If we are not careful cooking home meals can become monotonous and repetitive. Long work days, battling with fussy eaters or juggling a family can encroach on our enjoyment of cookery and we can often be left with the feeling that making a meal at the end of the day is just another chore to be endured rather than enjoyed. The key to enhancing our at home food is simple: planning and flavour.
Here at The Grand Hotel we are used to serving numerous guests who are often with us for days at a time. It is therefore essential to provide them with a wide range of dishes to choose from so that their dining options are varied and non-repetitive throughout their stay. In our Garden Restaurant, our set menu will change daily to allow for this.
Meal planning is one of the most effective ways for you to achieve this at home. Planning dishes in advance will help to organise your week and to ensure that ingredients are mixed and matched and repeated less often. This is not only great from an organisational and economical perspective but also a good way to ensure that your body is getting what it needs nutritionally and fantastic for broadening your recipe repertoire and developing the taste buds.
A good idea is to allocate ten to fifteen minutes of time at the weekend to create a ‘menu’ of evening meals for the week. This can be tailored around existing ingredients you have in your cupboard or left overs. For example, left over chicken from roast dinner on a Sunday would work perfectly in a simple risotto on the Monday night. Once you have devised your meal plan, create your shopping list and work out what you will need to buy. This is a fantastic cost effective strategy for planning the weekly shop and will help to eliminate wastage.
If you have an evening out planned during the week, which doesn’t involve dining, you may like to adapt your menu to feature something simple and easy to cook. A couple of simple quick and easy recipes suggestions include pasta carbonara or vegetable rice stir fry.
In addition to planning your meals, enhancing their flavour through the use of herbs and spices, or experimenting with new ingredients is a great way to create more inspiring meals and learn new techniques.
It is worth working with seasonal ingredients where ever possible as the flavours will be better, costs will be kept down and it will aid with avoiding repetition in your planning. For example, a hot pudding of apple crumble will work well in autumn months while Eton Mess would be better in the summer. Keeping a stock of herbs and spices will also help to enhance your dishes and bring out flavours. My recommendation would be to keep a store of black pepper and spices in your cupboard such as cumin for curries and cinnamon for puddings.
Growing your own herbs is a simple and fun way to always have a fresh supply to hand and these can easily be kept on the window sill or grown in a window box. If you aren’t particularly green fingered, fresh herbs are easily available to buy and can be added to your weekly shopping list. Some good herbs to work with are basil for tomato based dishes, bay leaves for soups and stews, sage for poultry, thyme for meat, tarragon and parsley for seafood and cinnamon for puddings.
At the end of a week of planning and cooking, consider giving yourself a break by taking a night off from cooking. You could either get someone else to cook for you, relax with a take away or visit a restaurant. These are all perfect ways to find inspiration and try something new, which you may find you want to incorporate into your meals at home.
The Grand Hotel’s next event is the Christmas Smorgasbord which will be hosted in The Mirabelle Restaurant on Wednesday 27th November. For more information, visit http://www.grandeastbourne.com/christmas-smorgasbord