So, it's the last push towards the summer holidays. Here the weather is hot and steamy - patience is short and tempers are frayed. The children are dreaming of no schedule, no homework, staying up late, wearing pyjamas all day, watching LOADS of episodes of Suits, hanging out ... time to just 'be'. And me? I'm dreaming of all the above plus NO PACKED LUNCHES. My pet hate. And at this time of year when everything feels ever so slightly harder - inspiration for producing three lunches in a box, day-in-day-out, is pretty hard to find. Both teenage sons are swimming more than ever (the build-up to a big summer competition in Ireland) so no reduction in their appetites - that's for sure.
A couple of years ago, a lunch of sandwiches, some fruit (2 or 3 pieces), a couple of extra carbs, maybe some nuts + a bottle of water would have been plenty, but now we're needing a whole extra course in the offering to keep those hunger pangs at bay. Bring in the handy wide-necked food flask.
It's a perfect vessel to send the children to school with something hot and filling, and even if you're not feeding the ravenous as I am, it makes a very welcome break from the monotony of sandwiches.
So what do I put in these flasks?
- Soup is good. The runny ones like Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup, they will drink from the flask. The thicker ones like Lamb and Barley Big Soup or Red Lentil & Bacon Slowcooker Soup, require a spoon that fits conveniently inside the lid.
- Leftovers are great. Chilli con carne with some rice is always popular. Thai Green Chicken Curry definitely gets a big thumbs up.
- Pasta is a favourite. Now, this does work, but you need to be aware that because the cooked pasta is sitting hot in the flask, it will soak up almost all of whatever sauce you have chosen. This is not to say that it's a disaster, but if you like your pasta to be very saucy, either add more sauce than you would do normally or only add the hot sauce to the hot pasta just before filling the flasks. Or both. Pasta Puttanesca ticks all the boxes. Chorizo and Tomato Pasta does the same.
But these Spicy Sausages with Beans are most certainly right up there in the Top 3 Favourites - and that's with me AND the children.
So what is it all about? There's nothing terribly fancy about this dish - tip a tin of baked beans into a large bowl and stir in some harissa and wholegrain mustard. Now slice up some cooked sausages and a few cooked little potatoes - go for waxy ones so that they don't fall apart. Add these to the spicy beans and toss well to combine. And that's it. You're all set to warm gently when you're ready to eat or ready to fill a flask or two.
Sausage, beans and potatoes is clearly not a new combination but the addition of the harissa and the mustard is an easy way to pimp up an everyday dish into something a bit spicy and a lot special.
And what exactly is it about these Spicy Sausages with Beans that gives it a firm and permanent position in our family repertoire?
- This is my go-to flask filling if I'm really, really short of time. And I can up the convenience level EVEN more by-
- Always having a pack of cooked sausages in the freezer i.e if I'm cooking sausages for something else, I always cook an extra pack at the same time for the freezer. That way, it's no drama.
oftenalways use one of those 'microwaveable' bags of little potatoes. Done in 7 minutes and no washing up.
- This is both comforting and tasty - and you don't always get both qualities in a dish.
- The heat and spiciness can easily be adjusted to suit your audience.
- This is also ideal for a 'prepare ahead' dinner which can even be plated up so that dinner can get to the table without a moment's hesitation. And we all need that kind of speedy dinner sometimes.
- And if you're having one of those days where feeding the children in the car is the only option, this is what you want to be handing out to get smiles all round.
So, with Spicy Sausages with Beans, we're not talking rocket science ... but keeping your family fed, watered and happy shouldn't need to be rocket science. Go on - launch this into your family lunch/dinner rotation and see if it will fly.