I’m still trying to produce a big word count this month, so dinners still need to be quick. But lest you think that I ONLY work from the freezer and tinned veges when in a hurry, I thought I’d throw in a mostly fresh example.
This dinner came about because my local supermarket had packs of zucchini, bags of tomatoes and packs of button mushrooms on special. I had bacon and onions at home and dinner was decided. This is a very slight variation on a dish invented by my dear mother-in-law, probably in much the same way!
I made a huge pan of this, because I had bacon I wanted to use up, but it’s an almost infinitely variable thing (as so much of my cooking is; not big on precision around here), so I’ll give you approximate ingredient amounts per person and you can adjust as necessary.
For each person, you’ll need roughly*:
1/2 – 1 onion
1 small to 1/2 a large zucchini (courgette, for those who call them that)
50 – 100 grams of mushrooms (I used about 80 grams, but we like mushrooms!)
2 small-medium tomatoes
2 pieces of rindless short cut bacon** (included link for pic in case terminology is unfamiliar)
Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick pan over a low-ish heat. You want the bacon and onion to stay soft, not to go all crispy and barbecued. Also, I tend to put the pan on and start cutting at the same time and just add things as they’re ready, so you don’t want it going to fast or things will burn before you get a chance to stir.
Cut the onion into a rough dice – as in, three or four cuts each way. You want it chunky. Chuck it in the pan and stir occasionally as you cut the rest of the stuff. Do the zucchini next. Cut them in half lengthwise and then in chunky slices (see picture). If they are enormous, cut into quarters lengthwise and then in chunky slices. Add them to the pan.
Cut the bacon into little squares and add them. Keep stirring. You can raise the heat if you want to now. Nothing is getting crispy with this amount of veges in the pan!
Cut the button mushrooms into quarters and toss them in too. If you have bigger mushrooms, just cut them into bits the same size as the bacon. I always put the stalks in as well, but you can leave them out if you want.
Cut the tomatoes into a rough dice (in half and then into four or six pieces per half) and when the dish is nearly cooked to your liking, add them and stir through. The tomatoes only need a minute or two. You don’t want them raw, but nor do you want them sauced.
And that’s it! Serve over rice, as below, or with polenta, couscous, sourdough toast or whatever you have handy! Please forgive the soft focus of the photo – the steam fogged up the camera lens!
If you don’t eat bacon, this is also good made with chicken thighs. I wouldn’t use breast, as it won’t take this stewy sort of cooking. They get rubbery and unpleasant. If you are using chicken, cut into smallish pieces and brown until nearly cooked in a little oil before you put anything else in. Also, use a higher heat to brown the chicken, then turn down. You need it to cook!
If you are vegetarian, you could make this with just the veges, either as a side dish, or, if you wanted it as a main, you could add some cooked cannellini beans or butter beans, or whatever you have handy. Black beans might be nice, too and would look cool. Nice contrast.
If you don’t like mushrooms, replace with capsicum (bell pepper) or just leave them out.
*If you are interested in what I actually did, I used 3 onions, 13 pieces of bacon, 4 zucchini, 500 grams of button mushrooms and just under a kilo of tomatoes and it would easily have served six. All of these quantities were dictated by what I had handy! Leftovers are delicious on toast.
**I don’t use streaky bacon for this as the purpose of streaky bacon is to be cooked crispy an in this dish you want it softer. If that’s all you have though, just trim it and use it anyway, but I would be inclined to cook it first and cook it a bit crispier, to cook off some of the fat. Soft bacon fat is not nice to eat!