Our friend Bre Graham is passionate about food and paper in equal measure. Every week the writer and cook plans out her own meals on a fresh page and dreams up a weekly menu for the loyal readers of her foodie newsletter Just to Delight.
As our brand new meal planners are ready for serving, it’s a good time to catch up. Bre talks us through her approach to meal planning and some of the favourite, fuss-free dishes that feature in her weekly routine.
On putting meals to paper...
In some ways, I’ve been meal planning my whole life because I’ve always written about what I’m cooking or want to cook. My life has been pretty crazy lately trying to juggle my newsletter Just To Delight, my job as Lifestyle Editor at Courier and working on a really exciting project that will be announced soon, so keeping track of everything that I want to cook for the week is essential. Putting my plans to paper I find is the best way to stop feeling overwhelmed. There aren’t enough days in the week to cook what I want to cook sometimes so seeing it all written out in one place is the clarity I need.
I always start by thinking about what I’ve got in my cupboards, as at any point they’re full of fun things that I bring home from trips. I try and bring home a few new ingredients from every trip and this means that when I open my cupboards I feel like I’m always discovering something new.
On Sunday night I write my newsletter which always includes a suggested menu for the week and so I like to plan my own week at the same time. Then I head to my local high street where they have a great butcher and one of London’s best delis, Panzer’s.
I always keep a notebook in my kitchen because all of the recipes I write are first handwritten. Compared to writing on my laptop or phone, I can really see the thought process on paper which is so important for recipes. I can look back to see how and why I’ve crossed out a measurement or amended an ingredient in case I want to test it a different way. Paper is also just such a pleasure to be able to look back and reflect on. There’s a lot of love that’s gone into the sauce splattered notebooks I keep in my kitchen.
Planning ahead gives you space to be creative with all of the elements for a dish. Pretty much every single Sunday I roast a chicken. I add all of my leftover veg and herbs for the week to the bottom of the tray to crisp up and caramelise and then I make soup with what’s left at the end. I don’t cook that much meat so when I buy it I really want to get as much out of it as possible. If I’m buying rashers of bacon for breakfast one morning, I’ll make sure to keep the fat to roast cabbage in the next day or when I buy prawns, I always plan ahead and buy them with their shells on so I can make stock for risotto with the heads and shells.
On rustling up easy recipes...
If I want something super speedy, I always keep a really thin pasta shape in my pantry so I can have something that can cook in a few minutes. I love pasta sauces that don’t need much time or heat, something like a good tin of fish, a lot of lemon juice, a little garlic and plenty of olive oil or a finely grated tomato, a bit of basil and some parmesan quickly tossed together with hot pasta is hard to beat.
Stuff on toast is a key category for my home lunches. A slice of really good grilled bread brushed with a clove of garlic topped with something simple like ricotta with lemon zest and slices of tomato, or roasted pumpkin with lots of chilli and spice topped with cheese and grilled. Always with a cup of tea or a super sour lemon soda on the side.
To reduce food waste, I love making batches of muffins to use up old fruit. Bruised pears or bananas are perfect mashed into a muffin batter and folded together with fresh berries or dark chocolate. They freeze really well too and are my favourite thing to snack on.
Something that I cook every week is a simple pasta with garlic, anchovy chilli and seasonal greens like purple sprouting broccoli or Cime di rapa. It’s a great way to incorporate what’s in season into your week and is so adaptable. Sometimes it’s just a head of broccoli that’s boiled along with the pasta and other times it’s grilled asparagus, sautéed courgettes or roasted fennel.
On a rainy day is there anything better than knowing that you can bake a cake and you don’t have to leave home to get any ingredients? Whether it’s keeping summer fruit frozen in my freezer to use in winter or just making sure that I always have eggs, chocolate, sugar and flour, I can always turn a handful of things into something sweet. Planning ahead for these rainy days meals and always having something on hand to whip up into something special is so important.