When planning a menu, whether it is for the family or a special occasion, it is most important that the meal should be well-balanced. Beefsteak and Kidney Pudding followed by Exeter Pudding-both made with suet-would be heavy and stodgy. It would be better to serve a fruit salad or fresh fruit and cheese as the dessert.
The same applies in reverse. An omelet followed by an apple is ideal for a light lunch but is not very satisfying for a hungry family if it is the main meal of the day.
Well-planned menus should be varied in the texture and colour of the food as well as being nutritious. No matter how well the meal is prepared, three bland courses with no seasoning or piquancy will be boring, and a meal with dishes that are all the same colour is very dull. A cream soup followed by boiled chicken and potatoes and then by a Bavarian cream is a pale, uninteresting and colourless meal.
Keep in mind what fish, fruits and vegetables are available during the var-ious seasons and plan your menus around them.
The food will taste better because it is fresher, and it will be more economical too.
All main meals should contain protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fat. The proportion of each depends on each person’s individual requirements- whether he has a desk job, does manual work or is still at school.
A balanced meal doesn’t have to be extravagant, and while some protein foods, meat, some fish and poultry are expensive, other protein foods, such as eggs, cheese, lentils and other pulses make tasty meals and are within the budget of most people.
A green vegetable should appear at every meal. Not only does it give your family the vitamins they require but it looks colourful and appetizing on the table. A crisp salad can often take the place of a vegetable.
Try to plan as many meals at one time as you can-not to use up leftovers (a well-planned meal should not have any leftovers)-but to make use of such things as chicken carcasses and beef bones to make soup, for example. The more meals you can plan in advance, the more interesting and economical they will be.
When you are entertaining it is better to use recipes you have tried before so that you will be sure of success. And do not feel, when entertaining, that every course must be extravagant and difficult to prepare to be acceptable. Often a simple appetizer such as fresh asparagus in melted butter gains more praise than the most complicated dish ever does.
Make sure you know your guests’ particular preferences in food too- never serve a hot curry or Chinese food unless you are sure they will like it.
And finally, if you are to be cook, waitress and hostess, plan your menu so that you have time to relax and enjoy yourself. Make one course the day before, if possible, so that it needs only to be reheated before serving. Or choose one cold course that could be made well in advance.
Your meal will be better for having been made at your own pace, and you will be a much more relaxed and confident hostess.