I’m big into meal planning. For me, knowing roughly what I’m going to cook for the week keeps me sane and ensures that I’m not in the supermarket every day. I expect it also means that I spend less money, although feeding two teenage boys with hollow legs is never going to feel cut price.
In my kitchen, the planning generally happens twice a week – Sunday morning (the start of the working week here in Dubai) and Thursday morning (that point when the weekend is so close you can almost touch it). Thursday’s plan is pretty free and easy – there is more time to think, breathe and chill at the weekend after all – but my aim is just to make sure that a trip to the supermarket at the weekend is not on the cards. A weekend supermarket is a horrid place.
Breakfast during the week is as regular as clockwork, so no need to plan for that, but there’s packed lunches (children + my lovely husband) and a family dinner each night (with leftovers often forming part of the packed lunch offering the next day). So the ‘family dinner’ part of the weekly menu becomes the focus of most of my planning.
We definitely have our favourites for mid-week dinners but I’m normally trying out a thing or two for the blog too. And if it’s taking me a while to get the recipe just right, it sometimes means a repeating dish for a day or two. Didn’t hear many complaints when nailing the Ben’s cookies recipe took a few iterations. Funny that.
So, pretty much the plan for the week’s dinners will include some or all of the following …
1. A leftovers dinner –
This is often Sunday for us, where we enjoy leftovers from cooking something big on a Saturday night. It might be a Shepherd’s Pie or a Thai Green Chicken Curry or maybe something new that I’m trying out.
2. A pasta dinner –
This always makes an appearance. Pesto Pasta is the perennial favourite around here, or Puttanesca or Bolognese. Easy for the leftovers to feed into lunch for the next day too – although I have discovered the need to put enough for lunch to one side before I start serving dinner. I’ve learned this the hard way.
3. A soup dinner –
There’s often a soup … after all I want to be sure that we continue to consume lots of the warming stuff despite living in one of the hottest places in the world. And as soon as you eat something out of a bowl with a spoon, life seems like a kinder place, don’t you think? It’s a convenient dinner when everyone’s eating at different times too and chunky soups like Lamb & Barley Big Soup and Big, Hearty Pasta Soup fit the bill perfectly. Of course everyone loves soup for lunch the next day too.
4. The dinner that freezes well and is packed lunch friendly too –
Once a week I’ll try to cook something big where I can make a double quantity (freezing the balance) and also have enough for lunches the next day. Chilli con carne springs to mind or this Sausage & Puy Lentil Pot or a Mixed Lentil Dhal or Holiday Hotpot. Or it could be a large quantity of a trusty pasta sauce that freezes nicely – Homemade Pesto maybe?
5. The ‘Takeaway Thursday’ dinner –
This is what we need at the end of the week and over the last couple of months we have had some good ones. Takeaway leftovers make perfect weekend snacks for starving boys too.
And my personal favourite …
6. The ‘On Toast’ dinner –
There’s something very homely and comforting about anything on toast and often it can be the quickest dinner to get on the table. We do beans on toast (always with a topping of chopped cucumber and spring onions … may sound weird but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it), roasted tomatoes on toast (I cook them earlier if there’s time and then warm them just before we are ready to eat.) There’s always eggs of course, whichever way you like them. The other day we had a completely delicious variation – scrambled eggs, topped with some leftover stir fry vegetables (from the night before), a little torn smoked salmon and a sprinkling of spicy pumpkin seeds. Could catch on.
But I do always love mushrooms on toast, even just made with bog standard mushrooms. For me, the secret is a hot frying pan with a little garlic, olive oil and of course the mushrooms. Be generous with the quantity (this is dinner after all) – a portion of 200-250g per person works for adults. When they are soft, golden and have created some juices, finish them off with a knob of butter and a sprinkling of something green. Make sure you’ve remembered to get the toast on too. If you wanted to up the decadence here you could throw in a splash of cream at the end … or a small glug of white wine. Make it your own.
And I think it goes without saying why this is a great mid-week dinner –
- 4-8 tablespoons olive oil
- 800g-1kg (1½ - 2lbs) mushrooms, wiped clean and cut into large pieces
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- a few sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped from their stalks
- salt and pepper
- knob of butter OR a splash of cream OR a small glug of white wine (optional)
- hot, buttered toast, to serve
- Heat a large frying pan and warm the olive oil until it is sizzling.
- Throw in the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
- Toss in the oil and cook until soft and golden brown and smelling delicious! There should be a few juices in the pan by this stage and if not, you may want to add a knob of butter or a splash of cream or a small glug of white wine. It's your choice.
- Make sure your toast is ready to go and then divide out the mushrooms onto the toast and enjoy.