Once a Week Cooking Plan: For Mums Who Hate Cooking

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once a week cooking for mums who hate cooking!

We all have to start somewhere. I may have worked professionally as a chef, but when I was growing up I was totally resistant to learning to cook and only ever helped my mother bake cakes because it meant I’d get to eat them!

Even when I started my pastry chef’s apprenticeship, I was a terrible home cook. I’d only been with my then boyfriend (now partner) for a year and most of what I cooked involved pasta or chicken breasts. Sometimes we’re made to feel that if we don’t know how to cook a decent meal by the time we’ve reached adulthood, then something has been gravely wrong with our upbringings. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Consider this your introduction to getting a week’s worth of dinners done in one day, no special skills or secrets required. Just follow the instructions in the Plan.

These are some of the first meals I learn’t to cook as a young adult. There is limited need to cut onions or garlic here, but a few recipes have a little chopping required. You don’t acquire those skills if you don’t at least do some practice. These dishes don’t require much of your attention either; you either cook the meals quickly on the stove, or throw the ingredients together and bake or simmer while you nearly forget about them. Setting yourself a timer on your phone will end those burnt meals; if you answer calls and texts, then surely you will respond to an alert that dinner is done.

A key trick is using shortcuts like already seasoned and flavoured sausage meat, choosing cuts of meat and fish that don’t require any cutting or boning, and using a plethora of spices to kick up the flavour with little effort. The benefit of having a handful of spices hanging around is that you can add flavour without having to worry about caramelising vegetables or meat and other things that require more attention than you’re willing to give.

Menu

  1. Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes
  2. Wiener Schnitzel
  3. One Pan Chicken
  4. Beef Tacos
  5. Easiest Ever Meatloaf
  6. Sausage and Mushroom “Bolognese” with Pasta
  7. Tomato and Lentil Soup

Shopping List

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Fridge and Freezer

All of these meals are wonderfully freezer friendly about one to two months in the freezer. Some need to be defrosted overnight before the morning you plan to eat them, while other items can be baked from frozen. Most dishes will last several days to a week in the fridge also, but I would only recommend keeping the majority of things in the fridge if you knew the order in which you planned to eat them.

Reheating instructions can be found at the end of each recipe.

Method

Step by Step Breakdown

Vegetables and Fruit

Potatoes: 5 peel, boil, mash with 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons mustard (Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes), 4 cut into 8 chunks (One Pan Chicken)

Onion: 1 finely dice (Easiest Ever Meatloaf), 1 finely dice (Tomato and Lentil Soup)

Red Onion: cut into 8 chunks (One Pan Chicken)

Garlic: 8 cloves peel and bash (One Pan Chicken), 4 cloves finely dice (Tomato and Lentil Soup)

Carrots: 1 grate (Easiest Ever Meatloaf), 2 finely dice (Tomato and Lentil Soup)

Capsicum: 2 deseed and cut into 10 (One Pan Chicken)

Dill: 1 bunch finely chop leaves, discard tough stalks (Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes)

Chives: 1 bunch finely chop (Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes)

Oregano: 1 bunch strip leaves, discard stalks (Beef Tacos)

Thyme: 6 sprigs strip leaves, discard stalks (One Pan Chicken), 4 sprigs strip leaves, discard stalks (Tomato and Lentil Soup)

Rosemary: 6 sprigs strip leaves, discard stalks (One Pan Chicken)

Parsley: chop leaves, discard stalks (One Pan Chicken)

Mushrooms: 12 thinly slice (Sausage and Mushroom Bolognese)

Baby Spinach: 3 handfuls reserve (Sausage and Mushroom Bolognese), 4 handfuls reserve (Tomato and Lentil Soup)

Reserve for just before serving

Green Salad: reserve for (Wiener Schnitzel)

Parsley: ½ bunch leaves finely chop, discard stalks (Wiener Schnitzel)

Baby Potatoes: boil whole, drain, season with salt, pepper, chopped parsley from above (Wiener Schnitzel)

Lettuce: ½ head shred (Beef tacos)

Tomato: 4 dice (Beef tacos)

Avocado: scoop out flesh, dice (Beef tacos)

Coriander: 1 bunch chop leaves, discard stalks (Beef Tacos)

Cheese

Mozzarella: 200g grate, reserve for serving with (Beef Tacos)

Parmesan: 100g grate, reserve for serving with (Sausage and Mushroom Bolognese)

Meat and Fish

Smoked Salmon: 400g roughly dice (Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes)

Pork Loin: Cut into 6 escalopes, line between sheets of cling film, gently bash until very thin (Wiener Schnitzel)

Beef Mince: 500g reserve for (Beef Tacos), 300g reserve for (Easiest Ever Meatloaf)

Pork Mince: 300g reserve for (Easiest Ever Meatloaf)

Pork Sausages: Split open and scoop out meat, discard skins (Sausage and Mushroom Bolognese)

Chicken Drumsticks: Reserve for (One Pan Chicken)

Chicken Thighs: Reserve for (One Pan Chicken)

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix and form the Easiest Ever Meatloaf and bake for 40-50 minutes
  3. You can set up the flour, egg and breadcrumb bowls for both the Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes and Wiener Schitzels This would make 200g flour in one bowl, 4 eggs and 12 tablespoons of milk in another bowl, and 500g bread crumbs in the third. Dip the fish cakes first, before the pork, because the salmon has already been cured while the pork is raw. There should be no transfer in flavours from the fish cake to the schnitzels.
  4. Once the potatoes have been cooked, mashed and cooled, combine with the rest of the Smoked Salmon Fish Cake Form the cakes, crumb coat, and set aside in the fridge for frying. They benefit from some resting time so they are less fragile while frying.
  5. Bash the pork for the Wiener Schnitzels and crumb coat.
  6. Cook off the meat and herbs for the Beef Tacos, set aside to cool before freezing.
  7. Prepare the Sausage and Mushroom Bolognese
  8. Place the Tomato and Lentil Soup on to cook and simmer for 30 minutes
  9. Turn up the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. By now the meatloaf should be out and cooling. Throw together the One Pan Chicken and bake for 45 minutes. This is the dish I most prefer to eat on the day of cooking.
  10. Allow all dishes to cool completely before chilling.

Recipes 

Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes

Ingredients

400g smoked salmon

5 large potatoes

Bunch dill

Bunch chives

Lemon

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons mustard

100g flour

2 eggs

6 tablespoons milk

250g breadcrumbs

Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Peel boil and mash potatoes. Mash together with the butter and mustard. Allow to cool.
  2. Finely chop the dill and chives. Zest the lemon.
  3. Roughly dice salmon.
  4. Once the mash is cool, combine the herbs, lemon zest, salmon, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  5. Form the mixture into 8 large balls or 16 small. Flatten each to about 3cm thickness.
  6. Place flour in one bowl, eggs and milk whisked together in another, and place breadcrumbs in a bowl or plate.
  7. Dip each fish cake in flour, then egg then breadcrumbs, pressing gently to adhere the crumbs. Set aside in the fridge for half an hour to set and ensure that they are not too fragile while frying.
  8. To cook, take a large heavy based pan and place on medium-high heat.
  9. Fry cakes in batches for about 5-7 minutes each side or until golden and crispy
  10. Allow to cool completely before chilling or freezing. Will keep 3-4 days in the fridge or 1 month in the freezer.

Wiener Schnitzel

Sounds impressive, is actually just crumbing some flattened pork pieces and serving them with boiled potatoes. But this dish is very delicious. The traditional Viennese dish would use veal, which you can choose to use.

Ingredients

800g pork loin

2 eggs

6 tablespoons milk

250g dry breadcrumbs

100g flour

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying, about 50-80mls depending on the size of your pan

50g butter plus additional knob for potatoes

1 lemon

To serve

16 baby potatoes

½ bunch parsley, finely chopped

Green Salad

Method

  1. Slice the pork loin into 6 escalopes. Lay out a long sheet of cling film and place the pieces at least 4cm apart. Lay another piece of cling film over the top.
  2. Gently beat the pork with a rolling pin or tenderised until they are very thin, but without holes.
  3. Season each side with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. In one bowl add the flour, in the second add the eggs and milk and beat together, and pour the breadcrumbs onto a large plate.
  5. Dip each piece of pork in the flour, egg and then breadcrumbs. Don’t press the breadcrumbs on too hard or the texture outside will be hard rather than light and crisp. Lay on a baking sheet and freeze, before transferring to a container or zip lock bag. Schnitzels will last for up to 3 months in the freezer uncooked, 5 days in the fridge.
  6. To cook the pork, take a large heavy based pan and place it on medium-high heat with a coating of oil over the bottom, about 1/2cm worth.
  7. Add the butter to the pan. Cook the pork 3 pieces at a time, about 1 minute on each side.
  8. Drain on kitchen paper and then serve.
  9. Cooked schnitzels will last up to one week in the fridge, 2 months in the freezer.
  10. To make the simple potato side, before you put the oil on to heat, put all the potatoes in a large pot, top with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Once the potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes), drain, toss with a knob of butter and parsley. Serve with potatoes, green salad and lemon wedges.

One Pan Chicken

Ingredients

4 chicken drumsticks

4 chicken thighs

4 large potatoes

1 red onion

8 garlic cloves

2 red capsicums

6 sprigs thyme

6 sprigs rosemary

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 bunch parsley

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  2. Take a large baking dish and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, tilting to coat.
  3. Cut the potatoes into 8 chunks and do the same to the onions. Deseed the capsicum and cut each into 10 pieces. Peel the garlic cloves and give them a bash.
  4. Toss all of this into the dish.
  5. Discard the parsley stalks, roughly chop the leaves and set aside for serving. Strip the leaves from the rosemary and thyme, discard the stalks. Scatter the herbs, spices, salt and pepper over the chicken and vegetables and give it all a toss.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are crisp and tender.
  7. Scatter over the parsley.
  8. Allow to cool completely before chilling. Dish will last one week in the fridge or one month in the freezer.
  9. To reheat, defrost overnight and drizzle over an additional tablespoon of olive oil. Tightly cover the dish with foil and place. Heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius and allow dish to heat through for 20-25 minutes.

Beef Tacos

Ingredients

500g beef mince
Bunch oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Serve with

Pack of 12 taco shells or soft flour tortillas
200g mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ ice burg lettuce, shredded
4 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, flesh diced
1 lime
Bunch coriander
tabasco sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Strip the leaves from the oregano and discard the stalks
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large fry pan and place on medium-high heat.
  3. Brown the mince in the pan until starting to crisp. Add the spices and stir through, allowing to cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste and sugar and stir through. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Season the mixture to taste.
  6. Allow to cool completely before chilling. Will keep for one week in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.
  7. To serve, heat taco shells or tortilla in the oven until the shells are crisp or the tortillas are soft and pliable.
  8. Heat the mince until hot. Add a little water if necessary. You can do this in the oven also, or in a pot or pan.
  9. Grate the mozzarella. Shred the lettuce, dice the tomatoes, scoop the flesh from the avocado and dice in roughly the same size as the tomatoes. Discard the roots and stalks of the coriander and roughly chop the leaves.
  10. Mix the tomato, avocado, coriander and dress with lime juice. Season to taste.
  11. Tacos are best formed in this order: shell or tortilla, a couple tablespoons of meat, cheese, tomato “salsa” mixture, and then lettuce.

Easiest Ever Meatloaf

Ingredients

300g beef mince

300g pork mince

90g bread crumbs

1 onion

1 carrot

1 egg

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

5 tablespoons tomato sauce (ketchup)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Method

  1. Grease a loaf shaped tin with a little oil. If you don’t have one, use a small square lamington pan, though your meat loaf will be distinctly less loaf shaped.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  3. Dice the onion and grate the carrot.
  4. Combine all the ingredients together.
  5. Gently press into the prepared tin.
  6. Bake for 40-50 minutes until cooked through and slightly caramelised on the top.
  7. Allow to cool completely before chilling. Will keep for one week in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.
  8. To reheat, defrost overnight. Cover with foil and heat in a 180 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Sausage and Mushroom “Bolognese”

Ingredients

6 high quality pork sausages, whatever flavour you like
12 button mushrooms,
3 handfuls baby spinach
100mls red wine
1 large jar tomato passata
Salt and pepper

Serve with

500g dry pasta
100g parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  1. Thinly slice the mushrooms
  2. Take a large heavy based pot and place on medium heat.
  3. As the pot heats, rip open the sausage casings and scrape the meat out with the spoon. Drop the meat into the pot and repeat with other sausages.
  4. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon as it browns.
  5. Add the mushrooms and stir through, allow to cook for 5 minutes or until softened.
  6. Add the oil and bring it to the boil for one minute, before reducing the heat and adding the passata.
  7. Allow to simmer for a few minutes and then remove from heat. Toss the spinach leaves in and stir through to wilt. Season to taste.
  8. Allow to cool before chilling or freezing. Cooked Bolognese will last up to one week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.
  9. To serve, take a large pot and fill with water, add a pinch of salt and bring it to the boil. Cook the dry pasta, making sure to stir it for the first couple of minutes to prevent sticking, Test for tenderness after about 8 minutes and keep testing pieces until pasta is just tender without any hardness against your teeth.
  10. Serve sauce over pasta and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Easy Lentil Soup

Ingredients

1 onion

4 garlic cloves

2 carrots

4 handfuls baby spinach

4 sprigs thyme

1 lemon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tins whole peeled tomatoes

1 cup green lentils

1 litre vegetable stock

500mls water

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Dice the onion and carrot. Roughly chop the garlic. Strip the leaves from the thyme sprigs and discard the stalks.
  2. Add the oil to a large heavy based pot on medium heat.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, stir and allow to cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour in the lentils, stock and water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Season more to taste after cooking.
  5. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are just tender but not mush. Set yourself a timer.
  6. Toss the spinach leaves in at the end and allow to wilt.
  7. Season the soup to taste and add a few squeezes of lemon juice.

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