I really thought that I would have more time to concentrate on cooking once I had kids. In some ways I have, I have more headspace to THINK about cooking, but not a lot of actual time to do it. My first daughter had afternoon naps right up to starting school, my youngest has all but stopped at the age of two and half. So I don't really have uninterrupted time to cook during the day. This means that dinner mostly needs to be prepared at dinner time. My husband has long working hours so is never home for dinner during the week. It is just me, and two worn out, attention needing girls.
If I have a lot of cooking energy to get out I might make a separate meal for my husband and I, but usually we all have the same meal. At least half the time it will be some kind of stir fry - this suits the cultural needs of our family, but also speed needs!
Some nights are just toxic though: when you are late home from swimming or playgroup, when the kids need a bath, your daughter has reading to do and you have nothing prepared. This blog post, and the rest in the series are my attempts to address that. I'm going to do post a recipe for the fastest, technically adequate version, then put in variations that make it yummier or healthier. I'll call these ones 'Desperate Dinners.'
Vegetables, noodles and meat: OK version
One packet of two minute noodles (baked version)
Handful of tiny vegetables (chop/ grate thinly - I use broccoli, grated courgette and mushroom)
Shredded leftover meat/ shelf stable tofu
Boil water in a pot for the two minute noodles - put in vegetables for a couple of minutes with the 'soup powder' then add the noodles. When the noodles have been cooking for a couple of minutes add the shredded meat. Done.
You can have this as a soup, or strain and have as noodles.
Vegetables, noodles and meat: Best version
One packet of udon or quick cook hokkien noodles
Selection of tiny vegetables, including a diced spring onion for garnish
Shredded leftover meat/ pre-marinated chicken/ frozen shrimp/ fresh firm tofu
Fresh stock: homemade, from the fridge in the supermarket or made up using gel stock pots. For a family of four you will need at least one litre.
Soy sauce/ peanut oil/ sesame oil
To have as a soup:
Put the stock on to boil and add the vegetables and meat (if not precooked). Cook for three or four minutes at high heat, then reduce to a simmer and add the noodles (and tofu/ precooked meat if using). Add a teaspoon of soy sauce and a drop or two of sesame oil to each family member's bowl prior to adding the noodles, meat and stock. Sprinkle with spring onion.
To have as a stir fry:
Stir fry the uncooked meat and vegetables in peanut oil for two or three minutes until the meat looks cooked and vegetables start to soften. Add half a cup of stock and a teaspoon of soy sauce and bring to the boil. Add the noodles and stir fry rapidly until most of the liquid has disappeared. Add the pre-cooked meat or tofu if using. Sprinkle with spring onion.