Meal planner

At this stage of our lives, with a toddler and two adults working full time, we need to save time wherever possible. A prime candidate for this is to automate our feeding, considering just how much time it consumes to plan meals, shop, cook, keep an overview of what we actually have at home etc.

So, the beginnings of a meal planner: a list of main meals to be rotated.

  • Zucchini-anchovy-pesto pasta
  • Chicken paprikás
  • Aubergine-tofu on rice
  • Moroccan style spiced sautéed veggies on rice
  • Lentil stew: Hungarian or Indian version
  • Bean stew
  • Steamed fish and veggies with mash
  • Roast chicken or lamb
  • Meat balls in tomato or zucchini-dill sauce with pasta
  • Lentil-pumpkin soup
  • Savoury crepes with aubergine-chicken mince
  • Garlicky chicken liver (poss. with aubergine) on rice
  • Creamed spinach with sunny side up eggs, or leftover meat

Snacks:

  • Carrot loaf

Green beans and homemade rye patties

To be translated

A szalonnadarabkák, kolbászkarikák futnak egyet saját zsírban, ami csak az íz kedvérét van, ám szükséges jó, erre meg reszelt fokhagyma (meg ne égesd, ezért ilyenkor félrehúzd a lábast), pirospaprika jön, egyet kavarsz, kevés vízzel felengeded, és zutty bele a fagyasztott zöldbabot. Só, bors, vágott petrezselyem bőven (én így szoktam, a vége felé teszem bele). Ez az alap.pici ecet is jó bele, de pici!
Meg a variáció a lehetőségé és fantáziáé…
Mellé a lepényke nálam a gofrisütőféleségben készül, hipp-hopp, de palacsintasütőben is kisütheted. Rozsliszt, és csak kicsi teljes kiőrlésű pluszban, só, köménymagdaráció, bors, és szódabikarbóna vagy sütőpor egy mokkáskanálnyika, joghurt, olívaolaj, kevés tej, víz egyvelegével összekeverem (maradék mindenséges sajtreszelék is megvadítja, meg tudod már, a fantázia, hehehe).
Ma pici élesztővel hagytam pihenni a tésztát, aztán az olajozott bifinettes izékében sitty-sutty kisütöttem.

Meal planning

These posts should be useful to avoid a meltdown on Saturday afternoon as I try to plot meals for the week before the supermarket closes. To be expanded.

Option 1

  • Meatballs with spinach salad (+ caramellised onions and/or oranges)
  • Couscous salad (recipe in the snacks post)
  • Then use up leftover spinach from meatballs and leftover yoghurt from couscous salad in a fish pie with smoked mackerel and mashed potatoes
  • Further leftover spinach can make sag aloo
  • Any leftover mackerel can go towards snacks

Option 2

  • Chicken paprikás with peas
  • Then use leftover chicken for roast chicken

Option 3

 

Anybody soup

My parents like to encourage me with the words “Nobody can mess this up!” when they share a recipe. I have proven them wrong on many an occasion.

That being said, here is a recipe that you really cannot mess up. It has the further benefit of having received the enthusiastic approval of everyone I have tried it on, regardless of cultural background. For these reasons, I have named it Anybody Soup*.

  • Sautée some finely chopped garlic in a soup pot on medium heat – garlic can burn fast. The more, the merrier. Add a generous load of whole cumin seeds and continue tossing it around until the garlic threatens to start browning.
  • Pull off the fire, add a heaping scoop of paprika powder. Hungarian is best. Stir it until it is all covered in the oil (or butter) at the bottom of the pan, then top up the concoction with boiling water from a kettle to save time. Put back on the fire.
  • Add salt and pepper. If you have a spice mix called Vegeta, use that to taste. If you do not, consider adding a vegetable stock cube. I also usually add some goulash paste and paprika paste.
  • As soon as the water is somewhere between simmering and boiling on the stove, crack open some organic eggs. My parents taught me to always wash the shell of eggs before I cook with them, and that advice can’t hurt here because the eggs will not be cooking for long. Pour the eggs into the soup one by one, yolk and white together, and stir it vigorously with a fork. If you vary the vigour of stirring, you’ll end it with a pleasing variety of egg chunk.
  • And you can turn off the heat! Soup is ready.

Serve with some bread for extra substance, and hot pepper if you desire.

Have a cold or the flu? Add some finely chopped hot pepper at the first step. Just make sure you have a pile of tissue paper at the ready (and not only to dry your tears of joy as you spoon up the lovely soup).

PS. For the egg purists, keep the soup at a simmer and add a pinch of cornstarch to keep the egg silky. For people who don’t care, boil away!

* In more orthodox circles, this goes by the name of cumin seed soup.

Calm down salad

There are plenty of ways to process that feeling when you are on the edge, and all you need is a little push to turn into a gremlin. You could go and run around the block. You could take up smoking (blech). I prefer to chew.

I chew stuff that is around, which typically means cookies, chocolate and my own long hair. The last time I was at home, my mum made a lovely crunchy salad for us to munch on and I decided it would make a good addition to the repertoire of stuff to chew. Here it goes:

  • Take a *lot* of raw carrots and a cabbage.
  • Grate them ( but peel the carrots first, and peel off the outer layers of the cabbage. This could be wasteful if you would otherwise use up the whole cabbage, but if that is not the case, I tell myself I am just peeling off the pesticides (assuming the cabbage is not organic)).
  • Put the lot in a big tupperware and mix in some olive oil, apple cider vinegar and a generous helping of cumin.

Et voilá!

If you are especially low on motivation/energy, you could consider the cheater’s version. This involves chopping the veggies into around inch-sized blocks, and putting them through a food processor (but stopping well before they are blended to mush!). If you have a grater attachment, so much the better.

Salmon with soy sauce

The other day we had to improvise dinner around some salmon fillets. We went about it thusly:

  • Take the fish out of the refrigerator about 30 mins before use, to make sure the temperature of the frying pan would not drop too much when the food is added
  • Marinade it in soy sauce, coriander, a touch of ginger, finely chopped garlic and pepper. I did not add salt since the soy sauce is already salty
  • Set the pan on high heat and add oil. We were using a standard non-stick pan this time since the cast iron lovely was suffering under some newly acquired rust
  • Add the fish skin side down. Cook until it is ready to be released from the pan/ the sides show that it is turning opaque. We left it in too long and it had started charring… we just pulled off the skin at the end so hopefully we avoided the worst of the carcinogens.
  • Turn the fish around and finish until it is wholly opaque.
  • Turn off the heat and leave in the pan until the flesh is flaking when you twist a fork in it.
  • Add mashed potatoes, salad and wine to finish the meal!

Had I not been reluctant to scrape off the garlicky marinade, I would have tried following more closely these instructions on how to keep fish from sticking to the pan.

Cast iron for dummies

We’ve only been using our cast iron pan for a week but we already managed to destroy some nice fish fillets in it and to get it rusty. And this is after I researched and researched!

Why not just throw it in the bin? This article from the NYT summarises some of the reasons I persevere. For an even shorter summary: because it is supposed to be healthier, food is supposed to taste better if prepared in cast iron, and anything that has multiple uses (stovetop to oven) gets my vote. I also simply like the tactile, organic feeling it gives me.

Some of the things I’ve learned, liberally drawing on other people’s advice:

  • Cast iron rusts extremely fast. This means no soaking overnight to make it easier to remove the fish remnants that you’ve just charred into the bottom of the pan.
  • However, you can remove light rust stains by 1) scrubbing the pot clean, 2) rubbing it with a combination of food grade oil and coarse salt. You can use a paper towel to do the actual rubbing (obviously adjust the oil so that the towelette doesn’t get too drenched, e.g. a tablespoon of oil and the same amount of coarse salt).
  • I followed the advice in this post to season the pan, i.e. to develop a protective and non-stick layer
  • Cleaning should be gentle, the pan should be dried after washing up and lightly oiled before put away

Using cast iron cookware well also requires changing how you cook, and to some degree what you cook. Acidic substances like tomatoes and wine, never mind vinegar, are not the number one choice since they may strip away the protective layer of oil.

For most foods, the temperature should be set lower than with standard pots and pans – low to medium heat should suffice. It should heat up with the stove, instead of exposing it to a sudden change of temperature. Cast iron also does take high heat well which makes it very well suited to frying steaks, for example. It is just not necessary (or suitable) to crank up the heat for a lot of dishes.