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If you regularly cook for your family, you’ll probably find, as I do, that some of the biggest challenges you face in a typical week revolve around coming up with a constant stream of nutritious meals, whilst fitting things in around your family’s schedule and dietary requirements. This is when a bit of meal planning comes into its own, as do shortcuts by way of handy items that can easily be pulled out of the freezer.
I’ve really enjoyed tuning into Channel 4’s latest cooking show Eat the Week on a Sunday afternoon, as it’s helped me come up with plenty of ideas for the week ahead.
The show is made in partnership with Iceland, and presented by Sunday Brunch front man Simon Rimmer. He shows us how to cook recipes that will make mealtimes fun again for families, while demonstrating how to reduce waste and save time with help from Iceland.
There are 10 episodes in the series (you can find all the episodes so far and the recipes here) and Iceland asked me to cook along to some of the recipes in week 8, aimed at cooking for big families.
My brood consists of two adults and three kids, but I often find myself cooking for unexpected playdates and my extended family at the weekend as well. So what issues crop up for me?
My family food set-up
- The children are hungry earlier than we are
- Their meals have to fit around after-school activities and unexpected playdates
- No particular dietary requirements but middle child has aversion to berries – she likes other fruit and eats loads of veg though!
- We always eat as a family at the weekends
- I try to cook the same meal for everyone
With all of this to contend with it’s just as well I love cooking, but it also means I’ve had to develop ninja skills at planning ahead.
How can the freezer help?
- I keep key items on hand, ready for when I’ve not had time to plan ahead, allowing me to quickly and easily rustle up a healthy family meal, such as frozen rice for stuffed vegetables or one-pot dishes, frozen chopped onions, frozen fruit (for quick smoothies), frozen seafood such as king prawns and salmon fillets for fishy pasta, and frozen pastry for quick my quick chicken pie.
- Frozen food, especially frozen veggies, can often be just as good frozen as fresh
- The freezer can act as a great back up, saving space in the fridge
So, this week our meal plan will feature some of Simon’s recipes, such as Sausages Baked with Squash and Rosemary (see the recipe below) and a retro Chocolate Trifle for pudding which will last a couple of days at least as it’s so big! We’re also going to try the salmon fish cakes and Simon’s Texas Chilli (a big batch will last for at least two meals with different sides).
The sausages baked with squash can be easily scaled up for a crowd, and if you’re catering for vegetarians you can make two trays and use veggie sausages in one and meat sausages in the other. I also love the handy frozen packs of mixed mediterranean vegetables from Iceland, which can simply be added to some frozen sausages along with some fresh cherry tomatoes and herbs from the garden.
The trifle is a lush, indulgent big family treat, perfect for when you’ve got kids over for a playdate, after a Sunday roast or even for a party. It’s made with store-bought chocolate muffins (I sometimes use chocolate roll), bananas and a homemade chocolate custard. Once you’ve mastered the custard recipe (with or without chocolate) it’s a great one to have up your sleeve to go with fruity crumbles and sponge puddings, too.
My ultimate food hacks
- Scale up and batch cook so that one meal lasts a couple of nights (e.g Simon’s Texas Chilli can be served with rice, or can be used to stuff tortillas the next day)
- Plan your weekly menu and shop ahead for the whole week
- Keep things such as frozen chopped onions and packets of frozen vegetables to hand in the freezer
- Go for ‘tray-bakes’ or one-pan dishes as much as possible – this is where you throw lots of items together and bake them on one tray in the oven. We love chicken thighs with chorizo and new potatoes, or salmon with roasted vegetables too.
Sausages Baked with Squash and Rosemary
An easy recipe that can be scaled up to feed a crowd, or a bunch of children for an unexpected playdate. Use fresh butternut squash or a bag of mixed frozen vegetables, along with your favourite sausages - meat or vegetarian.
12 sausages (I used Iceland's The Butcher's Market frozen sausages)
1 butternut squash - cut into wedges, with skin on (or used mixed frozen vegetables)
6 sprigs of rosemary
400g cherry tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic - sliced
1 onion – sliced
1 lemon – juice
Serve with: crusty bread
- Fry the onion in a large roasting dish for 20 minutes until caramelised with the garlic.
- Remove from the pan, then fry the sausages for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.
- Add the butternut squash wedges, rosemary, cooked onion/garlic and cherry tomatoes.
- Roast at 180C for about 35 –40 minutes until the squash is cooked.
- Squeeze over the lemon juice as soon as it comes out of the oven.
- Serve with crusty bread.
What are your tips for feeding a big family? I’d love to see your comments below!
You can find out more about Iceland’s Iceland #PowerofFrozen campaign here #ad