There comes a time in everyone’s life when they get that sinking feeling. In fact, particularly unlucky people may get it several times a week. It usually strikes on their way home from work, when they realise that they have forgotten to arrange anything for dinner.
Some people shake this off and simply order takeaways, go out to eat or become a sudden devotee of fasting. Others turn to their fridges, brush the cares of the day aside and get busy with whatever they can find.
Making a meal out of ‘nothing’ (a relative term, I know) is one of my greatest strengths. It should be on my CV. Instead, here’s an example to inspire you the next time you’re in the dreaded position of Not Knowing What To Have For Dinner.
Easy Frypan Frittata
This can be customised to suit your requirements and ingredients. It fits my criteria for an ’emergency’ style dinner – we always have eggs, cheese and potatoes hanging around – AND it involves very little attention or washing up afterwards. It’s also a good way to rehome leftovers.
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 peppers, cored and sliced
2 cups diced cooked potato (leftover roast potatoes are good here)
3/4 cup diced feta
two handfuls grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
fresh herbs, if available
Turn the oven to 200C. Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a heavy cast iron frying pan (that can go in the oven later). Add the onion and peppers and cook for five minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the potato and cook for another five minutes. Add any suitable fresh herbs if you have them.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the feta, stir lightly to mix. Add the remaining three tablespoons of oil to the pan, then tip in the egg and cheese mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and season well with salt and pepper. Put in the waiting oven and cook for 20 minutes, until golden, puffy and set. Let sit for five minutes before slicing. Hey presto – dinner for four – with leftovers for lunch the next day if you’re lucky. Bon appetit!
What’s your current favourite emergency dinner?
It’s hot. Not to hot to eat, but definitely too hot to cook. Last night I made the mistake of turning the oven on and nearly had a heat-related meltdown while cooking dinner, despite being fresh from a swim in the school pool and still being in my togs. If you’re basking in similar temperatures at the moment (as I write, it’s 6am and already 18C), then I suggest you forgo the oven and the stove for a dish that requires a bit of standing in front of the open fridge.
Iceberg lettuce with spicy buttermilk dressing and pickled onions
This is a homage to something on the menu at Wellington restaurant Charley Noble – I’ve become slightly obsessed with it and when I first worked out how to copy it we ate a different version for four nights in a row. If you can’t get hold of iceberg lettuce, try Little Gems.
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 iceberg lettuce (or two Little Gems), washed and kept whole,
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, crushed to a pulp with 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably home made, otherwise, try Best Foods’)
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp Sriracha or other hot sauce
Put the onion and red wine vinegar in a small bowl, cover and set aside while you get everything else ready (this can be done in advance).
To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a screwtop jar with a lid and shake well. Taste – add more hot sauce, lemon juice or salt as necessary. This can also be done in advance and stored in the fridge.
To serve, put the whole lettuce on a serving platter. Cut out the hard central stem, then cut through the middle into eight wedges – like you’re cutting a cake. Drain the onions and scatter over the middle, then drizzle about half the dressing over the lettuce. Any remainder dressing can be stored successfully in the fridge for up to three days.
What’s your go-to hot weather dish?
I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing Oprah writes in her gratitude journals, but every day I thank my stars that no one in my household has a nut allergy. Quite apart from the threat of anaphylaxis, I can’t imagine life without peanut butter. Actually, I can barely imagine a day without it.
Peanut butter – especially proper peanut butter, like the excellent varieties springing up everywhere in New Zealand now – is a major food group in my house. Peanut butter and banana on toast is my hurried breakfast (and sometimes, lunch) of choice. It’s a handy tahini replacement in homemade hummus, works well in a marinade and is a major baking ingredient. It’s also a nifty addition to a salad dressing to perk up broccolini and other assorted bits and pieces. Add this to your weeknight repertoire for those nights when peanut butter and crackers seem like the only viable dinner option.
Really good peanut salad dressing
This is child’s play to make and it’s really useful. I think it’s good with steamed broccolini, but you could add all sorts of crunchy greens and some cooked chicken or tofu for a very family-friendly dinner.
1 clove garlic, crushed with 1/2 tsp flaky salt
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp good quality peanut butter
1/2 cup good quality peanut oil
Put all ingredients in a screwtop jar, attach the lid and shake well until emulsified. Makes about 1 cup – easily enough for a substantial salad for 4-6 people – and stores well in the fridge.
If you prefer your peanut butter treats to be a little more decadent, then this peanut butter pie should fit the bill (though you won’t be fitting much after eating it).
*My clever friends at Kiwi Mummy Blogs have teamed up with the nice people at Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter to collate some Really Good peanut butter recipes. You can get more peanut butter inspo here.*
Yesterday, someone asked me ‘how do you fit everything in and still maintain your blog?’ I realised, with a sinking feeling, that she obviously hadn’t been reading along lately.
The Kitchenmaid has been sadly neglected this month while I have been attending to lots of other things – including a super-secret special project that I haven’t been able to talk about.
|What is this man doing with a bunch of asparagus, a big camera and a white umbrella? All will be revealed, soon…
Quite aside from the secret project, I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen (having six different sets of houseguests in 24 days will do that to a person). And I’ve been eating a lot of asparagus, a sign that spring is truly here.
And I’ve been reading this heartbreaking food memoir by Wellington writer and food blogger Anne Else.
The Colour Of Food is an eloquent look back at Anne’s life through food – brace yourself for the last chapters, in which she writes movingly about adjusting to living – and eating – without her beloved partner, Harvey McQueen. It was first published as an e-book last year but did so well that it’s now in print form. It might seem a bit early to get your Christmas stocking list sorted, but you’d do well to add this to it.
What have you been up to this month?
It’s spring! Proper spring – with balmy temperatures, early rising birds and new buds appearing in the garden. Well, it was like that a few days ago. Now we’re back to tempestuous winds, lashing rain and that horrible greyness, but I’ve got high hopes.
It’s too soon for asparagus and the little lambs arriving in paddocks near you are too small for the cooking pot, but there are lots of other spring-y things to eat. Here are five easy spring dinners to add to your repertoire…
1. Superfood Salad: It’s got quinoa, broccoli and other spring-y, crunchy things to make you feel like frolicking in the sun. What more do you need?
2. Tray-baked Lamb and Potatoes: This is really good for those ‘I can’t think what to have for dinner’ evenings, which occur in our house at least once a week. Everything goes in the oven in one dish and there’s minimal cleaning up (even the non-cooks can make this one).
3. Spring Cauliflower Soup: Cauliflower has had a bit of a renaissance of late, thanks to the craze for turning it into a pizza crust, but I think it’s unbeatable in this simple and healthy cauliflower soup.
4. Simple Smoked Fish And Rice: This is another one-pot wonder, handy when you’ve been out in the garden tackling six months’ worth of weeding.
5. Little lamb burgers: If you’re blessed with a beautiful spring day, cook these outside on your (long-neglected) barbecue. If it’s ‘sit inside by the heater weather’, they can be baked or pan-fried indoors.
What are your plans for this spring?