Saturday, 7 June 2008

Menu Stretching for Guests

I was thinking as I got up this morning I hadn't posted any recipes this week. I will fix that today, and combine two thoughts at the same time.

I got home yesterday after a full day out, with friends for an after school play. We had popcorn for the kids and cheese & crackers for the grown ups ~ special cheese we'd had left from the other night. All of these things I already had and everyone was quite satisfied. Whew, no trips to Safeway!

Dh also informed me that he'd invited some friends over for dinner on Saturday (today!) because he knew I wouldn't mind LOL. Well, I don't mind, but as always my head goes into a spin that looks like this "I don't have any extra meat for another family. I didn't plan on visitors, what will I feed them?!". I'm learning to take a breath and just say OK, until I've finished that head spin. It doesn't come out very well if I panic aloud! I took a look a my menu plan, which said gnocchi for tonight. Hmmmm....yes, that's filling and it can stretch. I also just bought 5kg of potatoes on my way back from Lilydale the other day, because they sell spuds cheaper than Safeway. One thing I have learned is that whatever we are having is usually quite suitable for drop in guests. There is always some meal on my plan that will stretch out without too much effort. Sometimes I have to swap a day or two around, and it's worth the time with friends to do it.

So what's my plan now?

Gnocchi with roasted tomato sauce (that goes in the oven)
Homemade pasta with bolognaise sauce (I can make the sauce ahead)
Tossed Salad
And for dessert....hmmmmm.....something with apple.

Gnocchi with Roasted Tomato Sauce

500g potatoes
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 chicken stock cube (or 1 teaspoon stock powder)
150ml evaporated milk
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon of the evaporated milk

  1. Peel, cube and boil the potatoes until tender; drain.
  2. Mash potatoes finely and add the flour, egg and salt; mix well.
  3. Turn mixture out on to a lightly floured bench and knead for a couple of minutes.
  4. Take a quarter of the mixture at a time. Roll into a sausage shape until about 2.5cm/1in in diameter. Cut roll into 2.5cm lengths.
  5. Shape each piece into your desired gnocchi shape.
  6. Working in batches, cook the gnocchi in a pot of water at a rolling boil. Put the gnocchi in, and when they rise to the top, remove them with a slotted spoon, placing them in a greased casserole dish.
  7. Add the sauce & tomatoes, mixing gently, but thoroughly. Sprinkle with cheese, either tasty or parmesan and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
The Sauce
  1. Place the tomato halves on a baking tray, lined with baking paper and spray with olive oil. Place in a preheated oven (180C/350F) and bake for about 1/2 hour.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat a little olive oil, add the onion and cooked until soft. Stir in the stock cube and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Combine the cornflour with a little of the evaporated milk. Add them together and pour into the pan. Stir constantly until sauce thickens.
It may look time consuming but the result is worth it. Get your kids to help you shape the gnocchi. My kids all sit on the other side of the bench and work at it together. We get it done in a snap.

Plain Pasta

2 cups plain flour
3 eggs

  1. Sift flour into a bowl and add eggs into a well in the centre. Mix flour into eggs gradually.
  2. Press mixture into a ball and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Cover dough and stand for 20 minutes.
  3. Roll dough into desired thickness and cut into desired shape.
You can do this in the food processor, but I tend not do. I also have a pasta machine, thanks to my dh, so I am able to roll it through that and then cut into either spaghetti or fettuccine. I have made lasagna using this recipe, and then made the leftover dough into spaghetti and dried it on a cleaned clothes horse that has thick rails on it.

Once you've made your own pasta you will come back to it regularly. Not on the nights you need a quick meal perhaps, but you will be completely spoiled. It is soooooo luxurious!


The Tin House said...

Tracy, this menu looks scrumptious. Your guests will love the food - but the food isn't what they'll remember years down the track - it's the hospitality of being made to feel warmly welcome. Lisa x

Tracy said...

I love gnocchi! I haven't had it for such a long time. Hmmm...Time to visit Australia?

Tracy said...

So true Lisa, so very true.

Tracy, just let me know when to pick you up at the airport! Failing the ability to get here, you could just eat what we're eating LOL.

Terri said...

Thank you for these recipes. They look scrumptious. I've always wanted to try my hand at homemade pasta. It looks fairly simple!

Deeny said...

The recipes look delicious! I think I will have to work that into next weeks menu. However, I will need to download a free converter to convert your metric measures LOL.
I also love your menu planning icon. That is my thing. I menu plan, and save lots of money by doing so. However in all other areas I seem to be organizationally challenged. I also love Frugal Sites Such as Hillbilly Housewife. Have a Great Day Deeny

Dianne said...

Wow, you do so well with surprises. That is my biggest problem when having what to fix that doesn't take a whole lot of planning in advance.

The recipes sound lucious and I am going to copy them down and try them for sure especially if everything is as good as you say and I know that it will be.

Tracy said...

I hope you will enjoy it Dianne.

An update: the visiting family really enjoyed dinner. The adults felt spoiled for having homemade pasta and the kids adored the gnocchi as their favourite.

My dh has 'trained' me with surprises. After 17.5 years of living with his spontaneity it has come together. Initially I used to panic! I do try to plan one weekend meal to suit extras though. That goes a long way to helping.