4 April 2012

Meal planning through Easter

Not quite an Easter bunny - but so cute!
Easter has been a bit of a non-event for us, so far, in the planning.  I suppose we don't really make a great deal of Easter now that son & heir is beyond believing in the Easter Bunny (more's the pity - I had great fun making paper bunny pawprints to put all around the house!).

In days gone by, the family would all assemble at someone's house (usually, when we were in the country, my Nanna & Gramps' house in Kingston) and there would be a re-creation of Christmas, except without the presents but with Easter eggs.  We'd have another Turkey - usually with a Roast Beef alongside - and so Easter would be marked.

These days, having been through a phase of attending either my parents' place or my Aunt & Uncle's place, Easter seems to have fallen off the map somewhat.  I can remember enjoying Easters in the past, so I feel a bit guilty that we're not making those family memories for son & heir - but circumstances change and the wider family just isn't there any more.

Also, I've contracted son & heir's sniffles - which have developed into a full blown (and "blown" is the right word) cold.  I am so fed up with not being able to breathe and with being either too hot or too cold.  As a consequence of all that, when I sat down on Sunday to work out the week's menu plan, it came as something of a surprise to discover there was an Easter Sunday in the middle of it all!

So, after all that whining and whingeing (apologies for that!), here's what we wound up with :

Tues : Asparagus tart & pasta salad
Wed : North Indian Chicken Curry with rice
Thurs : Bacon couscous stuffed red peppers with potato wedges
Fri : Sherried chicken casserole with broccoli and crusty bread
Sat : Smoky pork & black bean wraps with salsa and sour cream
Sun : King prawn & Peppadew risotto
Mon : Five spice beef & sugar snap peas with noodles.

Mmmmn, nom nom!  Sounds lovely, I think!

The Asparagus Tart is modelled on a tart recipe I saw in the latest BBC Good Food magazine.  I can't remember what they used for their tart, except for the asparagus laid from one side of the tart to the other, like a louvred window.  I liked that idea, so pondered on what could be used underneath the asparagus.  In the end, I opted for Philadelphia cheese (their sundried tomato & basil version) with some streaky bacon, tarragon and parsley.  It looks lovely in my imagination - we'll have to wait and see what the end result is!

Wednesday's meal will be one from the redoubtable Anjum Anand.  Her Classic North Indian Chicken Curry looks perfect for the job.  It's one of those very simple to produce types of curry - just assemble all the ingredients and slowly put them into the pan one by one, heating them in succession and in various ways, until an hour or so later you've got a curry.  Sounds right up my street!

Thursday's stuffed peppers is a bit of a departure from our normal type of meal.  For all that I've done a stuffed pepper dish previously, it's been hard to find a stuffing that satisfies hubby's flavour requirements - as in "it needs to have BIG flavours".   I've decided to use couscous on this occasion because I've been fairly successful in getting big flavours into it in the past, so fingers crossed.  I've also chosen the Pointed Sweet Red Peppers as opposed to the Capsicum type, as these don't seem to have such a tough skin.

I'll have to investigate the freezer as to whether we've beaten down the potato wedge mountain that occurred when we bought another bag by accident.  If we've cleared them out, then I'll be making some home-made wedges to go with the peppers.

Now Friday's Sherried Chicken Casserole is one of those recipes that I'm vaguely excited about making.  Again, it originated with the BBC Good Food Website as Chicken, red onion & mushroom stew with sherry & butterbeans, but there are a number of alterations I know I'll be making to the recipe, so it will be a "based upon" rather than a "followed to the letter" job.

In a bid to make the cooking this week an easy matter, it is another "sit by the cooker and add stuff to the pan in sequence" recipe.  The ingredients seem to have the promise of combining really well and I think by Friday - if this cold weather continues - we'll be very happy to have a casserole/stew type meal!

Black beans
Saturday's Smoky Pork & Black Bean wraps will actually be Smoky Pork & red kidney bean wraps, as it seems to be impossible to source black beans around here!  However, I'm reliably informed by my friend Melanie (who is an ex-pat, living in Canada), that red kidney beans are an acceptable alternative.

Hubby steps into the fray for Easter Sunday, and will be making a King Prawn & Peppadew Risotto - which sounds gorgeous and I can't wait to try it.  The prawns arrived with the shopping yesterday and I was seriously tempted to thaw one packet right there and then.  

Monday's five spice beef - interestingly - uses minced beef instead of some hugely expensive cut, which I thought was intriguing (and makes a change from using turkey mince!).  Again, it is a simple dish which relies on browning through to caramelisation of the beef, for much of its flavour.  Now I absolutely love caramelised minced beef and will admit to - in my younger and fitter days - eating just that with mashed potato and some veggies for dinner.   So long as you drain the mince of its fat very well, it will be no more fattening than any other meat that uses a tablespoonful of oil for the frying, so it could almost be classified as healthy.

Aha!  Speaking of draining minced beef of its fat - look what hubby made for the birdies after cooking the chilli.  He drained the beef fat off and kept it, then the following day melted it down and mixed it with wild bird seed which he then packed into the empty half coconut shell.  Following half a day in the fridge - bingo!  A yummy birdy feeder that the dogs have been hankering after, something wicked.  I guess they're thinking "hey! That fat was supposed to have been in our dinner!", which they'd be absolutely right about.  Well, there's no point in clogging up the sewers when you've three waggy-tailed dustbins around.
Come and get it, you birdies!
As for additional cooking plans, well, I've every intention of making a Pea, mint & chilli dip for the weekend.  So often, I sit there in the evenings as hubby tucks into his packet of Sensations crisps and son & heir wades his way through a bag of Doritos, feeling a bit left out but not wanting to add to the fat load that my poor old body has to contend with.  So, when I found the recipe in the current Good Food Magazine - which uses a fat free yoghurt and that's it (apart from the peas, mint, chilli & a little cumin), it seemed a terrific answer to my little problem.  I can make some carrot, celery and apple sticks to eat it with - and shouldn't feel left out at all!

I'm also very conscious of the Watercress Festival at the end of the month and have promised to enter a soup into the competition.  I've been pondering on the recipe(s) for the last month or so and have a few in mind, so I'll be starting to make them with a view to finding the best one, which I'll then submit to the Festival competition.  It's a bit different, this competition, in that you actually make your soup and parcel it up, it gets collected and taken to the competition, whereupon it is judged.  I can't help thinking that a cold soup might be the best option, as it rules out any mishaps with re-heating!

Who knows, if I feel better as the week progresses, I may even make a cake for Easter Sunday.

Plus, our rhubarb is growing like a proverbial weed and is just about ready for its first crop.  I've been saving rhubarb recipes, but simply have got to make a recipe including rhubarb with ginger - I can't believe I haven't done that yet!


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