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Can’t decide what to have for dinner?

What to have for dinner is one of the most asked questions there is. Only beaten by “when will it be ready?”.   The answer depends on many things:

What type of meal do you want, quick and easy or something special?

Do you want cheap dinner ideas or are you feeling extravagant?

If you are going to cook then what ingredients have you already got you can cook or have you got to go to the stores?

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions and then the pressure comes in with “when are we gonna eat?”
I don’t like the same food every night. So long as I get a change I am happy. I like to cook whenever I have time and I usually make time. It doesn’t have to take long or be difficult to make something that’s tasty and good for you too. If I’ve got plenty of time I like to do something a bit more challenging.

When I’m stuck for ideas and can’t decide what to have for dinner (bearing the above in mind) I tend to run through the different countries cuisine I can think of and then the types of cooking. Do I want All American, Mexican, Indian, Chinese,  Italian ? and then Grilled, Fried, Stewed, Roast ? Do I want pasta, potatoes, bread, rice? Beef, Chicken, Pork, lamb, fish?  Pretty soon something starts to come out on top.

There are a million meals out there just waiting to be eaten. I’ll post a few of my favourites and hope that it gives a few ideas. I’ll also try to tell you some of my favourite cooking methods and why they are.

For example I love slow cooked food. You can throw everything in a pot and just come back later to a delicious meal. It sometimes feels like its been cooked for you and its great if you know you aren’t going to have much time when you get home.

Pressure cookers. These cook in a fraction of the time needed to oven cook a stew or casserole so you don’t need to start two hours ahead.

I am not a chef just a home cook but that’s all it takes to either put together a quick meal or a dinner party for friends. The first thing is deciding what to have for dinner

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What to have for dinner – Roast Turkey

Roast Turkey picture

Roast Turkey

Perfect Roast Turkey

I think this is the best way to do a roast turkey. I know a lot of people who think roast turkey is a dry meat, it can be if you overcook it, but if you do it this way the meat is moist and full of flavour. I remember my grandmother putting them in the oven the night before Christmas to cook, it was like eating leather!

A roast turkey the size of an ostrich?

The size of bird you want depends on how many you are going to feed but I think a 7 or 8 Kilo bird works well for the 10 or so people I normally feed, usually at Christmas, and even with less than this the leftovers always get eaten as salads or sandwiches or even better a turkey and mushroom pie! I also think that this size tastes better than the larger turkeys.

What you need for your roast turkey

A Turkey! you will fail miserably without this
a small bunch of herbs, I use rosemary, thyme and a few bay leaves.
a couple of celery stalks
2 or 3 medium onions
2 or 3 chopped carrots
3 or 4 nectarines cut in half(or clementines,mandarins,sweet oranges)
stuffing(whatever your favorite is) enough to fill the neck of the turkey.

What you do

If you have a frozen turkey make sure it is completely defrosted. If it has been in the fridge, take it out a few hours before you cook it to tae the chill off.
While you are preparing the bird turn your oven on to full to get it good and hot.
You might want to truss the bird up but if you don’t the heat in the oven can get around the bird more easily and let it cook evenly.

Put the nectarines(or other) and most of the herbs inside the turkey, You can use one of the sprigs of rosemary to act like a pin to hold together the loose skin of the turkeys cavity and seal it and keep the flavors in. While the turkey cooks the steam from the nectarines and herbs will add a delicious flavor to the turkey.

Put as much stuffing as you can fit in to the neck cavity, then pull the loose skin down and fold it underneath. Put the remaining vegetables in the baking tray and place the turkey on a trivet over them, these are going to make the gravy.

Your oven should be very hot at this point so cover the turkey with some foil and place the baking tray in the oven. Turn the heat down to 180 degrees C as soon as it goes in.

A Turkey will take 35 to 40 minutes per Kilo to cook so for 8 Kilos we are talking about 5 hours. A lot depends on what you oven is like and the type of bird you have, so you need to check your turkey every half hour. To stop it from drying out you need to keep basting it with the juice which has collected in the baking tray.

About an hour before the end, take the foil off to allow the skin to crisp up. To check if the bird is properly cooked you can insert a meat thermometer in to the thickest meat at the breast. The Bird is done when the temperature reaches 65 degrees C (for a top quality bird, a lesser quality bird will need to reach 82 degrees.

When you remove the bird from the tray, tip it a little to let the juices run back into the tray. Put the bird onto a platter and let it rest for half an hour before serving. To do this cover it with 2 layers of kitchen foil and put 2 tea towels over the top to keep the heat in. While the Bird is resting you can be making the gravy from the juices in the pan.

Roast Turkey Trimmings

Roast Turkey Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

My life would not be worth living if I did not provide a couple of little extras with a roast turkey dinner. My daughter would probably decide to speak to me again after a few weeks but my sons never would. The main extra? Pigs in blankets! No not your average porker in a duvet, I mean the small sausages, individually wrapped in bacon and cooked in the oven with the roast turkey until they are crispy.
Bread sauce and cranberry jelly complete the picture and so long as they all appear I know I am safe for another year (well, probably until Easter). One point here, It does not matter what time you eat it, in the UK it is always a Christmas dinner not Christmas lunch.

Roast Turkey, Bon Appetit!

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what to have for dinner tonight – Try a Simple Blackberry Charlotte Pudding

What to have for dinner? - Blackberry Charlotte

Blackberry Charlotte


Never mind what to have for dinner, what to have after dinner is what my children found more important so my first recipe  is a dessert.

At the time of writing I have a garden hedge full of blackberries. If I had been a bit more energetic when it came to clearing  the scrub at the bottom of the garden earlier in the year we would not have had any, so I consider these free blackberries a tribute to laziness and natures compensation for the scratched legs I have had when walking past.

This is a simple but gorgeous pudding, redolent of summers bounty and reminiscent of summers as a child spent picking blackberries from the hedgerows. O.K I know that’s over the top but it really is a good dessert. It is more like a summer pudding with just blackberries than some other versions but very easy to make. This recipe will make about 4 individual servings depending on the size of the mould. (US=Mold we aren’t talking green stuff here.) If you have dariole moulds then fine, otherwise ramekins or other small bowls would do. I’ve even used cups in the past. Or you could just make a single pudding in an ovenproof bowl. You might need to weight the top down with a plate if you use a single bowl. Adapt, that’s where the fun is.

 

What to have for dinner – What you need

  • Blackberries, 14oz/400g
  • White bread, About 12 slices depending on mould size
  • Caster sugar, (superfine granulated) 5oz/150g
  • Butter 5oz/150g melted

 

What to have for dinner – What you do with it

Get the oven switched on and warming before you start, it needs to be 425F/220C/gas mark 7.

Put the Blackberries in a pan and sprinkle the sugar over. Then heat them up for about three minutes until they have softened and started to break down. Once they are ready remove them from the heat until you are ready to fill the moulds.

Grease the moulds with butter to make the puddings easier to remove.

Cut rings out of the bread to line the bottom of the moulds and some slightly larger ring that will fit the top of the moulds. If you are using a single bowl you will have to cut the bread to fit.

dip each piece of bread (one side only) into the melted butter and use them to line the mould. You will need to cut pieces from the remaining bread into shapes to line the sides. don’t forget to dip these in the butter as well.

When you have the moulds fully lined with the buttered bread, fill each one with the softened blackberries and place the final piece of bread on the top (buttered side outwards). Put them in the oven for about five minutes.

When they are cooked, turn them very carefully onto the serving plates. Tip – put the plate upside down on top of the mould and turn the whole thing over.

Serve with cream, ice-cream or custard (creme anglais).

I have been known, in wilder moments, and only when I am preparing it for adults only, to drop a couple of tablespoons of brandy into the blackberries when I am cooking them. I can tell you that, once you have tried this, what to have for dinner?, especially when there are blackberries about, is a much less difficult question.

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