Harpenden chef launches family meal planning service

Theo Michaels has launched Five Dinners, a new weekly meal planning business. Picture: Supplied

Theo Michaels has launched Five Dinners, a new weekly meal planning business. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

A celebrity chef from Harpenden has launched a meal planning service to help make life easier and take the stress out of deciding what to prepare for your family each night.

MasterChef semi-finalist and author Theo Michaels and his wife Anna have set up FiveDinners.com, which aims to do all the hard work for you when it comes to sorting your dishes of the day.

Each week Theo creates five new family-friendly recipes with one complete shopping list which is then emailed out to subscribers, and also available electronically.

The family man, who has lived in Harpenden for over a decade, said he decided to set up the service after becoming fed up with the stress of meal planning.

He discovered a need for some sort of structure for him and his family, especially when it came to shopping for ingredients. He started meal planning and he drastically reduced his food bill, found he was wasting less food and the children loved the meals.

Customers can create their own meal plans using Theo’s recipes or even text him with questions.

The 43-year-old, who is a regular face on TV’s This Morning, said: “Now the kids are going back to school and our lives start to get busy again we don’t all have the time to cook dinner as leisurely as we might have during lockdown.

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“In fact, it can be a real chore; deciding what to cook each night; constantly nipping to the shops to get that missing ingredient; or stuck in a rut of cooking the same thing every week.

“Equally, in these difficult times many of us need to watch our expenditure and meal planning can be a huge help – but it takes work. Setting aside time to browse through millions of online recipes, choose the dishes, prepare a shopping list..

“Quite simply, it isn’t the pastime any of us fancy doing, especially now we’re juggling afterschool clubs and going to work.”

Theo has performed cooking demonsrations at St Albans Food and Drink Festival for the last five years and most recently was in the media for his live kids cookalongs during lockdown where he and his family hosted 36 shows.

Inspired by his Mediterranean roots, his fifth cook book, Rustica, is out at the end of this month.

‘Change your life spaghetti!’

(Serves four)

This is the recipe that made the most impact and has changed the way we cook. I love that everything goes into a tray uncooked (yes, even the spaghetti!) and 30 minutes later you have a delicious entire meal ready to be served straight from the tray! It took a while to get it right but now we cook this a lot at home.

Equipment: High sided roasting tin - just big enough to fit the pasta in (that’s important, the liquid needs to cover the pasta); measuring jug; pre-heated oven 200F.

Ingredients: 300g spaghetti (or other pasta); one onion, slice; two cloves garlic, sliced; four tbsp oil; one cup/250ml passata; 650ml chicken stock (use a cube); two tbsp tomato puree; six sausages; basil and Parmesan cheese for garnish. Note: Swap sausagemeat for chunks of fish, or vegan version with mushrooms and vegan stock.

Method: Add the spaghetti to the tray and pour over the oil (massage a little to ensure the spaghetti is coated), then add everything else except the sausages. The tray will now be very wet with the passata and stock and should be covering the pasta by about 1 cm.

Squeeze out bite size chunks of sausage meat all over the top of the dish and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and let it rest for five minutes, this is important to let it finish cooking and absorb the last of the liquid. Garnish and serve with a rather smug look across your face.

You can try the new service for free at FiveDinners.com