New Year, New Menu: Spruce Up Your Dinner Recipes

23 January 2017

New Year’s Day is the time for resolutions. New year, new you. Really though, instead of vowing to lose weight or quit smoking, why not resolve to add another dimension to your cooking? Your whole family will love you to bits for it, and family dinners every evening will become even more special. Plus, who knows – learning more about food and flavour in your cooking might end up with you losing weight by default anyway! Here are some changes and tweaks you can make to most easy dinner recipes  to really get the most out of your meals.

Vegetables

Vegetable recipes  growing up were notoriously boring. You could have potatoes boiled until they were basically mush. You could also have carrots and spinach, and butternut on good days. Always cooked in the exact same way, always the part of the meal that you had to eat, not because you wanted to, but because you weren’t allowed to leave the table until they were all finished. But gone are the days when your vegetables were boring and tasteless. Vegetables are meant to be something that complements and improves every dish, not the greens you have to eat grudgingly.

Ways you can easily spruce up your vegetables include:

  • Roasting instead of boiling – which gives you a beautifully crispy vegetable
  • Seasoning with new flavours. Especially if you’re roasting vegetables, try garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, paprika, and add a splash of acidity with balsamic/red wine vinegar/wine/lemon juice
  • Enhancing their natural flavours. For sweet vegetables like pumpkin, beetroot, carrot and sweet potato try using more ‘dessert’ flavours like orange, cinnamon and honey.
  • Adding a sauce. Cauliflower cheese is a perfect example. By itself, cauliflower can be quite bland. Mixed with a beautiful homemade sauce, it tastes delicious.

Chicken

Chicken is the easiest meat to cook with, but your quick recipes can also become boring recipes after a few appearances on the dinner menu. Fortunately, chicken is also really versatile and does well with loads of flavours, so it’s quite easy to make chicken go from bland to bold with a few small changes.

Of course, the easiest trick is always to season and flavour your chicken well, so that even plain pan-fried chicken pieces are a delicious midweek dinner. The trick to getting good seasoning is to make sure the chicken is dry before putting it in the pan. Pat it off with kitchen towel while you’re heating your oil up, and then season well. Use salt and pepper as a base, and then add spices and herbs which complement the dish you’re cooking. Chicken goes with everything from tomatoes to peanut butter to cream, so it’s hard to get it too wrong!

If you’re cooking chicken in a pan, try frying it off with your seasoning to seal in the flavour, then adding some stock to the pan. You can then flavour the stock further if you like. Chicken stock and sage makes for a delicious combination, and it infuses into the chicken while also keeping it moist. This trick is particularly good for chicken breasts, which have a tendency to go dry when cooked in a pan.

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