Busy Dinners

Cooking, Recipes

A new #askmim request appeared in my inbox the other day, this one is from Veena. Ahoy there Veena!

Veena said:

“I’m a fish eating veggie and am going back to a really full on job after having a baby. I want to be able to cook something delicious and healthy when I get home, that isn’t pasta, and doesn’t mean that I spend ages in the kitchen away from my daughter when I should be spending time with her. Any ideas?”

Good challenge. Righteo, I’ve spent some time cooking up a few  ideas this week and come up with 3 tasty new mid-week suggestions for you.

Mackerel Rice Bowl

Easy Mezze

The first was inspired by some of my favourite sushi ingredients. You can vary it too though, tofu would be ace instead of mackerel and any green veg like spinach or green beans could take the place of the seaweed as it can be a bit tricky to get hold of.

Smoked Mackerel Sushi Bowl

Serves 1

Ingredients

75g brown rice (dried or a sachet of microwave brown rice)

chunk of cucumber (I used about 50g)

1/2 teaspoon of finely grated fresh root ginger

2 teaspoons of rice vinegar

1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds

1 or 2 smoked mackerel fillets

To serve

1 tablespoon of pickled red cabbage

a handful of dried seaweed (which has been rehydrated in some boiling water – check pack for guidance) or some wilted spinach

Method

1. If you’re using uncooked rice pop that on to boil for 20-25 mins (check the pack for proper timings). If you’re using the microwave kind (nowt wrong with that – check the pack but all they usually add is a dash of veg oil to stop it sticking together) heat that up at the last minute.

2. Next mix the cucumber, grated ginger and rice vinegar together in a nice bowl or soup dish then nudge it to one side to make space for everything else. Pile the cooked rice in down one side, tuck in the mackerel fillets, add the seaweed or spinach then the pickled cabbage and finally sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the rice. Add a spritz of soy sauce if you like but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Dig in!

Mackerel sushi bowl

Sometimes all I want for dinner is a big sandwich and this one is great as it’s so quick, filling and probably jolly healthy too as the fish is poached gently in water.

Poached Salmon Pittas 

Serves 2

Ingredients
2 salmon fillets
5 black peppercorns

1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt or sour cream

handful of soft fresh herbs (I used a mix of dill and basil but parsley, chives or tarragon would also be fine)

2 wholemeal pitta bread

handful of salad leaves

1/2 punnet of salad cress

Method

1. Half fill a deep sided sauté pan or medium sized saucepan with water and add the peppercorns. Bring to the boil then add the salmon fillets. Turn the heat right down and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked through and when you break a piece off the flesh is opaque pink.

2. Take the salmon out of the water with a slotted spoon, discard the peppercorns and leave the fish to rest just while you pop the pitta bread in the toaster.

3. Chop the herbs with scissors and stir into the sour cream or yoghurt. When the pitta is ready, cut a slit in each one along one of the long sides and divide the herby mixture between them.

4. Peel the skin away from the salmon (if it had it on) then gently break the fish into pieces and put them inside the pittas. Stuff with salad leaves, sprinkle in the cress and serve.

Poached Salmon Pitta

And finally a bit of a treat, even midweek…perhaps especially midweek! Pretty much everything on this platter keeps really well in the fridge, so can be hurled together whenever you need a little lift, like your own mini party!

Storecupboard Mezze

Ingredients

1 espresso cupful of couscous

1 tablespoon of light tahini

pinch of smoked paprika

3 mini crisp breads or 1 flatbread of your choice

few olives

few sundried tomatoes

1-2 tablespoons of feta cheese

1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses

1/2 an avocado

Method

1. Pour the couscous into a heatproof bowl then add 1 1/2 espresso cupfuls of boiling water. Leave to stand whilst you prepare the rest.

2. In a small bowl mix the tahini with enough cold water to make a houmous-like consistency. Keep mixing until it’s nice and smooth then sprinkle the smoked paprika on the top and if you like a little drizzle of the oil from the sundried tomatoes.

3. Once the couscous has absorbed the water, fluff it up a bit using a fork to break up the grains then add the feta and the pomegranate molasses.

4. Pop everything else on a platter and dig in, cold glass of something lovely (alcoholic or otherwise) is a jolly nice addition.

Storecupboard Mezze

Hope you like the recipes, do let me know what you think x

If you would like me to write a recipe for you too or answer a burning kitchen conundrum please get in touch via facebook, instagram or twitter using the hashtag #askmim.

Valentine’s Day by the River

Recipes

Doing something special and romantic for Valentine’s Day can be a tricky business. Going out for dinner is the obvious choice but restaurants get so busy on the 14th that it’s unlikely to be a very intimate experience. I remember taking telephone bookings when I worked in French Living. The set menus were always carefully developed by the chefs and the waiters would arrange the whole dining area into a sea of tables for two, but I never liked having to tell customers that; yes, they could have a table at 7.30pm but we would need that table back again by 9pm. It seemed so sad to cut their evening short, but the demand was so great there was nothing else to be done.

So, let’s say eating out is off the agenda, what about eating in? It’s cosy, it could be cheaper than a restaurant and the menu can be whatever your imagination and culinary skill will allow! If you do choose to stay in and can’t decide what to make I’ve written a three course Valentine’s Day menu for Great British Chefs so do have a butchers by clicking here.

But, if spending more than 20 minutes in the kitchen fills you with dread or there are simply too many distractions at home, like pets, kids or a half painted living room then there is a third option – Cooking without a Kitchen!

This Valentine’s Day (which for the purposes of my own publishing deadlines actually took place on Sunday the 3rd of February) was spent on the south bank of the River Thames, just round the corner from the Golden Hinde and Southwark Cathedral. We unpacked a small shopping bag of goodies and prepared the meal then and there. We didn’t have a table but the wall worked fine and the views over London were just as good as any fancy restaurant. There was no rush because no one needed the space before or after us and there were hardly any distractions, oh except one guy who tried to sell us pebbles he’d found in the river but that was quite funny.

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Mint Tea Couscous with Artichokes & Prosciutto

Ingredients

1 small bag of pea shoots

1 small bag of couscous

1 punnet or jar of chargrilled artichokes in olive oil (from the deli or similar)

4 slices of prosciutto

1 takeaway cup of peppermint tea (buy this from a coffee shop as near to your picnic spot as possible so it stays hot)

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Equipment

2 plastic, wooden or paper plates

1 plastic bowl

1 plastic measuring cup (can be any travel cup or mug really)

Mini salt and pepper shaker (optional but nice)

2 plastic spoons, or forks (or sporks!)

Method

1) Using the measuring cup put 1 cup of couscous into the plastic bowl. Measure out about 1 and a half cups of the hot mint tea and pour over the couscous. Cover the bowl with one of the plates and leave to sit for about 5-6 minutes to let the couscous absorb the tea.

2) Sip the rest of the mint tea while you wait.

3) When the couscous is ready, fluff it up by breaking up the clumps of grains with a fork and mix in some of the oil from the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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4) Pile the pea shoots onto each of the plates, then add the couscous. Top with the artichokes and the slices of proscuitto and serve to your loved one.

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Happy Valentine’s Day xxx

I’d love to hear your Valentine’s Day stories or recipes. Do get in touch via the comments box below, say hi on my Facebook page or get tweeting x