it’s so hard to use a knife to chop chorizo thinly, but the mandoline has several thickness settings, so is perfect. It also has a lock facility with the blade closed so you won’t have any nasty accidents when washing up! The good grips rubber does its job of holding the mandoline in place on the surface too. So while I wouldn’t use it to chop everything, it certainly has its place and makes life easier when getting ahead!
On the night, simply add your tomato paste to your pizzas, top, grate cheese over and put onto a hot baking tray into a hot oven for a few minutes. Keep checking on it: you don’t want to burn the edges. Oh, and open that can of pinapple pieces too!20160114_174400
I’ll continue to post my weekly meal planner recipes for the next week or so, to get you started (!), then just update an odd new one every now and then. Please feel free to comment at the bottom of the post if you have any questions or comments about the posts, or any requests for meals!
Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.
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