Our family dinners survive on some semblance of a meal plan decided ahead of time. Knowing I have the ingredients to either cook ahead or have key elements to whip up quick-fix dishes saves us panic when dinner time rolls around. The aim is to avoid opening the kitchen cupboard with a hungry toddler at my heels while trying to rack my brain for dinner inspiration. Dishes like the ones I'm sharing today make a regular appearance on our dinner table and while they don't cook themselves, they will certainly make meal times fuss-free!
One of the most famous and flavourful Filipino dishes is chicken adobo. So well-loved that it's the unofficial national dish of the Philippines, it's a sweet, sour and savoury chicken dish that makes the most of pantry ingredients like vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and peppercorns. It might not be thought of as an easy dinner option - the more traditional recipe which appears in my cookbook Meals In Minutes uses chicken thighs on the bone and slowly cooks them in the rich umami marinade until tender and unctuous - but this week-night version can be cooked in 15 minutes (give or take). I've used that simple soy marinade to transform pan-fried chicken fillets served with rice and greens.
Also in today's recipes is the one-pan veggie lasagne. It's packed full of greens and uses fresh pasta to simplify things before a stint under a hot grill to take mozzarella to a melty, oozy dreamland. Traditional it ain't, but on guaranteed veggie glory it seriously delivers.
And for some week-night comfort, a quick-fix steak supper also makes the cut. Creamy pasta with mushrooms and seared minute steaks make for an easy supper plonked straight to the table for everyone to help themselves.
So, plenty of quick-fix week-night ideas to get your meal plan rocking through the week.. Enjoy!
Cook time 30 mins
This is a fab veggie version of that comfort-food favourite, lasagne - just without all the pots and pans to wash up!
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 courgettes, chopped
250g cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
200g baby spinach
400g fresh pasta sheets, sliced into strips
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
80g Parmesan cheese, grated
2 x 125g mozzarella balls, sliced
1. Heat the oil in a deep, oven-proof sauté pan. Add the onions and fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened, then add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
2. Add the courgettes and mushrooms, increase the heat and fry for about 5 minutes until they are lightly browned. Add the chopped tomatoes and 400ml boiling water and season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat.
2. Preheat the grill to high. Stir the spinach and pasta strips into the pan and, once the spinach has wilted, stir in the basil and two-thirds of the Parmesan and half the mozzarella.
3. Scatter the rest of the cheese over the top and put under the grill for 3-5 minutes until bubbling and oozingly melty.
Cook time 20 mins
Wild mushrooms or another interesting variety from your local green grocer or deli make all the difference for this dish if you can track them down. Tarragon's bitter-sweet flavour works really well with the creamy mustard sauce slathered over the al dente tagliatelle.
1 tbsp olive oil
4 x 50g minute steaks
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sprigs tarragon, leaves removed and chopped
300g wild mushrooms
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
250ml double cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Salt this well and add the tagliatelle. Cook for 10-12 minutes or according to packet instructions.
2. Heat oil in a large pan over a high heat. Season the steaks well and fry for a minute on either side until charred and cooked through. Set aside to rest.
3. Add the butter to the pan until melted, bubbling and golden. Add the garlic, tarragon and mushrooms. Toss in the pan for 5-6 minutes until golden.
4. Add the whole grain mustard and cream and stir through.
5. Drain pasta by using tongs and transfer directly to the pan with the mushrooms, bringing along a little of the pasta cooking liquid. Toss through to coat the pasta in the sauce and serve.
Our family meals run on leftovers - for every tasty, well-planned-out recipe I cook, there is always a dinner that solely consists of a mezze of whatever is left over from the week. To save the fridge from becoming a cave of bowls and plates covered in cling film, I've long been a fan of reusable glass containers. They're perfect for leftovers and even better for meal prep. Invest in about six of these Pyrex ones for your kitchen and you'll be up and running!
LA's food scene is an ever-evolving story and it's often hard to keep up with the many new spots to try. One of the city's most celebrated Middle Eastern-inspired joints, Kismet, in the hipster haven of Silverlake, has a quick to-go-style rotisserie chicken shack that serves up colourful platters of it's signature chicken with colourful pickled veggies, schmaltzy potatoes cooked in chicken fat and silky hummus with chilli oil.
We've been busy back in the kitchen filming a new series for my YouTube channel filled with quick-cooking family meals. In amongst the madness of trying to do just that with two kids under three, it was inevitable we would be gatecrashed by some mini "helping" hands!