I’ve been thinking about cooking a lot lately. Not the cooking I do for the blog, or the cooking I do for guests, but the everyday cooking that is more chore than pleasure. This year the well-understood rhythm of my life with my husband changed completely with the birth of our baby girl. The balance of the household shifted and that change has extended into the kitchen. Weeknight cooking, once an equally shared task, has now fallen mostly to me.
Some days I’m full of my own useful advice and can whip up a nutritious and tasty meal for us all without too much fuss. But other days 3pm rolls around and it feels like I’ve never cooked dinner before, my mind blank and slightly panicked at the thought of what will happen between 5 and 7.30pm when the kitchen is open for business.
I’m a food blogger, I love food, I read recipe books in bed and seek out new ideas in magazines and online constantly. If I have this stricken feeling about cooking for my family on a regular basis, then I imagine others have it too.
In fact I know at least one friend does. I received a Facebook message last week suggesting this cookbook title: “There is More Than Pasta; A Tired Mamas Cookbook”. And I know what she means, pasta is my fallback, my light in an otherwise darkened pantry. Pasta is a) easy to cook and b) can be adjusted seasonally to provide interest without too much effort, it’s basically the holy grail of weeknight cooking. Because of this ease, it can get over relied on and soon pasta is being dished up every night, which isn’t ideal.
This blog has always celebrated simple food, aiming to provide ideas for everyday cooking that result in families sitting around tables eating nutritious, delicious, home cooked meals made from scratch. Well this year my efforts have been tested in my own kitchen and I’ve started thinking about weeknight cooking slightly differently.
Like the pasta formula, I’m wondering what other dishes are a) easy and b) can be adjusted seasonally to make the most of fresh produce for taste and economy. I’ve read that most Australian households have 5 meals or fewer in their cooking repertoire, which sounds a little dull. Having a roster of simple meals that move with the seasons would surely be more interesting.
What meals are in your weekly rotation? Do you change it up seasonally? Are you familiar with the 3pm panic attack of “what am I going to cook for dinner?!” I’d love to know what your go-to meals are!
Here’s one of my favourite pasta recipes for Spring. By adding a poached egg, I convince myself that it’s more nutritious. It’s certainly tasty.
Asparagus Pasta with Poached Egg
- 350g linguini or spaghetti
- 1 bunch of asparagus (about 200g), peeled into strips using a vegetable peeler
- 4 fresh eggs
- 85g butter
- 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan for grating over the top
Cook pasta according to packet instructions and add asparagus strips one minute before the end of the cooking time. Reserve half a cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta and asparagus.
While pasta is cooking, poach eggs (need help with poaching? This video helped me). Set aside in a bowl of ice water and refresh them in the boiling water you cooked them in when you’re ready to serve.
Melt butter in a pan and add the juice of 1/2 the lemon. Pour butter mixture over pasta and asparagus, stir through to coat everything, using some pasta water to help loosen everything up.
Serve the pasta on a big plate, family style, with eggs on top, a squeeze of fresh lemon, salt and pepper and a shower of parmesan.