SO THERE I WAS THE OTHER NIGHT, HAPPILY COOKING DINNER FOR DAN AND MISSY.
It was the day before my big grocery shop, so I was using up all the leftovers in the fridge.
All of a sudden - a surprise phone call, a knock on the door... and we have unexpected dinner guests.
I mean, I was already being pretty creative with the dregs I had on hand, and it was already going to be a bit rough... how on earth was I suddenly going to stretch it to feed another three people?
I'm sure you can relate. There's nothing like trying to make dinner for three stretch into dinner for six, and have everyone happily satisfied.
Luckily, I had a few tricks up my sleeve, which I thought I'd share with you guys today.
1. Garlic bread - if you have a ciabatta or baguette in the freezer, this is mighty helpful, and garlic or herb bread is quick to make.
2. No bread? damper rolls take minutes to make up, and are a nice variation.
3. Add an appetizer - even just cheese and biscuits will help fill them up.
4. AND, if you really, truly have nothing in your cupboard, you can always make.... Stracciatella alla Romana which is just hot chicken stock, with an egg or two whisked in, and topped with a little parmesan and parsley – you’ll be amazed how gorgeous it tastes.
5. An oldie but a goodie, you can always stretch mince with a handful of breadcrumbs.
6. Yorkshire puddings or a quick 'stuffing' (baked separately from your meat) is a great way to stretch a roast - or even make pan fried meats go further.
7. If you don't have enough meat, like chicken, turn dinner into a risotto or pasta. You can get away with very little meat as long as the dish is full of flavor.
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8. Polenta is a great pantry standby. It’s a handy substitute for potatoes or bread, is exceptionally filling and great for soaking up rich meat juices. You can easily make it creamy and soft, or let it harden in a pan, slice it and fry in butter.
9. Add a first course of soup - just stock, potatoes and a vegetable of choice - simmer until tender and blend it.
10. Add a filling dessert - canned fruit is very filling, and topped with sponge or crumble, it will fill the hungriest tummies.
11. Custard is another filling dessert - rice custard, bread and butter pudding, or just plain with fruit is always lovely.
12. If you're making pasta, mix in the sauce before serving and no one will see how small their serving of sauce really is.
13. Make pasta as a side - toss pasta with butter, some fresh herbs, salt, pepper and a little cheese, and you have a perfectly elegant side dish. Ditto if you have cous cous, quinoa or even a can of cannellini beans on hand.
So, what did we end up having that fateful night?
I was initially making:
~ Oven baked wedges (three potatoes only)
~ Pan fried chicken (I only had two small chicken Maryland cuts)
~ Steamed asparagus, broccolini and peas (had very little of each)
And this turned into....
~ Oven baked wedges as an appetizer
~ Fresh chicken soup (poached chicken, stock, finely sliced veg, some pasta, lots of herbs).
~ Served with ciabatta (from freezer) with grilled cheese on top.
~ Plum crumble (I also had stewed plums in the freezer) with thick vanilla custard.
So there we go! Have you ever been in a situation like this? What are your favourite ways to stretch a meal?
I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment section below!
All the best,