Food

Family-friendly dinner ideas (and shortcuts) for any night of the week

Monitoring Desk

Sydney-based food stylist and recipe developer Lucy Tweed aka @everynightoftheweek has amassed a following on Instagram for her no-nonsense and flexible approach to feeding her family of five. Here are four doable, riffable midweek dinner ideas from her book of the same name, Every Night of the Week, to add to your weeknight rotation.

Drunken dumplings

For when the kids are eating leftovers and you can’t commit to the idea of either a soup or a stir-fry.

INGREDIENTS

Every Night of the Week by Lucy Tweed.
Every Night of the Week by Lucy Tweed. Photo: Murdoch Books
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast fillet (around 220g)
  • 8 frozen dumplings
  • 180g somen noodles
  • 2 tbsp tom yum paste
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • 2 heads of bok choy
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1-2 tsp chilli paste

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-foced (200C conventional).
  2. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over high heat and pan-fry the chicken breast for 2 minutes each side. Place in the oven for a few minutes to finish cooking through.
  3. Boil the dumplings for 1 minute or until thawed. Add the somen noodles and cook according to the packet instructions. Drain. Remove the pan from the oven and set the chicken aside.
  4. Fry the tom yum paste over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then pour in the coconut milk. Add ½ cup (125ml) of water to the can and swish it around, then add to the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring to combine with the tom yum paste.
  5. Meanwhile, lightly steam the bok choy.
  6. Slice the chicken and divide among two shallow bowls, then add the noodles, dumplings and bok choy.
  7. Pour the broth over the top. Drizzle with sesame oil, then the lime juice and top with as much chilli paste as you can handle.

Serves 2

Shandong chicken

Every comfort food dish in every country ultimately comes down to carbs ‘n’ sauce.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 whole chicken (about 1.2 kg), spine removed, pressed flat*

Sauce

  • ½ cup (125 ml) soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 5cm knob of ginger, peeled and left whole
  • 3 spring onions, white parts roughly chopped, green tops reserved for garnish**
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 3 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chilli bean paste
  • 1 tbsp chicken stock powder

Noodles

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 bunches water spinach, cut into 10cm pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 500g fresh rice noodles (or use dry noodles cooked according to the packet instructions)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).
  2. Warm all the sauce ingredients with ½ cup (125ml) of water in a saucepan.
  3. Put the chicken in a deep baking dish lined with baking paper and pour the sauce over the top. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. I put a piece of foil over mine at about 25 minutes as the skin was really taking that self tan too far. Not tight, just literally rest the foil on the top. Untucked.
  4. While that’s happening, get the noodles ready. In a large frying pan over medium heat, add the oil and cook the spinach and garlic slivers until the garlic just starts to brown.
  5. Add the rice noodles and 3 tablespoons of water to loosen them. Toss this well and dress with the sesame oil.
  6. Cut the chicken into pieces to serve. (The hardest bit is the thigh bone, but you can leave this whole if you like. Everything else you can snip at the joint.)
  7. Slice the now candied ginger to serve on top (do not rob your guests of this incredible accent!), along with the curly green tops of the spring onions.

Serves 4–6

*This is a big ask for a Tuesday, I know, but if it’s not for you, just ask your butcher to do this for you.

**Finely slice the green spring onion tops lengthways or on a very sharp angle and put in a glass of iced water so they curl up. Completely unnecessary when it comes to flavour but such a fun accessory.

Cauli corn mac ‘n’ cheese

Some foods I seem only able to make in trough-loads. This usually applies to pasta because I love it so much. The standard pasta pack size of 500g is just so perfectly designed to make you use it all. It’s a lovely generous amount to deal with; you always think to yourself, “the kids can eat what we don’t use tonight with sausages tomorrow”. And it absolutely does not matter if you have used exactly half a packet one day – when you need a half packet from the pantry on another day you are adamant that it’s under and won’t be enough. Genius mind mastery to the person who did this!

The beauty of this is that you can add bigger chunks of cauli and put it over to one side, with more mac on the other if you have a fussy bunch. Just scoop your favourite section. It’s win-win. If you really want to add a third win though, cut the cauli super fine and they won’t be able to pick it out.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups (500 ml) milk
  • 4 cups (1 litre) bechamel (see recipe below)
  • 200g Red Leicester cheese, grated
  • 200g cheddar, grated
  • 100g mozzarella, grated
  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into 1cm thick slices, big bits snapped into chunks
  • 2 corn cobs, kernels removed, cobs reserved
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500g macaroni
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced into 5mm thick rounds
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional).
  2. Make the bechamel (see recipe below)
  3. Stir the milk into the bechamel in a saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the grated cheeses, a handful at a time, making sure the last lot has melted before you add the next. Keep warm once it’s all melted in.
  4. Place the cauli in a colander, and sit the colander in a big stainless steel bowl.
  5. Put the corn cobs in a big saucepan filled with 20 cups (5 litres) of water and a heaped tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil. Cook the pasta in this corny water for 1 minute less than the packet instructions suggest for al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta over the cauliflower. Discard the corn cobs and allow the cauliflower and pasta to steam for a minute before releasing the water.
  7. Use 1 tablespoon of oil to grease the base of a large baking dish and fill with the pasta, cauliflower, corn kernels and leek. Toss it all to combine and season well.
  8. Pour the cheese bechamel over the pasta mix, gradually allowing it to sink in and settle as you go. Drizzle with the remaining oil and finish with paprika. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Serves 8

Bechamel

This deserves its own recipe because once you make it well once, you’ll start doing weird and exciting crap to it. Some mildly invigorating crap I’ve done to beshy includes adding tonnes of cheese, or cayenne pepper or creamed corn even.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup (75g) plain flour
  • 4 cups (1 litre) milk, plus extra if needed
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper (or black pepper)

METHOD

  1. OK, in a big saucepan* over medium-low heat, melt the butter and allow it to just start foaming.
  2. Add the flour and stir it into a paste with a wooden spoon. It should be smooth and golden. Imagine you want every particle of flour to have its own meticulously applied layer of body oil.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the milk, 1 cup at a time. The first cup will instantly plug everything up. Keep stirring and try and get it back to a smooth state before adding more. I switch to a whisk about now, or after the next cup – once it’s loose enough to accept a whisk. It will help you keep the mixture smooth.
  4. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking between each addition. Stop once you have a lovely thick, smooth texture. It may continue to thicken as it cooks and the flour swells more, but you can just add more milk to your liking. It’s easier to loosen than it is to re-thicken so go slow.
  5. Bechamel is traditionally seasoned with nutmeg, bay leaves, salt and white pepper. But you do you. That’s it. You’ve done a beshy! Now start imagining all the wonderful things you can dip into it, drown in it, bake under it or layer it with.

Makes 4 cups

*Aim for a 4 litre pan because even though the yield is only 1 litre, you will be stirring hot thick liquid, sometimes quickly, so it pays to have much higher sides!

Broccoli & cheese pie

Making your own pastry is a calming, meditative ritual, although one that I rarely have time for. So this recipe pimps something store-bought to make it feel more like homemade.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of broccoli, florets chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp chopped chives
  • ½ cup (50g) finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
  • 445g good-quality shortcrust pastry
  • 4 cups (120g) loosely packed basil leaves
  • 250g frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • 1 cup (25g) oregano leaves
  • 500g fresh ricotta, crumbled
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten (reserve 1 tsp for the egg wash)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • extra lemon zest, to serve (optional)

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional).
  2. Saute the broccoli and onion in the oil over medium heat for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  3. Grate the zest of the lemon over the broccoli mix as it cools.
  4. Fold and knead the chives and parmesan into the pastry, bring together into a ball then wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest.
  5. Blitz the basil, spinach and oregano until fine in a food processor.
  6. Combine the ricotta and beaten egg (except the teaspoon you’ve remembered to keep back) in a large bowl and fold through the blitzed basil mixture. Season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
  7. Roll out the pastry to a 40cm round about 5mm thick and place on a pizza tray.
  8. Place the broccoli mixture in the middle and top with the herby ricotta, leaving a 7cm pastry band around the edge.
  9. Fold the pastry up and over the filling as much as you can, pinching and pleating it to seal.
  10. Whisk together the reserved egg and 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.
  11. Brush the egg wash over the pastry. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the edges are golden and the centre is springy to touch. Serve warm or cold.

Serves 6-8

Courtesy: goodfood

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