Time to get fired up for sum­mer

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS -

About this time of year, the pace of life al­ways seems to crank up a gear. As the days get longer it feels like you can pack in more and more. And it’s so fab­u­lous to go for a walk af­ter work in the day­light, or pot­ter a bit in the gar­den. That feel­ing of stretch­ing a lit­tle more play­time out of the day cre­ates a sense of a lit­tle hol­i­day in the hum­drum of daily life.

But then you come in and it’s late, and if you haven’t yet thought about din­ner it’s go­ing to be even later by the time you get to eat. In our house we get what my hus­band calls “the din­ner drift” – two glasses of chardon­nay and din­ner at 10.30pm. It doesn’t get dark down here in the south till af­ter 8pm and as long as the light holds, my vege gar­den calls. My late-night din­ners, per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, aren’t very pop­u­lar, as our house tends to run on farm­ers’ hours, with dawn starts.

My mother al­ways used to pre­pare din­ner in the morn­ing be­fore she went off and did ev­ery­thing else she needed to get done in the day. That’s rarely my ca­per but when I know I’ve got a busy few days com­ing up I throw a big chunk of a cheap cut of meat in the slow-cooker with lots of aro­mat­ics and leave it to cook it­self to suc­cu­lence and ten­der­ness over the next nine or 10 hours. I then have the start point for not just one but of­ten two or three dif­fer­ent meals.

The idea of these meals is that they don’t taste like left­overs. Make a dou­ble batch of rich beef bour­guignon and one night, and set aside half to trans­form into lit­tle pies a night or two later (I like to pop a slice of blue cheese on top of the meat be­fore I add the pas­try lid). Or shred the meat and heat it with the sauce to toss through pasta, gar­nish­ing with finely chopped pars­ley, rose­mary and lemon zest for a gre­mo­lata kick of fresh­ness.

Slow-cooked lamb shoul­der flavoured with Moroc­can aro­mat­ics can be served up on day one with roast veges and greens. Then the left­overs can be heated up with chick­peas, lots of co­rian­der and maybe a can of toma­toes for some ex­tra sauce, and served over cous­cous for another night, and the last bits shred­ded and popped into a wrap with hum­mus, chili sauce and some crunchy let­tuce and pars­ley.

This week I’m shar­ing a Tex-Mex style slow­cooked pulled pork that’s great served with ku­mara mash and stir-fried gin­gery cab­bage or brus­sels sprouts. Add a can of beans to the left­overs to make en­chi­ladas the next night, and if you’ve still got some left, it’s won­der­ful in a soft bun with coleslaw. Three nights’ din­ner, sorted.

Hav­ing a good home­made tomato sauce like my Ter­ra­cotta Sauce at your fin­ger­tips is another re­ally use­ful trick to help you pull din­ners out of a hat. Make a big batch and freeze in cup mea­sures as the start­ing point for near-in­stant din­ners. Pour it over chicken and veg­eta­bles and aro­mat­ics of your choice and throw into the oven for an easy tray-bake meal. Or sim­mer it in a pot with chicken, seafood or minced meats and serve over pasta, cous­cous or rice.

Just know­ing you have sorted the start­ing point for din­ner takes out the stress of think­ing about what to cook and de­liv­ers the kitchen smarts to get time back on your side.


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