The prospect of producing a three-course family meal on a normal Friday night is likely to provoke a less-than-positive response from most of us – probably somewhere between a wry, ‘no-way’ smile, to barely-suppressed nervous hysteria. But for many of us, family meals are a precious part of our daily or weekly routine. Sitting down for a meal is one of the only times that all family members come together, and the food we share can make this time feel even more special.
What’s more, a three-course meal for five doesn’t need to be an arduous feat of culinary acrobatics. No! With the right equipment, cooking for your family can be a creative, enjoyable experience - particularly with this arsenal of tricks and tips up your sleeve.
Lebanese Lamb Wraps from Hello Fresh
Cook something new
Flicking through cookbooks, browsing online and swapping recipes with friends are all fantastic sources of inspiration - but even with the recipes to hand, it can take time to plan a big meal.
Fortunately, celebrity chefs and food writers have done much of the work for us by creating menus that guide you through some of the tricks of the trade to create really impressive feasts.
Online retailers and supermarkets also offer meal plans and recipes – and with one click you can simply load up your shopping cart with all the required ingredients, and have it delivered to your door.
Barbecued Steak with Peach Relish Recipe via Ocado
Preparation, preparation, preparation
If you’re cooking a three-course meal, it might take off some of the pressure if you can prepare one course much earlier in the day. Desserts are typically the best candidate – mousses, trifles, jellies, sorbets and cakes can all be done in the morning or even the night before.
The best ingredients
Although it would be wonderful to be able to shop exclusively from your local farmers’ market, it’s often just not practical. Sourcing fresh, quality ingredients should always be a priority, but for the days that you just didn’t make it out, it can help to have a good stock of frozen and dried ingredients to make mealtimes feel special. For example:
Frozen puff pastry baked with sliced tomatoes, olives, mozzarella and a brush of olive oil can make an impressive yet simple starter.
Oven Baked Sea Bream via Hello Fresh
Use the right tools for the job
Cooking without the right equipment can, admittedly, be a chore. We’re not talking gadgets and gizmos here, we’re talking good quality basics.
If you have a large family, it’s worth thinking about whether your oven meets your current needs, as cooking in a single oven will limit what you can cook at any one time. Working with range cookers and multi-oven setups make multi-tasking much easier, because you have the option to use several ovens all at different temperatures – one for your main course and one for the pudding, and perhaps even another for tomorrow’s dinner.
When it comes to utensils, you should have a really good peeler, an effective pair of scissors and the best set of knives and sharpener that your budget allows. It’s surprising how many of us are still using cheap, blunt knives that we’ve had for years, making hard work of chopping and dicing.
Although it may feel like an investment, quality appliances and utensils can help make cooking feel more like a hobby than a chore.
Chicken Curry Recipe via Ocado
Give it a go.
If you’re inspired by a recipe, but worried about whether or not you can pull it off, it’s always worth giving it a try. If you’re cooking for family, you can buy in pizza as a fallback. In fact, as a challenge to yourself, why not take a new dish that you have always avoided cooking, because you thought would be really tricky, and give it a go. The chances are, it’s not nearly as tough as you thought. And if it goes wrong?
Well, everybody likes pizza. : )