If you’re sat there looking at your kohlrabi wondering why on earth you’ve been sent a vegetable that has tentacles, fear not. I’ve been getting an organic veg box for years and I wanted to share some of my favourite vegetable box recipes. Sometimes you can end up with a vegetable you’ve never cooked with before so hopefully you can find a recipe for almost everything here! In this post I’ll take you through the contents of my most recent veg box and how I used everything up.
At Christmas there are four things that I like to do: eat, go for walks, play games and watch festive television shows. I do like to plan ahead and this year is no different with my Christmas meal plan. With a plan in place there’s no last minute rush to the shops for those forgotten ingredients and no blank looks when someone says “What’s for dinner?”. With a little bit of careful planning, some batch cooking and a few shortcuts I am looking forward to a relaxed festive break.
My kitchen is very much an ‘open all the windows’ space in the late spring and summer months. I feel as if I am cooking half outside you see. My favourite summer recipes are those which are quick to make, involve minimal time standing over a hot hob and can be luxuriated over when it comes to eating. At this time of year I get to partake in one of my very favourite kitchen tasks: podding beans and peas. Is it just me who finds it incredibly satisfying?
The sorts of things that will be appearing on our plates often involve punchy dressings, lip smacking marinades, plenty of fresh leaves and any excuse for a potato salad. Below are some of my favourite recipes and ones which I will be turning to for delicious summer meals.
There are different shades of green in spring; the deep greens of kale and purple sprouting broccoli and the vibrant greens of asparagus and wild garlic. It is around this time each year that things seem to come alive, the evenings are getting longer and the days warmer. Trees are blossoming and everyone seems to awaken from a winter slumber to shake off those cobwebs (literally and figuratively). I start to cook lighter meals at this time of year but there’s always room for something more indulgent for those chilly evenings that catch you by surprise. With so many things about to come into season there’s much to look out for and these are my favourite spring recipes.
A few of my favourite hearty meals, which also lend themselves very well to a bit of batch cooking and freezing, are all pasta related! There’s my Tuscan Sausage Ragu which was inspired by a meal I had in Tuscany; you’ll need excellent sausages for this. My Layered Ragu and Aubergine Pasta Bake takes a bit of time to make but it is so worth it, the more aubergines the better as far as I’m concerned. For something a little lighter, and my favourite way to cook with chard, my Chard and Bacon Open Lasagne is much less effort than a normal lasagne. I do love a bit of spice and a tomato based curry is one of my top comfort foods; this Slow Cooked Lamb Curry is full of spices and fresh flavours.
A quick and easy weeknight dinner is always a bonus; it allows for extra time in the garden on those long evenings. A baked aubergine is one of my favourite things to eat; be it with pesto, jerk seasoning or my Miso Glazed Aubergine. The smoky flavour of chipotle chillies and the sweetness of the sweetcorn work so well together in my Chipotle Sweetcorn Hash. For a real hint of summer my Artichoke and Red Pepper Gratin is just asking to be enjoyed outside with a cold glass of wine and some warm crusty bread.
Having some delicious veggie meals stashed away in the freezer means I always have something I can serve with baked potatoes, rice or bread and my Smoky Cowboy Beans and my Lentil and Black Bean Chilli are two of my favourite recipes.
It wouldn’t be spring without Easter and a wonderful Easter Afternoon Tea is well worth a try; sandwiches, sausage rolls, scones, chocolate shortbread and rice krispie nests. For something a little different to the usual why not give my White Chocolate Easter Egg Nests a go?
There’s always room for some baking and these Spanish Fennel Biscuits are similar to something I tried in Madrid. Delicious with cream cheese and sherry! I like my cookies crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle and my Double Chocolate and Orange Cookies are exactly that!
A few other things to look out for at this time of year are Bergamot lemons and I’ve got plenty of Bergamot Recipes to try: as a salad dressing, in a cake and in a cocktail! If you’re lucky enough to find some wild garlic there’s plenty of cooking inspiration if you take a look at these Wild Garlic Recipes. And don’t forget about the Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Rhubarb! What will you be cooking up this spring?
You know the feeling. When you get home from work, you’re tired and don’t want to stand around in the kitchen getting dinner ready. This feeling is magnified if it happens to be raining and/or you have a cold at the same time. Part of you wants to pick up the phone and get a takeaway but part of you knows that you really should cook something, especially if you already have all the ingredients. I have found a secret way to get round this and it relies on two things: firstly, that you can call upon your favourite quick recipes and secondly, the moment you start to chop the ingredients you’re committed. Once you’ve picked up that knife and sliced through that onion you’ve started dinner and suddenly, even on the worst days, it’s not such a mountain to climb.
I wanted to share my favourite quick recipes as they have been invaluable for me and on a busy weeknight are just the perfect thing to cook and take away any temptation of the takeaway. All these recipes are ready in under 30 minutes, create minimum washing up and are easy to cook. I just need to make sure I get that onion chopped before the OH catches my eye and both sets of eyes move towards the paper menus.
Smoked Chicken Caesar Salad
I do cheat a little with my take on a Caesar Salad and use a good quality ready made dressing. Adding a handful of green beans turns the salad into something a little more substantial and it’s delicious if you stir through some steamed potatoes. Also good served with crusty bread and it really is worth searching out some smoked chicken for this recipe.
Roasted Aubergine and Tomato Pasta
The reason I love this aubergine and tomato recipe so much is because everything roasts in the oven together, you just need to chop, drizzle, roast and then pop the pasta on. Mozzarella is my cheese of choice for this but a little mascarpone or ricotta stirred through would be great too.
Chipotle Sweetcorn Hash
This is a two pan dinner and it’s so worth it for a bit of spice, smoke and sweet midweek. The chipotle sweetcorn hash makes up the base of the dish and you could top it with all sorts of things; chicken, steak, tofu, roasted cauliflower or stir some leftovers into the mix.
Olive and Fontina Baked Courgettes
Perfect served alongside all your leftovers on a Friday night, these olive and fontina stuffed courgettes are so good served with a few olives, salad leaves, bread and whatever else you have left at the end of the week. Fontina is such a great cheese for this but there are alternatives you can use over on the recipe.
Miso Glazed Aubergine with Pickled Cucumber
I love anything with aubergine and when they’re glazed with miso they make such a great veggie dinner. The red rice takes a little longer than other rice to cook but you can always use brown or wild if you prefer. And when I say ‘quick’ pickled cucumber, I really do mean quick!
Harissa Lamb with Tabbouleh
Tabbouleh is something I turn to often, especially if I have leftover herbs in the fridge. The marinade for the harissa lamb is so simple and would work on plenty of other things (chicken, tofu, veg, fish) for a bit of variety.
I have a certain air of smugness after I have eaten the home cooked meal and not caved in! What are your favourite recipes that are ready in a flash?
So I don’t know about you but when it comes to weeknight cooking I am looking for something tasty, easy and quick to cook. I simply don’t have the time or energy to cook something which takes hours, so I don’t. Just because something is quick to cook, doesn’t mean it can’t be balanced or delicious. Below are my top 7 easy weeknight dinners; recipes that I turn to again and again, maybe with a little variation in the ingredients here and there. I class something as ‘quick’ if it takes 30 minutes or less from start to finish; something is ‘easy’ if there’s less than two cooking pans on the go and ‘tasty’, well, you’ll have to be the judge of that.
Beef and Chard Ramen
Ramen is such a flexible meal to make! You can add different vegetables, herbs, stock and protein to suit what you like and what you have available. My recipe for Beef and Chard Ramen can easily be changed so you use chicken, tofu or veggies; the broth I use is veggie anyway and you can top it with all sorts of herbs, sliced chilli, spring onions or whatever you like.
Miso Roasted Aubergine
I absolutely love this dish. It’s all about the quality of the miso paste that you use. I have tried using cheaper miso pastes but it’s just not the same as a really good quality white miso. My Miso Roasted Aubergine with Rainbow Chard and Soy Dressing is one I crave more often than anything else. Aubergine does work best for this dish but you could try experimenting with different veg. The brown rice and chard can easily be changed for different ingredients.
These Vegetable Singapore Noodles are a very veggie (vegan actually) version of classic Singapore noodles, so full of flavour and are ready in no time at all. Add extra chillies if you want it nice and spicy and I have tried it with a little leftover shredded chicken before too.
Fennel and Sausage Ragu
When I make a ragu, I make a proper ragu. It takes many hours of slow, slow cooking and it’s definitely worth it. I really like to make quick versions too and much prefer using sausages for a quick flavour hit. My Fennel and Sausage Ragu is not exactly low fat but oh my, is it worth the calories. And don’t skimp on the fennel, it’s what makes it even better.
Spaghetti with Balsamic Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Olives
This is such a summery dish for me; full of fresh flavours and so many colours. My Spaghetti with Balsamic Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Olives is one I immensely enjoy eating outside in the sun! Roasting the cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar intensifies their flavour and then mixed with fragrant basil, creamy mozzarella and salty olives it’s such simplicity and pure joy.
I always have a different variety of potato in my kitchen depending on what arrives in the veg box. This Chorizo Hash makes the most of the few potatoes we inevitably have hanging around by the end of the week. I’ve tried veggie versions, chorizo, bacon, hot smoked salmon and all manner of different vegetables. You can’t go wrong chucking some potatoes into a pan with butter, oil and a few other ingredients.
This Harissa Chicken with Quinoa, Avocado and Mango Salad is so simple to make and you can use all sorts of different flavours and marinades on the chicken. It’s even better if you have a barbecue going and you can pop the chicken (or veg or fish!) onto that for a fantastic smoky flavour.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll probably have seen these pop up on my weekly meal plans every now and then! I hope they have given you a little inspiration for a delicious set of 7 easy weeknight dinners.
Each week I try to include something on my meal plans that I can make extra portions of to keep in the freezer. Sometimes they are complete meals, like a cottage pie or soup; and sometimes they are parts of meals, like a curry sauce or pizza base. If it takes a bit of effort or time to make or lends itself easily to be scaled up then I am all for it. This year I am trying to batch cook wherever I can and pile the freezer up with proper homecooked food; meals or sauces that I can grab quickly to make my weeknight cooking even easier. These are the dishes that I find work really well when cooked in a big batch; I usually have at least two of these in the freezer at any one time!
This ragu does take some real dedicated time to make; the longer you leave it the more delicious and rich it becomes. The sauce is so full of vegetables and both beef and pork mince, that you only need a small amount with pasta. It’s amazing with spaghetti, gnocchi and in pasta bakes and lasagne. My recipe makes enough for 10 portions; it’s so worth the time to make it.
If you fancy an alternative to this ragu then you could try my Fennel and Sausage Ragu. It’s quicker to make and the spicy sausage meat and aniseed flavours work so well together.
Pizza Bases and Tomato Sauce
I love making fresh pizza! Using homemade dough and sauce made from fresh tomatoes is just so delicious. Fortunately my recipe for Batch Cooking Pizzas makes enough for six large or eight small pizzas and the tomato sauce enough to be able to top each one too.
The dough and sauce both freeze well; the trick with the pizza dough is to add a little extra flour when you roll it out as it becomes a little sticky after defrosting. The tomato sauce is also great to use as a base with pasta sauces. Two for one!
Tucking into a big plate of homely beef stew is just perfect in the colder months. My recipe for Beef Stew is a real classic; no fuss, just real honest flavours. Having portions in the freezer means they can be popped in the oven to reheat along with baked or roast potatoes. You can also stick some dumplings on top too!
If you want to try something slightly different I also have a recipe for Beef Braised in Beer with Onions.
Lentil and Black Bean Chilli
This is the recipe I turn to when I have people coming over for dinner; even better if I’ve already made it! My Lentil and Black Bean Chilli is vegan and so full of vegetables and flavour. This recipe makes four large portions; it’s probably actually more like six to eight normal portions!
It lends itself well to being cooked in a huge batch and the ingredients are so cheap too. I’ve used my frozen portions of this with rice, baked potatoes, burritos (I had to reduce it down first), added extra tomatoes to make a soup and layered up lasagne style with tortillas.
There are a lot of stages involved when making enchiladas so by keeping my enchilada sauce in the freezer it takes out a whole step when I’m getting dinner ready. My Ulitmate Chicken Enchiladas are definitely worth a try and the enchilada sauce can be scaled up easily. The sauce can be used in any enchiladas you like; chicken, beef, pork, veggie or it can be used in tacos, baked nachos and a whole world of other dishes!
I’d love to know if you batch cook anything as I’m always looking for new ideas to try. What’s your go-to recipe to keep in the freezer?
I have been writing my meal plans for a few years now and I often get asked how to do a weekly meal plan. Speaking to friends a few weeks ago they said they would all love to use meal plans but had either lost a bit of inspiration with what to cook or thought they would struggle to come up with ideas. When it comes to actually putting pen to paper, or finger to screen, it can seem there are so many things to consider that it’s hard to know where to start. Don’t worry though, this post is all about how I started doing meal planning and how, over time, I have wasted much less food, saved time in the kitchen and really expanded my cooking repertoire. And you can too.
Some basics first:
Don’t take it too seriously.
Can you eat organic while also making sure you don’t break the bank? I think you can. And not only that I think you can make some really delicious and different meals too. The answer to eating organic on a budget is about sourcing the ingredients cost effectively and a good meal plan. I wanted to put it to the test and see what I could make with one week’s worth of organic meat and veg. One way to make things easier is to use a veg box company; the time you save needing to go to the shops can be spent planning what you’re going to cook up.
(The Abel & Cole boxes were gifted).
Abel & Cole kindly sent me the ingredients for this post and below is what I got for the week. I had one Keen Cooks Box (£14.25) and one Marvellous Meat Box (£14) so all I needed to do was work out how to use these ingredients to feed two of us for a whole week. The veg box came with a sprig or two of mint which was very handy for my tabbouleh! The meat was actually not organic, but it was high welfare which is what I would normally buy if I couldn’t get my hands on organic.
Chicken Legs (2)
Lamb Steaks (4)
Purple Spouting Broccoli
Baby Plum Tomatoes
Sweet Mix Salad
The meals we had are listed below, we had these in the evenings. For breakfast we had porridge or homemade granola and lunch was either sandwiches or salad with fruit. I had to buy a few extra ingredients on top of the two boxes (bread, milk, a few bits of extra fruit, potatoes, cheese and the like) and the rest of the ingredients were already in my fridge and cupboards. I spent around £17 on a top up shop which meant the total cost for two people for the week was £45 (roughly).
- Chicken Minestrone
- Harissa Lamb and Tabbouleh
- Lamb and Lentil Salad
- Broccoli Macaroni Cheese
- Gammon Hash and Salad
- Mozzarella Mushrooms and Spinach Mash
- Fennel Risotto
Chicken legs are not something that I would usually buy so it was great to have a different cut in the house. I’d had some orzo hanging around for a little while so a lovely green minestrone seemed like a great idea. I browned then removed the chicken, added leeks and fried gently. Popped chicken back in with some stock and simmered then added the orzo, a few minutes later I added some chopped courgette and broccoli. I added some parsley right at the end.
As I had four lamb steaks I wanted to stretch them for two meals rather than one. First up was Harissa Lamb and Tabbouleh which was a great way to use various bits from the veg box and fridge along with some leftover harissa paste.
The other lamb dish I made was my Lamb, Lentils and Flatbreads. I used lentils to bulk this dish out as I used the two smaller lamb steaks. Delicious with the ripe tomatoes and fresh salad.
On a rainy day we made a Broccoli Macaroni Cheese using up the rest of the broccoli and one tomato I had saved just to put on the top!
The other half of the salad needed to be used up so was perfect alongside some Gammon Hash. Really easy to make this used the gammon, an onion, some potatoes and sweetcorn.
My Mozzarella Mushrooms were a great success. Baked in the oven with plenty of garlic then covered with mozzarella for the last few minutes, served up alongside some mashed potatoes which were mixed with blended spinach.
Lastly we had Fennel Risotto. Made with a normal plain risotto base I baked the fennel slowly until it was soft and gently caramelised, I threw some peppers in there for good measure too, then simply topped the risotto with the veg and a good handful of parmsesan.
If we assume that your fridge contents aren’t exactly the same as mine so you might need to pick up a few extra bits (the harissa paste, a tin of sweetcorn and some mozzarella for example) I think you could easily feed two people, organic, for around £50 a week. And that includes breakfast and lunch. And you don’t (necessarily) need to go to a big shop to pick up the extra bits and bobs; you could use a little local one. Meal planning is key to sticking to a budget; I have a previous post with some tips for doing your own meal planning if it’s something you’re new to.
When you’re working through your meal plan and your getting to the end, sometimes you can be faced with some strange combinations, but that’s the beauty of saving time at the shops. You can have a think, a ponder and a look through some books to choose exactly what you want to do with some mushrooms and a few potatoes or decide how you can make a fennel bulb the star of your meal. Veg boxes do make you think outside the box (pun intended) to try a new recipe or two which can only be a good thing.
Thank you to Abel & Cole for the boxes. I wanted to have a go at eating organic on a budget and all opinions expressed and words are my own.
Sharing my weekly meal planning on Instagram is something I’ve been doing for a while and it’s so nice to hear when people find them useful. This post is all about how my meal plans and recipe ideas have changed and some top tips to get into meal planning yourself. Looking back over the past year there has been a noticeable change in what I’ve been cooking and eating and it’s happened so slowly I’ve barely noticed it. I have accidentally become (almost) vegetarian. I didn’t mean to, it just sort of happened.
I think the thing I get asked most often or get comments about are from people who are looking to eat more vegetarian meals; a bit of veggie inspiration above and beyond a vegetable lasagne or simple pasta dish (although don’t get me wrong, both of those are delicious). I started eating meat free once or twice a week simply because what I was cooking didn’t need meat in it but I found it really difficult to plan many meals that didn’t include meat. Over time, trying new things and adding to my veggie repertoire I now eat far more vegetables and a much more varied diet than I did this time last year.
March 2015 – three meat meals and two vegetarian. The other two meals would have been cooked on a whim (or could have been a takeaway (shocking, I know) or meal out) and I didn’t plan much for breakfast or lunch. Hearty, comforting but not too much fatty food this week.
Bean and lentil chilli, rice and guacamole (recipe here for this)
Beef, tomato, potato and spinach curry
Pan haggerty with buttered kale
Mushroom and courgette carbonara
Sausage, kale and barley stew
June 2015 – an all vegetarian week this time! I think it’s a bit easier in the summer months as there are so many different vegetables in season, things are brighter and more vibrant. Again, no plans for the weekend, breakfasts or lunches.
Veggie burgers with roasted new potatoes and rocket salad
Peppers, potatoes and onions (similar to this recipe)
Fresh tomato and basil pasta
September 2015 – more vegetarian than meat this week and I’ve gone to six days rather than five but still no lunches or breakfasts specifically planned. It’s late summer so there’s plenty of bold, fresh flavours going on.
Pea and bacon soup (recipe here, such a classic)
Tomatillo salsa, sweetcorn and halloumi
Beef in beer and onions, potatoes and cabbage
Veggie burgers with sweet potato wedges
Beetroot and goat’s cheese speltotto
Peppers stuffed with giant cous cous, herbs and nuts
January 2016 – it’s a six meal all vegetarian week (and a few vegan for good measure) and lunches and breakfasts are all planned too. Looking back to when I first started scribbling down a few ideas to where I am now with almost military precision I’m as surprised as anyone and very pleased with a delicious start to the year.
Lunches – beetroot salad or homemade ‘pot noodle’
Breakfasts – homemade granola with yoghurt (recipe for the granola