Meal Planning Monday w/c 2nd December 2013

I’ve long thought meal planning was the secret to making a little money go a bit further It also makes life infinitely easier for the person who stares puzzled into the fridge every evening trying to figure out what to feed the starving hordes. This week I’m taking part in Meal Planning Monday.

Our meal plans are slightly complicated by the fact I’m a vegetarian and the boys love meat, really love it. Often we’ll eat veggie food so we can eat the same thing as a family, but they quite often have meat which I really don’t mind cooking. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered, so they’ll have a lovely meat and two veg meal and I’ll have a bowl of cereal. I do like cereal.

We meal plan every week and have done for years, but here’s our Meal Planning Monday plan for the week…

Hodge has a work meeting quite late, so I’ll need to rustle up something which will happily sit and be re-heated when he gets in. I’m thinking (Nigel Slater’s) beef in beer stew, mash and kale from the garden.

It’s been ages since I made a risotto, so I’m fancying making an aubergine risotto. This is a huge favourite, so flavoursome and hearty, perfect for these cold winter nights.

I’m meeting a friend in town to have a mulled wine at the Christmas markets so the boys will have to fend for themselves. Tonight just screams spaghetti bolognaise. We batch cook things like this, so it’s just a case of grabbing a portion from the freezer and leaving them to it.

Thursday is traditionally a busy day in the HPD house so I’ll likely assess what the leftovers situation is and we’ll take our pick from that. If that falls short, then we’ve always got eggs so it’ll be our old favourite scrambled eggs on toast or something along those lines.

Curry night! I’m going to knock up a quick and tasty pea and paneer curry. I serve it with fluffy boiled rice and toasted pita bread. Yum.

We’re off out for dinner with some friends but young Splodge will still need feeding. Our quick & easy tea for him which is a guaranteed plate cleaner is pesto pasta, so that’s what he’ll have.

We don’t often have a roast dinner; it’s not really worth it for just the three of us, but we picked up a cheap chicken from the whoopsie shelf a little while ago. It’s taking up valuable pre-Christmas freezer space. So we’ll be having a roast chicken dinner.

Meal Planning Monday w/c 2nd December 2013

So, that’s us for the week. It’s made me quite hungry writing it down properly and not on the back of an envelope for a change. What’re you having?

Family Meals: Easy-Peasy Risotto Recipe

I love risotto and I love making it. I know some people really struggle to make it, but once you’ve cracked it then it’s a really handy thing to add to your repertoire. It’s one of our “nothing in the cupboard” meals and great for using up odds and sods in your fridge.

We have two favourites in our house. Tomato risotto and aubergine risotto. We cheese them up a bit more to make it more toddler friendly as he adores cheese. I’ve been asked a few times for my risotto recipe so I’ve decided to blog it. It’s fairly standard really. Here’s my basic risotto recipe with both tomato and aubergine options. It feeds about 4 and any leftovers (pah!) can always be turned into arancini the next day.

Family Meals: Easy-Peasy Risotto Recipe
Tomato Risotto

Finely chop an onion and fry gently until soft in some olive oil. Add a crushed clove of garlic (or more if you like garlic) and cook for a minute. At this point I add the risotto rice. If I’m being sensible I weigh it (250g) but mostly just use about half a 500g packet. Stir the rice and cook it for a couple of minutes. Add a small glass of white wine if you have it open, but I tend to use a smaller amount of dry vermouth as we rarely drink wine and the vermouth works just as well.

Stir through and then start adding hot stock. I use veg stock but you can use chicken if you’re that way inclined. At this point I usually add my tomato or aubergine, but more of that later. Keep stirring and loving your risotto, adding stock a ladle at a time until the rice is cooked to how you like it. Give it a taste and check for seasoning, add salt, pepper and I like chilli flakes to your taste. Add some grated cheese (we use Pecorino and cheddar, as like I said, the boy loves it cheesy, but add as much or as little as you like), stir through and take off the heat, let it rest for a few minutes.

Tomato Risotto recipe

In a frying pan I chop fresh, good quality tomatoes in a dab of butter, usually some cherry tomatoes and some vine tomatoes. As they start to release their juice I add salt, pepper, a touch of sugar to bring out the natural sweetness and some fresh or dried herbs. I usually go for dried oregano and some mixed herbs.

Once the tomatoes are collapsed I pick out some of the skins. It’s a personal preference, I don’t mind them but some do. Then at the point where I start adding stock I chuck in the tomatoes.

You should note that as the tomatoes are very wet and juicy you really won’t need to add as much stock as you normally would. So do go easy.

You might want to add some tomato purée to the risotto if you think your tomatoes need a flavour boost, just don’t forget to cook the purée out.

If you like you can add some fresh spinach towards the end and stir through until wilted. I love spinach and it’s so good for you.

Aubergine Risotto recipe

I tend to buy a few aubergines when I see them cheap, prep them and freeze them so there’s always a speedy risotto ingredient available.

Finely dice your aubergine and fry in some olive oil until cooked through and soft. (This is the point where I freeze them, usually in 200g portions).

Add the aubergine to the risotto when you start adding the stock so some of the aubergine flavour imparts itself on the rice.

It’s a really lovely, subtle recipe. I often use mozzarella instead of cheddar because I think it works slightly better, but in terms of cheese just chuck in whatever floats your boat.

So that’s my basic risotto recipe. It’s really easy and there’s no need to be afraid of it. Give it a try. Although I’ve only blogged my two favourites once you’ve got the method then you can try it with other ingredients.

What’s your favourite risotto recipe?