the weekend cook: 14 quick ideas to save you time
+ Lovely Lentils

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 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 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 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?

roast beets9

Lovely 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.

roast beets7

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.

roast beets8

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 occasionally 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.


With love,
Jules x


  • You had my usual Canberra weekend pleasures and I went to Sydney to get absolutely poured on for the City to Surf



  • lately i’ve been roasting a big batch of beets, grilling extra zucchini on the barbeque, and making a big pot of quinoa for the week ahead. i keep them separate in the fridge so i can mix them up with some chopped kale, goat or feta cheese, and a little olive oil & balsamic for a quick lunch, or vary each night for whatever i’m feeling like for lunch the next day. thanks for these tips… next week i think i’ll add the balsamic onions (yum!) and maybe some eggplant to my “make ahead” repertoire!

  • Wow! You really have a knack for making something creative out of these ingredients, not to mention delicious ones! I like roasted eggplants because they make the perfect salads! Not only it is healthy but also a definite healthy meal that I can eat everyday! And I want to thank you for posting that information about poached sausages. I must try it some time since I’ve never tried poached sausages before. I only poach eggs and they taste pretty well so I’m thinking that these sausages would come out alright, too!

  • I’m always happy when I have stewed apples in the fridge. Peeled, cored and sliced apples, stewed gently in just a bit of water or orange juice, with cinnamon and sometimes a handful of sultanas thrown in. Fantastic on porridge, muesli, pancakes, or with yogurt for an easy dessert.

    Thanks for these great ideas. Will be trying a couple this weekend!

  • good question Jan
    I don’t peel them actually. After they’re roasted the skins taste delicious. I do scrub them thoroughly first though

  • Love this list, I would add a roasted ratatouille to it. Random quantities of tomatoes, capsicums, zucchini & or eggplant , onion and a little garlic. A bit of salt pepper Evo and sugar, into a hot oven till done how you like. I usually put the capsicum on top so the skins can be peeled off easily. Stir in some freshed chopped basil. When it’s cool maybe add some olives or anchovies, all optional. It’s a bit of a mushy mix, but can be a filling in a bread roll for lunches, or in a veg lasagna at dinner, on toast or with an egg at breakfast , or a vege side to a steak, chicken or fish, or a pasta sauce. That’s one multi-tasking melange!

  • wow, thank u sooo much. have always loved cooking but never seemed to find the time to do much, you have opened my eyes and my world!!!!> live in croatia(from south africa) so discovering yr blog has been heaven sent. My son goes to cook school here so will definetly introduce him to yr blog. thanks thanks thanks.

  • I’m always at a loss to know if there is a suitable substitution for sherry vinegar. I’ve looked online, but the prevailing opinion seems to be to the contrary. Have you tried a different type of vinegar that would work?


  • Lyla
    Red wine vinegar would be fine here… and in most places calling for sherry vinegar.
    Rice wine vinegar is another great option

  • I am trying your roasted beet recipe right now. I have had my beets in the oven at 200C for an hour now and they are still almost as hard as when I put them in! Is there a mistake with the baking temperature? They are small beets too and I’ve cut them into quarters. I have raised the temp to 300 now and will see how it goes…

    • Hi Sabinah
      No 200C is the temp I use for my beets all the time… Most celcius ovens don’t go up to 300C… so I’m wondering if your oven is in Fahrenheit?…. in which case you need 400F for the beets to roast.
      Hope that helps!

  • How do you store the basalmic onions? The picture is a jar, but I wondered if there was more to it.

    • Yes just in a jar in the fridge Sam – or in the freezer. If you want them to last longer you could sterilize the jar first but I don’t bother :)

  • I’ve never cooked with lentils and beans and need to increase my daughters iron intake. Thank you for making it so easy!
    Some recipes elsewhere are so overwhelming, I really appreciate finding your page.

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