What’s on the Menu Then?

Now if you are a regular indulger in my diary, this will be just a recap. But if you have recently found ‘Diary of a Gay Dad’, then I have this to say! ‘Man can not live by bread alone’ and ‘let them eat cake’! Well, not really as I don’t bake that many cakes, just birthday ones and the occasional collaboration with the children making cupcakes (and very occasionally with chocolate). Let us create a positive spin on ‘Man can not live by bread alone’, of course I should have quoted the politically correct saying of ‘WE can not live by bread alone’.

Okay, I love to cook and I always cook in batches, I freeze two thirds of what I prepare in two separate containers and eat the other third on the day that it is produced. So many dishes lend themselves to the ‘table d’hote’ idea (go on, google it). You probably make some of these yourself at home. Bolognese sauce, cooked for at least two hours is a must and easily transformes into a chilli con carne with the addition of red kidney beans and some chilli sauce (I use the Sriracha one from Thailand). If you use Dolmio sauce, the one with extra garlic is acceptable. But do try and make your sauce from scratch, it’s just too simple (try to find the time, it is also a lot cheaper). You might also remember that I only cook with basmati rice (and I only make it in the microwave).

For me, Puttanesca is the royalty of Italian sauces. My personal favorite. The other pasta sauces we eat regularly are home made carbonara (ham, mushroom, Parmesan, garlic, double cream and seasoning), all thinly sliced, or the other option is using smoked salmon instead of ham.  This is one of the most amazing pasta dishes you will ever enjoy. I am presuming you like smoked salmon, that is. You don’t need a lot of salmon, but like carbonara, watch you don’t dry out the sauce once you add it to the cooked pasta! Use a little full fat milk (not cream) to thin it down slightly if you are a little wary of overindulgence.

These things don’t take up a lot of your time. That is with regards physical work. And regarding the length of time to cook a basic bolognaise made with minced beef, just simmer the sauce on the lowest heat, with the lid on and try not to leave the house (lol)! The other option available is to use minced pork. Perfectly cooked within thirty minutes. The final Italian essentials in this house are those meatballs that I make again and again. I have several recipes for them at this point. Don’t buy those factory made pellets from the supermarket, put in some real ingredients and say to people ‘I made this’! With  cooking the sauce yourself, there comes a certain pride. These dishes are very basic, easily made and enjoyed by both the children and us adults alike.

John really loves his meat and two veg, being Irish and all, so there is always a roast dinner on the menu every week, usually on a Sunday with us all participating. Just one tip for the roast potatoes and that is the meat juices and some of the fat. Just make sure you smash the potatoes about a bit for a lighter, fluffier result. It’s only once a week, so indulge yourself.

There is always an Indian meal in our average week. Both for us grown ups and for the children. There are so many recipes I could talk about, but the main advice is to make what you like but cook out those spices long enough to turn the strength of them into pure sweetness, whichever spice combo you use. Don’t forget the holy trinity (fresh garlic, ginger and chilli). Tomato and onions will sweeten your sauce to perfection.

Other Asian based flavors served up on a more or less weekly basis are those from Thailand and China. I love these sweet and sour flavor combinations. I pretty much get creative with Thai food. And as for Chinese food, I backward engineer from those at the Chinese takeaway. I really have to take a deeper look at Vietnamese cuisine. Note to one self!

Lastly, we all deserve moments of elevation. And I love to cook with fish and shellfish. Most weeks I throw together something that both John and I will enjoy as a real treat. Lobster Thermidor or ‘Coquille Saint Jaques Mornay’ sound a little bit too fancy, even the French word ‘mornay’ (with cheese) kind of makes it sound extremely complex. But take a fresh look at these French classics. Just dress a good cheese sauce over your cooked fish or shellfish and voila! It just sounds too simple doesn’t it! Use a whisk whilst making your sauce to avoid lumps and use plenty of mature cheddar cheese, plus a teaspoon of English mustard (I wouldn’t bother using gruyere). Plenty of mature cheddar, both in the sauce and on the top before you blitz in the oven for twenty five minutes. Serve with oven French fries or home made chips. I love to scrape off the dark, crystalised bit around the edge of the dish – wow, so tasty! You can always substitute good quality prawns if Lobster meat or scallops are not available. A small tip – Canadian lobster is always available before Christmas at just six pounds each. I always stock up the freezer when the going is good. Another small tip – whatever your thoughts about shopping at Iceland supermarket. Their frozen fish is definitely worth the trip. The Argentinian red prawn and scallops are certainly worthy… Oh! And invest in a few ‘Au Gratin’ dishes if you want to serve up something that looks like you ordered it in a quality restaurant.

Of course the children eat what just the children eat as well. But this entry in my blog couldn’t possibly showcase baked beans and a jacket potato with grated cheese on top, surely not! Albeit a very tasty, nutritious and cost effective meal!

As I am our family chef, my daily updates will continue to enlighten you regarding what’s on the menu, but please allow me to advise, if it sounds tasty reading about it on this blog, maybe give it a go at home yourself… Bon appetite

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A Gay Dad reflecting on life in the Shires of England with my not so famous five and two rapscallion Dalmatian hounds

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