Time to get fired up for summer
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.
SLOW-COOKED TEX-MEX PULLED PORK