Monday, 16 September 2013

Two Quick & Cheap Kitchen Cheats

As the new school term becomes established I've remembered just how time-pressured the usual week in our household can be. In between work, extra-curricular activities and other daily obligations there are some times when cooking a balanced, nutritious meal for the family just doesn't quite happen. I've accepted there will be the odd times when my kids will subsist on foods which can either be bunged in the oven (ie fishfingers and oven chips) or gleaned from a jar (ie pasta and pesto). Add in the eccentricities of my children's culinary tastes (my eldest would happily eat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while my five year-old only ever really eats with gusto when we are abroad and seafood is on offer, calamari being his absolute favourite) and it can be a frustrating experience trying to provide balanced, varied meal options when time is limited.

But recently I have hit on two real kitchen 'cheats', which are relatively healthy, add some variation to mealtimes and couldn't be easier to prepare. 

I have Nigella to thank for these two discoveries, which can be found in her book 'Kitchen'. Firstly, Spaghetti with Marmite - an improbable combo, I know, but it really does work. Plus the recipe was conceived by legendary Italian cookery writer Anna Del Conte - if the Italians eat it, it must be good! You don't even have to really like Marmite. Bung some spaghetti in to cook then heat about 50g of butter in a pan. When it's nearly melted add in a teaspoon of Marmite, plus one tablespoon of the pasta cooking water till it all emulsifies and goes loose. Add the sauce to the drained spaghetti and mix well. Plate up and serve with plenty of Parmesan. I'm biased because I love Marmite but even if you're not so sure, give it a try just once!

Secondly, an easy accompaninment to meat or fish. Even though I sometimes make my own chips and even the oven variety aren't really that bad for them, I do sometimes feel a bit gulity about chips being the standard potato-based dish in our home. So, for something a bit different try roasted or fried gnoochi. Again, these babies take literally minutes to prepare - you simply throw them into a frying pan with some olive oil and gently fry on both sides for about four minutes. Alternatively bake them in a roasting pan with some oil for about twenty minutes. 

I'm not sure Annabel Karmel would approve but sometimes life really is too short to spend slaving over a hot stove...

Quick tip - I have been trying to find creative ways to get the green stuff into my kids' diets for years now. If this is a familiar scenario for you, here's something that works in our house: I add a good handful of fresh or frozen spinach to pasta and pesto, a really easy way to up the veg content of their supper. I wilt it down in a pan with a knob of butter, then whizz up in a hand-blender and mix in with the pesto. Simple, quick and super cheap.

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