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Fresh inspiration for Monday – Friday

One of the most difficult things after coming home from work can be finding the energy and creativity to prepare a fresh, healthy meal. It’s often tempting to fall into the convenience trap and settle for a ready meal or even a takeaway. But, I think, the difference in taste and nutrition, not to mention the clear conscience, that cooking with fresh food provides, more than warrants the extra time and effort.

The aim of this post is to tackle one of the hunger-hurdles which stands in the way of many weeknight chefs: inspiration. If you struggle to come up with quick yet flavoursome ways of using the ingredients you have in, here are five delicious, nutritional and inexpensive evening meal ideas which can easily be adapted for even more variety.

Monday -Teriyaki Salmon and Noodles

A firm favourite in my house, this meal is so quick and simple to make and really delivers on flavour.

Fry up some garlic, chilli and grated ginger. Add five tablespoons of soy sauce, the zest and juice of a lime and 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. Reduce until sticky. Heat up a griddle pan, then cook your salmon fillets for two minutes on each side, afterwards placing them into the pan with the reduced sauce.

Heat a little oil in a pan and chuck in a pack of fresh egg noodles. Add some spring onion and coriander. Once thoroughly warmed through, drizzle a small amount of sesame oil over the noodles then dish up!

Tuesday – Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Any combination of meats and fish could be used for this paella, so experiment! Although this dish takes slighter longer to make, I think it’s worth the wait and perfect if you’ve got people coming round for dinner.

Rinse 100g of paella rice per person with cold water and drain. Cut up some chicken into mouthful-sized chunks and fry these off until white. Take them out of the pan and put some chopped chorizo in. Once juicy, add some chopped peppers, or whatever veg you like, and garlic.

After a couple of minutes, stir in the rice to toast the grains. Pour in a glug of white wine if you have it and let this bubble away. Pour 250ml of chicken stock per person, paprika and turmeric and boil. Put the chicken back in, lower the heat and simmer. After ten minutes, add tinned peas and a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer again for ten minutes.

Serve with chopped parsley and a wedge of lime.

Wednesday -Light Tuna Pasta Bake

An old favourite, tuna pasta bake is comfort food at its best. But with a few tweaks, it can also be fresh and guilt-free. If you haven’t already swapped white pasta for brown, do it now! You really can’t taste the difference and it’s much better for you. I’m also using reduced fat crème fraiche as an alternative, light base for the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 160 fan. Put your pasta on the hob to cook until almost ready. Fry off some onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes and any other veg you fancy until they start to soften. Season with salt and pepper. I like to add a splash of balsamic vinegar for extra flavour. Add your tinned tuna, and a good spoonful of light cream cheese is good if you have some. Add a large scoop of crème fraiche, tip the drained pasta on top, then another scoop of crème fraiche, some tinned peas and a large handful of chopped chives or parsley and mix it all together.

Tip it in to an ovenproof dish and grate some cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is starting to crisp.

Thursday – Homemade Fish Fingers

A real throwback Thursday tea! But preparing your fish fingers fresh at home somehow makes them feel more grown up. I recommend serving them with mustard mash and peas.

Line up three little plates. Put plain flour on one, seasoned with salt and pepper, beaten egg on the second and shop-bought breadcrumbs on the third. Chop your cod (you could use haddock or even salmon) into finger shapes, then dip them into each plate – flour, egg then breadcrumbs.

Once they look like fish fingers, grill them gently until cooked all the way through. You could, of course, serve them in a sandwich for a real almost-the-weekend treat!

Friday – Fish Curry

I like to feel like I’m having a treat on a Friday night. I want a celebratory meal to signal the start of the weekend! For me, this fish curry provides exactly that. Rich in flavour, but light, so you can skip the food hangover on Saturday morning.

Put onion, ginger, garlic, chilli, paprika, garam masala, cherry tomatoes, lime juice, coriander and a drizzle of olive oil into a food processor and whizz to make a paste. Chop red and yellow pepper and stir fry with more onion in a pan until they start to soften. Add in your paste and stir. Pour in some light crème fraiche and stir again to make a creamy sauce. Place your fish or prawns into the liquid along with some peas and poach gently until cooked through. Boil some rice while this is cooking and serve alongside.

As I mentioned before, all of these dishes can be adapted to suit whatever you have in the cupboard. For example, the curry would work just as well with chicken, and the pasta bake could easily be vegetarian. The point is to think about and experiment with flavours. Figure out how much chilli works for you, and which herbs and spices you prefer. There are no rules, but it can be difficult to know where to start. As long as you have some basic, key ingredients and a range of herbs and spices, you really can make a meal out of anything.


Guest Post by Sarah Tween - Marketing Manager and Food Blogger

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