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.
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.
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