Dinner Time with Mandy Collins

My friend Mandy…what can I say about my friend Mandy? In short, everything. She’s a multi-skilled human with a huge heart. And, for the sake of our communal kitchen sanities, she’s taken some of her culinary skills and combined it with one of her other great talents – she’s written a recipe book, Dinner Time!

It’s not your usual recipe book though, that calls for you to ferret out some sort of exotic ingredient and then skilfully apply them to a gourmet dish that’ll take you ten hours to cook and leave you yelling “I hate cooking! We’re living on takeaway until 2050”. No, Mandy makes it easy for us plebians who just almost make it to the dinner table with some semblance of a meal created in the kitchen.

Lucky for me (and for my family, who are probably still scarred from that time I “got experimental” with rice), Mandy sent me an electronic copy of Dinner Time! to take a look at, and perhaps even try out a few recipes, before it launches on 1 December 2014.

Mandy’s approach is bloody clever. Instead of foisting us into the world of artisan ingredients, everything contained and mentioned in this book is easily available at your local supermarket. And, most importantly, Mandy actually scripts out an entire month of dinner time meals for the reader. See?

Mandy Collins Dinner Time


This makes it mega-easy for you to plan meals in advance and do your weekly or monthly shopping with a list that makes sense, and means you won’t end up with 67 bunches of random vegetables rotting in the back of your fridge because you thought, while you were shopping, that “maybe you’d have time to make a meal with them”.

So far, I’ve tried two of her recipes – one as a main meal and one as a side dish (although, be warned, the side dish could actually be a meal – yes, it’s that good and no, she didn’t pay me to write this).

Pasta Bake | Dinner Time | Mandy Collins

First off, I tried her pasta bake recipe, which you’ll find in Week One of her detailed monthly meal plan. Because time is of the essence when it comes to making meals, Mandy also lists with each recipe a hands-on time and full meal prep and cooking times – useful, because sometimes I only get half an hour to make dinner (and sometimes less…you all know how it is!) Aside from using Mandy’s white sauce recipe and chucking in my own mushroom spin on it, with some olives, I stuck to the recipe. And, guess what? My family scored it as a 100/5 on one side and a 4/5 on the other. The 100 being a big score, because we get enthusiastic about food round here. Ridiculously easy to make and scoring highly with the family = winning.

Cheerful Corn |Dinner Time | Mandy Collins

When Mandy was tweeting pictures as they were being taken for the Dinner Time book, she showed off this side item. It’s called “cheerful corn” and, while she lists it as a side item, I’m actually eating leftovers for lunch today. This was the recipe I was most excited to try, because I’ve never really put a spin on corn before…

I had to substitute a few things for it though, as we were out of red peppers and red onions, but that didn’t matter at all. With a little butter, corn, baby marrows and onion, this fantastic little side dish became the star of our dinner plates just last night. It scored an all round 4/5 with the family, who quite like this idea of me getting creative in the kitchen, but with some sort of guideline that prevents them from ending up with charred rice and weird casseroles.

In summary, I feel like these recipes and meal ideas are going to become the kinds of things I’ll hand to my kid one day, when she’s a busy human trying to keep up with the demands of her life. It’s these kinds of recipes that make dinner time memorable, and I know she’ll probably turn to Mandy’s book (as it is now termed in our house) herself one day.

So, there you have it. Dinner Time! makes dinners easy and the meal plans aren’t just adaptable, they’re excellent. It’s published by Clockwork Books and you can pre-order now by emailing info@worktheclock.co.za or buy online via the Clockwork Books website from 01 December 2014. Oh, and price? It’s R180 for the e-book and R300 for the soft cover, printed book.