EASY WEEKNIGHT DINNERS

Easy Family Dinner Ideas

Coming up with tasty, healthy, and easy dinner ideas for the whole family is no mean feat when you do it five or six nights a week (presuming you indulge in the odd takeaway or meal out). If you’re anything like us, you’ll definitely have a few go-to recipes that you can always fall back on, reworking and adapting them time and again to keep things interesting.

Below we’ve listed a couple of our favourites for hassle-free midweek family dinners. We really like these recipes because:

  • They provide plenty of scope for swapping out flavours and ingredients for a bit of variety.
  • They’re healthy and tasty, but quick and easy to make after a long day.
  • Kids really like them - and the preparation is basic enough that even young ones can get involved in helping to make them if you like.

Kids and parents alike will love these deliciously simple family dinner ideas. They’re perfect for when you don't have much time to cook, but you still want to serve the household a tasty oven-cooked meal.

Baked gnocchi with vegetables and sausage

Most people tend to assume you have to boil or fry gnocchi. Both work well, but they tend to mean you have to stand around watching it. That isn’t always ideal on a busy weekday evening, especially if you’re already tired or you’ve got little ones running around.

Our favourite method for perfect gnocchi is actually to bung it straight from the packet into a roasting dish with a few other ingredients and a simple tomato sauce, then pop the whole thing in the oven and forget about it for 25min. It’ll emerge as a lovely warming dish of squidgy little dumplings, just starting to crisp around the edges - perfect.

You can use frozen veggie sausages or soya mince here if you prefer - you’ll still get plenty of smoky-sweet richness as everything bakes down. As easy dinner ideas go, this one is always a winner.

Baked gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 pack) ready-made gnocchi
  • 4 sausages, skins removed and filling crumbled
  • 400g (1 can) chopped tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin or crushed
  • 1-2 peppers, chopped into fat strips
  • 1 small brown onion, roughly chopped
  • A handful of green beans, frozen or fresh
  • 125g (1 pack) mozzarella, torn up fairly small
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • A dash of balsamic vinegar
  • A pinch of dried or fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Salad leaves to serve - rocket works really well

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5, or 190°C (for fan assisted ovens, drop the temperature slightly to 180°C).
  2. If you’re using crumbled sausage meat or veggie mince, fry it lightly in a tiny bit of oil for 3-4 minutes. Add the onion, peppers and garlic, fry for a further 1-2 min, then remove from the heat and set aside (if you’re using frozen veggie sausages, we’ll add those whole in the next step.)
  3. Put the gnocchi, tomatoes, herbs, vinegar and seasoning into a fairly large roasting dish, followed by the lightly fried ingredients - sausage meat/mince, onions, peppers, garlic - then the green beans.
  4. Muddle everything around to get it all nicely mixed. If you’re using frozen veggie sausages instead of crumbled meat or mince, push these onto the top of the other ingredients so they’ll brown a little. Finally, dot the dish with your torn mozzarella pieces.
  5. Bake for around 25-30min on the middle shelf of the oven or range cooker, until the cheese has just started to brown and the sausages/veggie sausages are properly cooked through. Ideally, you should see some of the gnocchi just starting to crisp around the edges, and the tomatoes will have thickened and dried a little.
  6. Serve with a clump of green salad leaves, and crusty bread to mop up with.

Easy egg fried rice with...whatever you like!

Here’s a virtually foolproof recipe for a basic homemade special fried rice. You can adapt it any way you like - just throw in some cooked prawns, chicken strips or crunchy vegetables, and add a splash of soy or oyster sauce for extra depth of flavour. One of the easiest and tastiest midweek meals you can make entirely on the hob!

Egg fried rice

Ingredients

  • Any long grain rice with a fairly dry texture (basmati is great) - allow about 75-90g per person
  • 3-4 spring onions
  • 3-4 large eggs
  • Soy or oyster sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp of any oil with a neutral flavour - rapeseed works well, but avoid olive oil here Any other ingredients you’d like to include!

Method

  1. The trick to making great egg fried rice on the hob is to avoid a mushy texture after you’ve added the egg. For this reason, it’s important to:
    • Choose a dry-textured long grain rice - short grain versions tend to be stickier.
    • Cook it in advance, drain it very thoroughly, then let it cool and dry out a little.
    • The best way to do this is to spread the cooked rice out on a large plate, then put it straight in the fridge, very loosely covered - ideally overnight, if you can make it the day before.
    • Don’t leave cooked rice sitting out at room temperature for any length of time.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, chop your spring onions finely, keeping the white parts separate from the green.
  3. Heat a little oil in a wok or steep-sided pan, and add in the white parts of the onion. Let them sizzle gently until they soften a little, and the aroma starts to rise from them more strongly.
  4. Meanwhile, crack your eggs into a small bowl and whisk together loosely. Add the eggs to the cooked and cooled rice just before you’re ready to fry, and mix them together well - make sure all grains are well coated.
  5. Carefully tip the egg-coated rice into the oil, and stir continuously over a medium-high heat for at least 5-6 minutes. You want the egg to start cooking fairly quickly around the grains, but adjust the temperature down so it doesn’t brown too much. The rice needs a reasonable amount of time in the pan - ideally around 8-10min in total - in order to become slightly crisp and nicely dry.
  6. With a couple of minutes cooking time left, add in the green parts of the spring onion, and a dash of soy or oyster sauce. Continue stirring and cooking for another 2-3min. You now have a basic egg fried rice, to which you can add whatever else you like!
  7. If you’re adding any other ingredients, make sure they’re not going to introduce too much liquid or fat to the pan early on - the rice will tend to soak it up if it isn’t already nicely browned, and become soft again. If you do need to add anything that’s likely to affect the texture earlier on, try to push the rice as far to the side of the pan as you can - keep it out of the way while cooking other ingredients, mixing to combine only at the last minute.

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