Forget Nigella, she's having a night off

WHEN it comes to the family menu, like many mothers I have a top 10. Okay, maybe that's a bit ambitious, better make that a top five.

This rating system has nothing to do with my family's taste buds and everything to do with what I can throw together quickly on any given week night.

There are 365 days in a year and apart from pizza night (which is every second Tuesday or whenever mama has had one too many chardys to be trusted with the oven) you're sure to hear the same words at my place, "Mum, what's for dinner and when is it going to be ready?"

Tempting as it to reply, "Did you just move in? What do you think is for dinner - roasted stuffed quail with tamarind and thyme served on a bed of ambrosia salad?" I usually reply with "wait and see" which buys me enough time to whip up one of my top five.

Oh sure, thanks to Ramsay, Nigella and Manu, it's all the rage nowadays to carry on with exotic ingredients, intricate recipes and organic this and free range that, but then there's the real world. The world of the tired mid-week mother whose level of interest in creating a five-star meal is on par with her level of cooking skills.

So as a goodwill gesture to other mums who may be struggling to serve up a different meal every night, here's my top five to add to your weekly repertoire.

Meal number one: Pastry Surprise. Take last night's leftovers, disguise them by wrapping in filo pastry, bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes and serve with a green salad. The "surprise" is if anyone actually eats the green salad.

Meal number two: Spag Bol. An oldie but a goodie. Just remember to hide the empty jar before you brag about your secret sauce handed down from great-grandma.

Meal number three: Grilled fish with chips. The reason this dish made it to my top five is more about benefit than flavour. We all know fish is good for you and nutritionists recommend we should eat it at least once a week but the real reason to serve fish, especially grilled or baked, is because it stinks the house out. You'll get one night off from "What's for dinner mum?", because everyone will know what's for dinner - even the neighbours.

Meal number four: Fruit of the earth with baker's bounty. Now this dish can be made a couple of different ways depending on your culinary expertise. Often referred to by its more common name of "baked beans on toast" this meal can be taken to a whole new level by adding a sandwich maker. However your decision to take that step will be dependent on your commitment to cleaning the sandwich maker, also often referred to by its more common name of "that mongrel thing".

And drum roll please - meal number five. Now I understand this isn't for everyone. It's an acquired taste and only the most experienced of suburban chefs will be able to carry it off. Presentation, execution and timing are crucial. If you're prepared to give it a go you'll need one barbecue, one tray of barbecue meat, one pair of barbecue tongs and one hubby who thinks he is a barbecue whiz. The success of this dish is hidden in the subtle blending of these ingredients and the joy is being able to ask someone else, "What's for dinner and when is it going to be ready?"

Topics:  cooking family taming opinion wendy andrews

Armed robber with heavy conscience turns himself in

court generic

Armed robber dobs himself in suffering guilty conscience......again

Star Jets player turned drug addict found with loaded gun

Jets Rookie of the year turned druggy seeks new life

More jobs created by Ipswich investment worth millions

The company has invested $4 million in Ipswich

Local Partners

Workmates honour crash victim with tribute

UPDATE: Tanya Lyell is being remembered as a young mother dedicated to her family and work as the town she called home mourns its loss.

Former Split Enz front man Tim Finn finds new niche

Singer Tim Finn has written the music for theatre production Ladies in Black.

Musician finds his way to theatre

10 things to do this weekend

Support the United Tradesmen's Lodge as they raise funds for Guide Dogs Queensland by Dining in the Dark

Check out what's happening around the region

Kindy celebrates golden years

Maisie, Isaac and Abigail from the C&K - Silkstone Baptist Community Kindergarten.

Don't miss cake cutting ceremony with Mayor Paul Pisasale

Azealia Banks won't take legal action against Russell Crowe

Rapper Azealia Banks

Rapper drops legal action against Russell Crowe

Brad Pitt meets with his kids amid divorce proceedings

Actor Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt has met up with his oldest son Maddox

Pictures of Taylor Swift allegedly being groped are sealed

They could "complicate jury selection".

Bruce Springsteen finds therapy useful

Singer Bruce Springsteen

Singer encourages others to seek help

Kerry Washington wants one more child

Kerry Washington recently gave birth to her second child

Kerry has only just become a new mum again

TRAVEL: Musicals light up Sydney

David Campbell performs in Dream Lover.

We take a trip through one of Sydney's finer scenes

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

What our mayor thinks of the new draft SEQPlan

The plan to use the innovative technology as part of the new Maroochydore CBD was cemented on site today when Mayor Mark Jamieson and Envac Asia Region president Chun Yong Ha formally signed the contract for the $20 million underground waste collection system.

New plan accommodates Sunshine Coast Council's vision for growth.

Dusit Thani finance crisis 'just a small hiccup'

ON TRACK: Springfield Land Chairman, Maha Sinnathamby, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Developer Richard Turner and Springfield Land Deputy Chairman, Bob Sharpless, at the recent resort sod turning ceremony.

Property developer says project remains firmly on track