One of the many jobs I have had in my career was working for an exclusive catering company in London, serving dishes that took days of planning and preparation. Everything would be chopped and trimmed into mouthfuls of deliciousness - but the waste was horrifying. One particular dish we used to impress guests with, a tartare of salmon and white fish, was served with red peppers and sugar snap peas cut into the shape of diamonds - oh, what a waste.
Thankfully, the trend for over-fussy food has passed, and although it's good to be organised, our approach is now far more relaxed. It is truly satisfying when you can stand back and look in the fridge or pantry and decide what you will have for dinner, without having to put on your winter woollies and head for the local supermarket. It need not be a stress when impromptu guests arrive and end up staying for a meal if you have a few quick standby dishes you can execute without too much effort. Having a stash of the right ingredients in your cupboard for just such an occasion has its benefits. Hence this week's meals with just six key ingredients. These are dishes you can have on hand ready for those times when you need a quick meal.
Often we look straight past pork mince, not quite sure what to use it for, but I use it for pork balls, in meat loaf, to add to bolognaise for a slightly different flavour, or served in Asian-style lettuce cups. In fact, it can be used in most mince dishes.
Here, very simply, I have added five-spice, a unique flavour in its own right of sweet, sour, bitter and salty produced by a combination of szechuan peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and fennel. It can be pungent, but in this dish it is subtle and goes well with the fresh taste of cabbage.
Smoked salmon fish cakes are the easiest standby; 30 minutes to make from start to finish. Fresh coriander and spring onions add a bit of crunch and an Asian tinge. They are a great favourite, served with fresh bread, salad or vegetables.
Expectations run high when chocolate mousse is mentioned. Your guests will think you have spent the whole day slaving in the kitchen to make this. The mousse can easily be spooned into glasses or bowls, but making a very simple, though impressive, chocolate case to serve it in gives the mousse that extra touch. Add a little alcohol, or chopped pistachio or macadamia nuts for a taste of decadence.
Remove your mousse from the fridge 15 minutes before serving to soften it slightly and top with grated chocolate, or berries when in season.
• For more of Angela Casley's fabulous recipes, visit foodhub.co.nz