5 day dinner challenge

So as I've mentioned I don't really fit in to the category or Domestic Goddess.

And Warren is sooooo good at being able to whip a tasty dinner together when all I can see in the fridge is an old bag of sugar snaps, a pack of mince & a jar of honey. So it's just better if he does all our cooking :)

I'm not even any good at the shopping bit & find myself returning home from the supermarket loaded with bags & an empty wallet, but no complete meal. And I always feel drawn to buy pate for some reason even though we don't really eat it & I never even remember to purchase crackers to eat it with. How are you supposed to even eat pate? I'm not even sure. Anyway.

So, along with my increased reading NYR I decided that I'd cook for us all at least once a week.
I thought I'd probably even enjoy it if I got stuck in to it....

But I haven't quite managed to maintain my weekly baking goal.
I'm just not good at even thinking up meal ideas unless I've researched thoroughly, flipped through magazines & done a bit of Pinterest scanning & suffice to say if it was left up to me to cook on an adhoc basis, we'd be eating a lot of pasta pesto & egg on toast.

But inspired by our Winter Dinner Dates, I decided to set myself a challenge.
'To cook for the whole week' and give Warren a break from the stove!
I planned it it last week at work bouncing some meal ideas off my friend Sallyanne & even managed to do a successful shop - on budget!
Here goes!!

Meal # 1
Steak, Egg, Chips & Peas

Verdict : 7/10
Quick & easy to prepare.
BUT my steaks lacked flavour & were a tad on the tough side! With minute steaks there's not much fat so they are a bit trickier apparently - they need a super hot pan & one turn I subsequently learnt. I forgot to pre-season the meat & put a lid on the pan so it kind of stewed them. The frozen peas & McCain frozen oven chips were cooked to perfection however & the egg was pretty good.

Meal # 2
Spaghetti Bolognais

Verdict : 7/10
I don't know what it is, but Mondays always have to be Spag Bol nights. It's probably a comfort thing - a hot bol of delicious pasta whilst watching Survivor! It's a ritual. Mine was pretty good, but the dried packet pasta let down the side. Fresh pasta is definitely more tasty & silky.

Meal #3
Butternut Risotto 

Verdict : 10/10!
This meal is incredible. It's the easiest risotto EVER. Only takes 40mins to cook & is so delicious the recipe has to be shared. This dish is an amazing weekday dinner but is good enough for a dinner party starter or mains. Thanks to my friend Sam at work for sharing Tara Ramsay's recipe. 

400g arborio rice
500g butternut
50g butter
1.5l stock
Put the rice, butter, stock & butternut in oven proof dish. Put in 175 degree pre-heated oven for 40 mins. Stir in frozen peas. Stir in cheese. Top with some crispy bacon bits. (I also added some chilli flakes at the end)
So easy, but so much flavour. I will definitely be making this one again.

Meal # 4
Sausage & Mash
Verdict : 8/10
The onion gravy I made for it (which includes mustard & dash of Worcester Sauce) added a nice tang to the buttery potatoes & good old fashioned pork bangers.  The mash could have been creamier but you can't go too wrong with a sausage or 2 :)

Meal #5
Broccoli & Cheese Soup / Scallops & Chorizo with Strawberry, feta salad / Kahlua Ice-cream

1 carrot
1 onion
2 potatoes
Large bag of broccoli

Saute the onion & carrot, add the broccoli & cover with stock. Cook for 20 mins & then blitz, adding cheese at the end to serve. Based on this recipe - it was really good!

15 medium scallops
100 gms Chorizo

Another Nigella recipe, it was really easy & not too intimidating for my 1st time cooking scallops. 
Fry sliced chorizo for a minute or so, take out of the pan & fry the Scallops for a minute or so. Add the chorizo back in, juice of a lemon & finish with parsley. Quite rich, but great.

 Mixed salad with sliced strawberries, crumbled feta & a rosemary infused balsamic dressing
Ice-cream, in a jar. Tick
Drizzle a shot of Kahlua over it. Tick
Sprinkle some crumbled chocolate digestive biscuit on top. Tick
A squirt of cream. Tick
Milk chocolate square to finish off. Tick

Verdict : 9/10
I made this menu for one of our special Tuesday nights. The soup was really yummy & easy and even appealed to our one friend who doesn't eat much green stuff! I was really worried about giving us all shell-fish poisoning from the scallops but it seems that the trick is actually to try not to over-cook them. Now I've made them once, I'll definitely try them again. They were fishier than I expected, but delicate. Kahlua & ice-cream is my new dessert favourite to whip up at the end of a meal.

Meal #6
Beef Stew

Verdict : 5/10
So disappointing. I definitely get an A for effort after cooking it for 2.5 hours & then waiting a whole 2 more days (as instructed to let the flavours mellow) before serving. This was another Nigella recipe but the Guinness left a slight bitter taste, and the meat wasn't tender at all. Not sure what went wrong there...

Meal #7
Leftover beef stew wraps!

Verdict : 7.5/10
So all was not lost with the stew! For lunch the next day I chopped the beef pieces up smaller, dressed it with some Mrs Balls Chutney and used it as a filling for wraps with ago, feta & a few salad leaves. Was much better than the night before!

Meal # 8
Chorizo spaghetti
Picnic dinner

Verdict: 9/10
Another easy, winning dish! I fried the rest of the chorizo I had leftover from 'Scallops' night, added some garlic, a tin of chopped tomatoes & finished with a dash of cream & a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Perfect Sat night dinner, in the lounge by the fire with some oven-baked ciabatta bread. Comfort food to the max.

So I made it!
1 whole week of cooking!
I have to say, I enjoyed it, but crikey, it takes planning! Making sure you're got all the required ingredients & then timing everything is quite a thing. 
I had some successes and some slight fails, but overall I'm quite chuffed with myself & am now even more appreciative of Warren's incredible culinary skills. 
Next time I need to challenge myself with creating less of a traditional British/comfort food menu & find recipes which are less carb based but still delicious.
But for now, I'm handing my apron back to Warren.
Flip, I'm so glad I'm married to someone who loves cooking!

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