Every week I sit down to the laborious task of meal planning. I open a word document, split it into two columns, plan the week’s worth of lunches and dinners down one side and a shopping list down the other.
Sure, it’s geeky, but I do like a good list. What’s more I like to ensure we have a varied diet whilst keeping food waste to a minimum. Having said that, it isn’t half time consuming especially as I struggle to recall meals that I’ve cooked in the past, resulting in lots of research and/or waiting for inspiration to hit.
And on @MissStephWalker tweeting about her own troubles with meal planning, I decided it was about time that I got my act together and create some kind of document that I could refer to when planning my own meals. AND… the blog seemed to be the perfect place to start doing this.
So I’m going to start blogging some of my midweek meals here. They’ll be easy peasy and relatively cheap, so good for midweek teas – so don’t expect anything too exciting! Hopefully I’ll end up with a decent bank of meal ideas that I can turn to for inspiration each week. You never know, you might find it useful too.
First up I’m going with a Bolognese. This is something that most people learn to cook when they first move out of home and I’ve tried many different varieties over the years. My current favourite is far from authentic, but it’s really easy and relatively healthy so it’s great for a midweek tea. However, because I like to soften the veg quite slowly, it can take over an hour to prepare, but it’s worth it given the number of portions you can get out of it!
2 onions (diced or finely sliced)
4/5 carrots (finely diced)
3/4 sticks of celery (finely diced)
One pepper (any colour, sliced)
2/3 cloves of garlic (finely sliced)
Two field mushrooms (chopped)
Around 300mls stock (chicken, veg or beef will be fine)
Around 300mls red wine (I always stick leftover red in the fridge – it seems to last longer and it’s great for cooking)
A good squeeze of tomato purée
4 tins of tomatoes
Teaspoon of dried herbs (I used basil and oregano, but standard mixed herbs would be good and fresh herbs (especially thyme) would be better)
1kg of beef mince
Couple of handfuls of red lentils (rinsed thoroughly)
Oil for frying
Heat a splash of oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the onions, garlic, pepper, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally until soft.
Assuming you don’t have the real thing, make the stock up in a jug, add the wine, tomato purée and herbs. Once the veg has started to soften, add the mushrooms and cook a little longer. If you find that the pan is starting to dry at any point, I’d add some of the stock mixture rather than more oil.
Once the mushrooms are cooked, add the rest of the stock mixture and all four of the tinned tomatoes. Turn up the heat so that it all starts to bubble a little.
I then like to cook the mince in a separate pan as I can drain the fat off when it’s cooked. I also use a fork to stir it as it cooks so that it doesn’t go all lumpy.
Once cooked I add the mince to the main cooking pot, sling in the lentils, bring the mixture to the boil and simmer (lid half on) for around half an hour – basically until the lentils are cooked and the consistency is to my liking.
Serve with pasta, courgette spaghetti (strips of spaghetti, steamed for 3/4 mins), or use as a stuffing for vegetables.
You could replace some of the veg with courgette and aubergine.
Experiment with the meat you use – you could use a mix of pork and beef mince for instance. Adding chicken livers or bacon won’t exactly hurt either!
Add chilli and/or smoked paprika for added flavour.
So, what are your favourite midweek meals?