Dinner parties don’t have to be complicated

As a self-admitted perfectionist when it comes to cooking, turning my kitchen efforts towards my children has been very, well, humbling.  Sometimes I have to manage doing something one-handed and it ends up looking the polar opposite of pretty or even appetising.  Or I run out of time before the tears and whining kicks into high gear to really make what I want and we eat cheese cubes and yoghurt for dinner. Or I make exactly what and think will be the most delicious and well received meal, and it ends up on the floor or cold on the plate and we STILL end up eat cheese cubes and yoghurt for dinner.

I try very hard not to take myself too seriously as a general rule, mostly because if I didn’t consciously try not to, I would.  During my moments of stress when my naturally “type-A” self  steps in and turns on the cruise control, I can count on the girls pitching in as only they can, to truly help drive the lesson home whether I want it or not.

Up until about a year ago we were flat dwellers, so had the size of our dining room table as a great excuse to skip out on dinner parties. But since we’ve traded in the flat for a small house, invested in a beautiful farmhouse-style kitchen table, and have two girls who find socialising over meals just as fun as we do (most of the time).  We are out of excuses. It’s liberating.

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We’ve started small.  I prepped everything the night before for extra low stress too. We had lovely neighbours over for lunch with their one-year old son, a giant bowl of bite-sized pesto-roasted veggies and whole wheat pasta and everyone was happy and full.  Adults ate well and children managed it all with a fork or their fingers.  I managed to refrain from apologising for my cooking too, a dirty habit I am desperately hoping to break.  Maybe I should tell the girls and see if they can help there too…

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Pesto Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Salmon

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped

2 carrots, peeled & chopped

1 courgette, chopped

1 yellow pepper, seeded & chopped

1 handful french beans, topped & tailed & chopped

1 jar pesto (either store bought or homemade like this one)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

4 filets salmon, I prefer to cook with the skin on and then remove it for serving to keep fish moist/prevent burning

500g pasta

salt & pepper to season

4 tbsp greek yoghurt to finish

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180C/360F

Chop vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place in a large prep bowl.  Mix in 1/2 jar of pesto, 1 tbsp oil and stir until all vegetable pieces are coated. Tip into an oven safe roasting pan .*This can be done up to a day in advance and veggies left to marinate.*

In a smaller roasting pan spread 1/2 of the remaining pesto, along with 1 tbsp oil onto your salmon filets and massage to ensure all of the fish is coated. *This can also be done up to a day in advance and fish left to marinate*

Stir together your yoghurt with the remainder of the pesto and set aside.  This will be used for your pasta at the end.

After the prep is done it’s just down to timing.  Cover your vegetables and fish, still in separate dishes with foil.  Make sure to allow for approx 1 hour for your veggies to roast until soft, and 20-25 minutes for your fish to cook.  Time the cooking of your pasta accordingly, reserving up to 1/3 cup pasta water to help your flavours blend together when combining if necessary.

Drain your pasta and tip into a large serving bowl, mixing in your yoghurt & pesto. Flake in your salmon and half of your roasted vegetables and their juices, stirring gently.  Add the remainder of your vegetables, garnish with parmesan if desired.

Serve, eat and relax.  Don’t look under the table at the mess until after your guests have gone, it will do you no good.

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