Improv dinner

Well, this should be
easy. All foods are fair-game for dinner time, and we have plenty time to cook
– so simples. Right?

After the first few
nights of creative, vegetarian inspired food (with meat added) the ideas began
to run out. Hit a bad time at work and
was too tired to think about food. Very unlike me. The veg drawer of the fridge was running low,
but I still had a stash of ‘banned’ foods in the larder “in case of
emergency”. I started to crave the
old food, like lamb meatballs and salad with hummus and salad, stuffed into pitta
breads. That wouldn’t be so bad, right? Just a couple of pitta breads and some
hummus; I could give it up again tomorrow. And it’s got salad and meat so can’t hurt…. so I did, and then it did hurt and I didn’t do it again – for a while 🙁

Rule # 1: Be prepared

If buying meat, try
to put a bit aside in the freezer. Not stock-piling here, just a dinner worth
of sausages, chicken, white fish fillets and pork chops. Worst case scenario, you have sausages
with leftover salad for dinner. Not bad if you ask me. If you have leftover
stews or bolognaise sauce, freeze the spare (no need to over-eat, or bin it). Handy even if only a small portion.

Eating real food
means eating fresh food. You know, the stuff that has a limited life and won’t
survive in the back of a cupboard for 12 months. It goes off. You have to use
it while it’s good.

Sometimes that’s
great – goody! Avocado for dinner and it’s not even an anniversary!! (comment only really applies to bBits, who still
consider avo’s to be a bit of an exotic treat

Prepare to be
flexible with your planned menu, so if that pumpkin has gone so far beyond ripe
that even the compost bin flinches, then dinner is not cancelled. Likewise, I’ve been caught out by substitutions in the veg box delivery. I’d planned a
meal around 1 particular item, so when that was swapped for something entirely
different my plan was scuppered. No problem.

  • Adapt the recipe to use
    something else. Recipes are not set in stone – they are just a suggestion. Exception to this is baking – deviate and you are likely to fail! 🙂
  • Or as i did, if there is no
    suitable substitute, skip to tomorrow night’s dinner. Had to to do this last night as the mango I had intended to use was good for banging in nails, but that’s about it. Buys a bit of time
    to come up with an alternative and as the week goes on, I tend to
    accumulate bits of extra leftovers anyway so can come up with an entire
    new dinner. Sort of like the original format of ReadySteadyCook, where
    they has to put all the stuff from the bag together to make a meal – not
    the new version where they make several different meals, each using 1 item
    from the bag and add a ton of extra stuff from a larder that must be the
    size of Narnia. “So, you have a chicken a banana and an egg? great, then I’ll
    be making chicken tikka masala, a banana split and baking a cake using the

Rule #2: Have a few
options up your sleeve

Sometimes you’ll spot something you’d
forgotten was there but doesn’t have a place in tonight’s dinner. I’ll add a
few more later but 2 options here

  • Add it as an extra course. Have heard of people making chilled cucumber soup, or mini-gazpacho with
    well-ripened veg as an amuse-bouche. Nice little extra, and effectively
    something for nothing, as long as you don’t need to go and buy extra
    ingredients of course.
  • Prepare and freeze. as I found the other night – what the heck am I going to do with a bunch of wilting rhubarb between now and
    tomorrow!? Old go-to option was simple – rhubarb crumble and custard! Now that isn’t
    an option. Thought about giving it to someone I was seeing at the weekend,
    but it would be super-floppy by then and, frankly, a bit of a crap gift. Then I remembered seeing a savoury recipe with rhubarb on a Jamie Oliver
    programme. Savoury would at least mean no sugar – worth a look. Thanks to
    the interweb I now have a tub of hot and sour rhubarb marinade for pork in
    my freezer – not sure how well it’ll freeze but it was headed for the
    compost anyway so no harm done.

Have lots of dinner
ideas to share -but you’ll have to wait for those 🙂