Those working weekday dinners are such a bind. The clock's ticking from the moment you get in the door to the second that food hits the plate. You want something that's nutritious, tasty and above all quick. Is it any surprise that, as the hardest-working nation in Europe, we've fallen back on ready meals, pasta or pizza? When you've done a full day's work, gathering up the energy to sort out dinner is tough.
But there are ways and means. Although I'm the first to admit that I sometimes fall back on rigatoni with sauce from a bottle, there are other alternatives for that dull Wednesday evening when the tempation is high to roll past M&S or the chippy. How about this summer traybake–really easy and full of the flavours of this golden season?
As you walk in the door, get the oven on and preheating to 200C, and put a pan of water on to boil. I have been known to do this before I take my jacket and shoes off. Now you may kiss the partner and tickle the cat.
Once the water's bubbling, throw in some salt, then a handful per person of new potatoes. They'll need ten minutes to parboil. Now grab a sturdy roasting tray. Chuck in some chicken thighs or breasts, cut into slightly bigger than bitesize pieces, a thickly sliced red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Leave them whole. If you don't have cherries, normal size ons are fine, but quarter them.
Once the spuds have had their ten minutes, drain them and throw 'em in with the rest of the meat and veg. Mix everything up and give it a generous seasoning and a good glug of olive or rapeseed oil. Fresh herbs would be nice here too: robust thyme or fragrant rosemary. Oregano works as well.
Then just pop the whole lot into your hot oven, and set a timer for twenty minutes. Time for a beer, perhaps.
After twenty minutes, check the tray, and give everything a stir around. The potatoes should be golden at the edges, the onion soft, the chicken a bit sticky. If it's all looking a bit pale, just give it another ten minutes. Bear in mind that the spuds won't go as crispy as roasties, but they will go fudgy and soft. Half an hour in total is all this dish'll need at absolute maximum.
Once time's up, just mix everything up a bit, squirt over a little lemon juice, sprinkle on some parsley and serve. Looks good, eh?
Now, this dish is really tweakable. You could use little pork chops or thick fish fillets to replace the chicken (if you're using fish, no more than twenty minutes in the oven). If you're feeling bold a whole fish would work beautifully. You could add mushrooms, peppers, some whole garlic cloves, maybe parsnips or steamed sweet potatoes as the weather cools. Have a play, put in the flavours that you love and make it your own.
That's better than an M&S curry, isn't it?