Honestly it sucks to cook after work!

Published by Mark Pollard - 31st Aug 2016

Ever had the nerve to say things like “I can cook after work! It’s easy.”
Well I’d like to take that person, pin them against a wall, and say, “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Most people I associate with in business as well as my friends either work full-time and have to commute for 1-2 hours each day getting to work or have their own business which generally demands time outside of the normal 9-5! On top of that, add to either of those equations, 1-3 children or babies and…….well, I’m sure you’re familiar with how life rolls…….
Then at some point during the week, you have ‘one of those days’ and by the time you get home from work, the desire to cook up a delicious ‘something’ for dinner has virtually been zapped from you by the sheer mental exhaustion of the day, speedily followed by your kids yelling welcoming demands of ‘what’s for dinner’? The idea of making a big mess in the kitchen at 6.45pm and then cleaning up afterwards holds very little appeal to most people on a week night!

So what do you do when the above scenario plays out in your house? Most household budgets don’t allow for takeaway every night of the week and besides most people, I speak to are reasonably health-conscious with their eating habits these days.

I find the secret lies in a little bit of planning. Having run a menu planning business in Sydney for several years, I know a few tricks that will get you through some of the busiest weeks; one that of most valuable is doing a little bit of preparation ahead of time.
Now most people I know love a good feed of pasta. It’s delicious, satisfying and reasonably easy to ‘whip up’ on a busy weeknight……and if you have children, they will generally eat it without being too picky!
When I want to make a pasta dish, I think Italian – delicious fresh basil, garlic, salami, parmesan….umm, makes me hungry just thinking about it! Supermarkets make it very easy these days to ‘grab a bottle of sauce’ from one of the many choices laid out before you in the pasta aisle! But I think fresh homemade sauce tastes and smells 110% better than any of those bottled options!
So below I have shared my recipe for homemade tomato sauce; I make this up on the weekend and then separate the batch into two Tupperware containers and put them in the fridge or freezer, once cooled, until required. Tossing this through pasta with some thinly-sliced salami or Italian-style vegetables can be a healthy delicious meal served for all the family within 30 minutes.

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped (or grated)
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 small punnets cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
750g bottle pasta sauce
½ cup red wine**
3 chicken stock cubes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3-4 large bay leaves
½ to 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (depending on heat resistance)
½ bunch fresh basil
Salt & pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, for serving
**(Note: Red wine can be omitted and replaced with water or extra chicken stock if preferred)

1. Drizzle half of the olive oil in a large wok or deep non-stick pan and set over medium heat.
2. Add prepared onions and garlic and cook until soft and translucent in colour.
3. If you are cooking on gas, I like to lower the temperature at this point; add cherry tomato halves and continue to cook until they start to collapse and juices released.
4. Add the bottled pasta sauce together with chicken stock cubes diluted in 1 cup of boiling water and red wine. Stir through to combine thoroughly.
5. Stir through fresh basil plus the dried thyme, oregano, dried chilli flakes, and bay leaves and reduce heat down so that the sauce simmers gently; leave to thicken for about 40 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes so your sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
6. Season with salt and pepper and then taste for flavour and chili heat.
7. Use immediately or if you are going to store, cool completely and then separate into two flat Tupperware containers to place in fridge or freezer.

Serving suggestion:
Penne, cooked, tossed in olive oil and stirred through a portion of homemade tomato sauce, thinly-sliced Italian pork salami, and sautéed mushrooms. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Ange & Terry

Now over to Poll…….
Sounds like a great idea and a delicious sauce. Usually, with tomato-based sauces, they tend to carry quite a bit of acid so I would suggest that with the pasta dish above drink a Pinot Noir. Up to you as to how much you want to spend, but all the Pinot that we have on the site at the moment would be a great foil for this meal.


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