the weekend cook: 14 quick ideas to save you time during the week

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I had such a lovely weekend.

Saturday was a day of shopping and eating out. A visit to the markets in Canberra along with lunch at Silo bakery and dinner at Italian & Sons. It was nice to be in the city for a change.

And Sunday. Sunday was one of those perfect Winter days I used to think only happened in Sydney. Big blue skies. Almost no wind. gently warming sun that is mild enough to sit outside most of the afternoon reading my book club book without getting burnt.

Of course, come 3pm and the chill starts to creep back. Definitely still Winter. The perfect time to potter about in the kitchen.

I used to think that I wasn’t one of those sensible people who could cook in bulk on the weekends and then live off those meals for the rest of the week. But it occurred to me yesterday that maybe I am?

I’m not really into making massive batches of lasagne or curry. But I do love having the time to make a few kitchen building blocks from scratch. That way I can quickly pull together a few different meals from my weekend efforts without getting bored. Or feeling like I’m having my flexibility stifled.

So here are 14 quick ideas to set you up for the week.

1. pesto
Pesto has to be one of the most versatile condiments. I’m a big fan of this dairy-free Sicilian nut pesto. If you cover it with oil, it keeps in the fridge without discolouring for at least a few weeks.

Serve on soups, as a dressing for a tomato & almond salad, with roast or poached chicken. Warm a can of chickpeas or butter beans and toss pesto for an instant sauce.

2. hummus
As I learned when I was in Ireland last year, there are few things that aren’t improved by a dollup of hummus. While it works equally well as a sauce or a dip, it’s also great as a little side dish. Use anywhere you’d serve mashed potatoes. Also a wonderful snack with carrot or celery sticks.

3. slow roast tomatoes
When Summer is still on its way, and tomato season hasn’t begun, the next best thing is to slow roast some tomatoes.

4. flavoured mayonnaise
I love making mayonnaise because then I know the quality of the oil used. And while plain mayo is a great thing to have on hand, getting creative with the flavours makes it even more fun. Try making a batch of plain mayo then splitting into smaller batches to add different flavours. Mashed roast garlic is great, or try going down the herb path with basil or thyme.

5. chilli oil
I haven’t made this in ages, and need to remedy that! Use anywhere you’d normally use fresh chilli for a more mellow chilli hit.

6. BBQ sauce
Having a little home made BBQ sauce on hand takes any every day BBQ (or even pan frying) meal up a notch.

7. poached chicken
Either poach a whole chicken or chicken breasts and keep in the fridge to shred into salads or pan fry to brown the outside for a super quick supper.

8. poached sausages
The best way to cook sausages is to poach them gently for 15-20 minutes to cook them through and then quickly brown in a pan before serving. This gives super moist bangers. And the good news is you can poach them in advance and have them at the ready for a super quick meal.

9. roast root veg
Roast veg aren’t only great as part of a Sunday roast dinner. They make gorgeous soups and salads. I’m never stuck for ways to use up leftover roast veg.

10. roast eggplant
Undercooked eggplant is one of my least favourite things. So I tend to only cook aubergine when I have plenty of time. Of course roasting it ahead of time and keeping it at the ready in the fridge will open many mid-week eggplant possibilities. Like this soup.

11. braised greens
Each week I make sure I cook up a batch of greens to have on hand to serve with my breakfast eggs. Cavalo nero and kale are favourites but spinach, silverbeet (chard) and beet greens all work well.

12. versatile lentils
Since going Slow Carb, I’ve been loving lentils even more than before. Having a batch of versatile lentils [recipe below] on hand is great for salads or to serve where you’d normally use rice or pasta.

13.balsamic onions
Another condiment that works equally well as a vegetable. I love these balsamic onions [recipe below] with sausages or eggs or tossed in with lentils.

14.roast beets
One of my all time favourite vegetables, beets are usually out of range for mid week meals because they take so long. While beetroot canned in beet juice is better than no beets at all, I always feel a lot happier when there is a batch of roast beets [recipe below] in the fridge. Great with onions, lentils, goat cheese and salmon just to name a few.

What about you? Have any favourite weekend recipes that set you up for the week ahead?

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[5 ingredients]
versatile lentils

takes 20 mins
serves 2-4

While my favourite lentil is easily the french-style ‘puy’, pretty much all lentils can be cooked in this manner. You’ll just need to adjust the cooking time. Red lentils will cook more quickly whereas brown will probably take a little longer.

If you’re in the mood for more vegetables, add a diced carrot or two and a few sticks of celery also diced in with the onion.

Use these lentils anywhere there’s a recipe for canned lentils. This will make about 2 cans worth.

250g (9oz) small lentils
1 onion, peeled & diced
1 bay leaf, optional
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1. Rinse lentils and place in a medium saucepan with the onion and bay leaf.

2. Cover generously with water and bring to the boil.

3. Simmer, uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

4. Drain lentils and return to the pan. Season with soy, vinegar and a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

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[5 ingredients]
roast beets

takes about an hour

Beets are one of my all time favourite veg. I just love their earthy flavour and inky colour.

Cooked beets will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, so I often roast two bunches if I’m going to the trouble.

1-2 bunches beets
balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 200C.

2. Remove stalks from beets and scrub them well. Chop into bight sized wedges – either quarters, sixths or eighths. The smaller you chop, the faster they will cook.

3. Splash with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and the same of olive oil.

4. Cover tightly with foil and roast for 45mins to 1 hour or until beets are tender. Season.

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[5 ingredients]
balsamic onions

takes about an hour
makes 2-3 cups

Part vegetable, part sauce, there aren’t many things that wouldn’t be improved by a judicious addition of these onions.

I like to make a big batch because they keep in the fridge for ages – at least a month. Feel free to play around with the type of onions and the type of vinegar. Red onions with sherry vinegar is another fave.

Feel free to halve or even quarter this recipe if you aren’t in the mood for a massive onion-chopping fest. If you’re worried about the onions making you cry, try this trick.

And because you’re going to be simmering them, no need to use your best balsamic or olive oil.

8 onions
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Heat oil in a large heavy based saucepan over a medium heat.

2. Halve onions, lengthwise, then remove the skins and slice into half moons. Adding chopped onions to the oil as you go.

3. Cover and cook on a medium low heat, stirring occaionally for about 1/2 hour or until onions are very soft but not browned.

4. Remove cover and add balsamic. Bring to a simmer and cook, again stirring from time to time for about 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced a little and the onions are slightly brown.


veggie cooking logo

I’m a big fan of all food but vegetables hold a special place in my heart, particularly now I’ve started growing my own in my little backyard veggie patch.

So I’m super excited to announce that the class information for our Quick Veggie Cooking class is now online.

Click HERE for all the details.

Looking forward to seeing you in class!

Jules x

ps. Don’t forget the monthly payment option for the Virtual Cookery School closes forever on Saturday 20th Aug. So it’s your last chance to get access to ALL classes for just $21/month as long as you remain a member. Click HERE to join us, risk free.

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