PASTA PRONTO! AND QUICK BITES
These pasta dishes are about as easy and quick as they come as the sauces are ready by the time you have cooked the pasta.
Quick mac and cheese
This recipe was created accidentally out of my sheer desperation to try not break a promise to 3 very tiny, hungry children that they could have macaroni cheese after I realised that I had only one pot to make it in! I have used this method to make mac and cheese ever since.
500g dried wholewheat pasta
500ml skimmed milk
75g grated cheddar, red Leicester or double Gloucester cheese
- Begin to cook the pasta but cook for 2 minutes less than packet directions.
- Drain the pasta and return it to the same pot on low heat. Add the flour and stir it for about 1 minute through the pasta until completely coated and starting to cook.
- Add the milk and stir through while turning up the heat to medium. Continue to stir until it is beginning to bubble, about 2 minutes.
- Add the cheese and stir until it has melted and a thick sauce is formed.
Variation: To turn this quick fix into a one-pot meal, simply add 225g of frozen veg directly to pasta at the same time as the cheese and it will cook as the sauce forms (peas and sweetcorn work really well)
Gnocchi al pesto
The quickest and best pesto! I prefer to add the cheese after mixing the pesto with the pasta rather than incorporating it into the sauce to avoid it becoming too gloopy.
1 Kg gnocchi pasta
50g fresh basil (little stems and leaves)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
75ml extra virgin olive oil
30g pine nuts*
Grated parmesan cheese to serve (approx. 25g)
- To cook the gnocchi, heat a large pot of water until it begins to boil. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir until the water boils again. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon when it floats to the top of the pan, after about 2 minutes.
- For the pesto, rinse the basil and place the stems and leaves in a food processor or bowl if you are using a hand blender. Add the whole garlic and olive oil.
- Lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan or under a grill until golden and shiny. Add to the other ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Pour the pesto sauce into a serving dish and add the cooked gnocchi. Toss the gnocchi with the sauce until evenly coated and grate some parmesan cheese on top. Fold the cheese into the gnocchi and then finally, top it with a little more parmesan cheese before serving.
Variation: Add 2 tbsp of sundried tomatoes to the basil (and use a little less olive oil) to make a red pesto sauce.
* If pine nuts are not available, you can substitute any other nuts you have on hand such as walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds.
Spaghetti with broccoli and lemon
A simple pasta to make when the cupboard is almost bare.
500g dried wholewheat spaghetti
1½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced finely
450g broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
300ml half-fat cream fraiche
60g Emmental cheese
Black pepper to serve
- Begin to cook the pasta as per packet directions.
- Meanwhile, while you are waiting for the water to boil, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the onion and broccoli and stir fry for a couple of minutes until it starting to cook. Add approximately 4 tbsp of water and turn down the heat so it is just simmering. Leave it to cook until the water has almost evaporated.
- Grate the lemon rind into the pan and stir through. Squeeze the juice of half of the lemon into the broccoli and stir again. Finally, stir through the cream fraiche and let simmer until the broccoli is cooked through and any liquid has reduced to a sauce.
- Drain the pasta and add to the veg and mix to combine. Grate the cheese into the pasta and stir again. Serve with a little coarsely ground black pepper.
Another basic Italian recipe where you can add almost anything you have in your cupboard or freezer to make this quick meal.
Makes a 25cm frittata
1 tsp olive oil
1 red onion, sliced finely
1 red or yellow pepper, chopped
150g broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
150g sugar snap peas, cut in halves
50g frozen sweetcorn
50g frozen peas
- Heat the olive oil and onion in a 25cm non-stick frying pan on medium and stir until it is starting to sizzle. Add the pepper and broccoli and continue to stir for another 2 minutes. Add around 2 tbsp water, cover with a lid and turn down the heat a little so that it is just simmering. Leave to cook for about 2 minutes then remove the lid and add the sugar snap peas and frozen veg. Continue to simmer until all the vegetables are just cooked and the water has completely evaporated.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl and add all at once to the frying pan. Shake the pan a little to make sure the vegetables are fully coated and lift the edges to check that it is cooking.
- After around 5 minutes, when the edges are beginning to set, cover the frying pan with a large plate and carefully and quickly flip the pan so that the frittata is now upside down on the plate. Return the pan to the heat and slide the frittata back into it. Turn the heat down to low and cook for a further 8-10 minutes until the other side is browned and the egg is cooked. If you prefer your frittata cooked further but you do not wish it to become any browner, simply microwave it on high for 2 minutes more. Serve hot or cold.
Variation: You can use any leftover or frozen veg, tinned beans, cheeses or add any fresh or dried herbs you find in your kitchen. Some particularly good additions are: mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, cherry tomatoes, courgette, aubergine, kale, feta cheese, leftover beans, cooked bacon, ham, chicken—even leftover pasta!
Hearty Caesar salad
You may not want to go back to the traditional Caesar salad after trying this version.
250g bulgur wheat
1 large clove garlic, crushed
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp anchovy paste or 1x 30g tin anchovy fillets, chopped
1 tsp Worcester sauce
½ black pepper
25g grated parmesan cheese
50ml extra virgin olive oil
½ head of Romaine or cos lettuce
250g cherry tomatoes
- Place the bulgur wheat in a heatproof bowl. Pour enough boiling water into the bowl so that it comes up to about 1 cm above the top of the bulgur wheat and cover the bowl with cling film and put aside.
- Next, make the dressing by combining the garlic, lemon juice, anchovies, Worcester sauce, black pepper, olive oil and parmesan cheese and blending together until smooth.
- Wash and chop the lettuce and place into a serving bowl. Slice the cherry tomatoes in halves and add. Pour the dressing on top and toss the salad.
- Drain the bulgur wheat and add the dish. Toss together until mixed and serve.
Variation: Try topping this salad with black olives or toasted pine nuts.
Grilled asparagus with rosemary and maple
My favourite way to cook asparagus is to barbeque or grill it as it is both easy and tasty. If it isn’t BBQ weather or you are experiencing an English summer, this is a way to brighten up your indoor cooking. This recipe adds sweet, smoky flavour to the grilled asparagus and also works well with pecans.
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp maple syrup
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
40g chopped walnuts
- Preheat a grill to 200˚C and line a baking tray with foil.
- Remove the tough ends of the asparagus and place on the baking tray. Pour the olive on top and roll the asparagus in it to coat. Drizzle the maple syrup over the top of the asparagus and sprinkle with the fresh rosemary. Grill in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and scatter the chopped walnuts over the asparagus. Give everything a good stir and return to the oven to finish roasting for another 5-7 minutes until the asparagus is cooked and starting to brown and the nuts are toasted. Serve at once.
Tuna, avocado and mango salad with Grapefruit, orange & ginger dressing
This dressing would also go well with chicken or turkey. The dressing comes out fairly thick but if you prefer a thinner consistency, simply add more water to dilute.
Ingredients for the salad:
1 head of lettuce
1 bag of rocket
1 large mango, chopped
1 avocado, sliced or chopped
1 tin tuna, drained well
Place all of the ingredients in a serving dish and toss together to mix. Set aside while you make the dressing.
Grapefruit, orange & ginger dressing
85g sunflower seeds
Juice from ½ red or pink grapefruit, peeled and seeds removed
1 small orange, peeled and seeds removed
Squeeze of lemon
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely sliced (around 1.5cm root)
1 tsp soy sauce
- Segment the grapefruit and add it to the sunflower seeds, orange segments, lemon juice, ginger and garlic in a food processor or a bowl, if using a hand blender. Blend together until smooth.
- Add the soy sauce and water and blend again. Add any extra water, if desired. Serve the dressing alongside the salad or toss it with the salad beforehand. Serve at once and store any remaining dressing in the fridge.
Watercress salad with Green Goddess dressing
There are many different versions of this salad dressing but this is mine. I think it goes with just about anything and judging by the frequency that my children dip their fingers into it, I think they agree.
50g sunflower seeds
150g mixed leaves such as baby spinach, cos lettuce, rocket etc;
20g salad cress
1 ripe avocado
Green goddess dressing
2 tsp anchovy paste or 2 tinned anchovies, chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
175ml half fat sour cream
20g fresh tarragon, chopped
20g fresh basil (large handful), chopped
3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
Cracked black pepper to taste
- Make the dressing by placing all of the ingredients in a small bowl and blending with a hand blender or whisk until fully blended. Store in the fridge until needed.
- For the salad, heat a small frying pan on medium heat and add the sunflower seeds. Stir while they heat and cook them until they are just starting to roast. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Wash and prepare the watercress and leaves and place into a large serving dish. Slice the avocado into the salad and add the salad cress and sunflower seeds. Fold everything together with the dressing serve with some cracked black pepper on top.
This is very quick to put together once the grating and shredding is done therefore, you will save yourself much effort and time by using a food processor to do the hard work.
¼ medium purple cabbage
¼ small white cabbage
1 bulb of fennel
2 large apples
75g roasted pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts, roughly chopped
Cracked black pepper to season
125ml cider vinegar
4 tsp Dijon mustard
75ml extra virgin olive oil
- Begin by making the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisking together until smooth. Put aside while you prepare the rest.
- Grate the celeriac and carrots and place into a large serving bowl. Shred the cabbages, finely slice the fennel, radishes and apples and add. Finally, add the raisins and nuts.
- Add the dressing and stir through until fully mixed. Season and serve at once.
Pistachio crusted salmon
This recipe makes enough for 3-4 salmon fillets so adjust as per what you need.
½ tsp olive oil
60g shelled pistachios
1 tsp clear honey
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
450g salmon side or 3-4 fillets
- Preheat an oven to 200˚C and line a baking tray with foil. Drizzle the oil onto the foil approximately the size of the salmon.
- Finely chop the pistachios and place into a small bowl. Add the honey, mustard, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil and mix well.
- Place the salmon fillets on top of the foil and carefully spoon the pistachio mixture evenly on top. Using a spoon or fingers, press down the crust onto the salmon to completely cover the fillets.
- Use a second piece of foil to cover the salmon and seal it in by making a tent so that it does not touch the top of the salmon. Bake for 15-20 min or until the salmon is just opaque.
Summer salad with feta, papaya and mint
Don’t know what to make when it’s hot outside and the last thing you want to face is cooking in an even hotter kitchen? A speedy salad is the answer and especially one that is substantial enough to feed a hungry family. Feta cheese and papaya come together in this easy recipe and help to transform a simple salad to a very moreish summer feast.
60g lamb’s lettuce
2 handfuls of fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 papaya, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil (around 2½ -3 tbsp)
200g feta cheese
Roasted pistachios, chopped to sprinkle (optional)
Cracked black pepper to serve
- Place the leaves, mint, fennel and cherry tomatoes in a large serving bowl and fold together. Add the papaya to the dish.
- Squeeze the lime and drizzle the olive oil on top of the salad. Carefully fold through trying not to mash the papaya. Crumble the feta cheese on top of the salad and sprinkle with pistachios and some black pepper.
Proper popcorn chicken
I have been reliably informed by my children that real popcorn chicken is a bag full of bite-sized, heavily deep-fried chicken pieces that are mindlessly chucked into your mouth like popcorn. However, this recipe for Proper popcorn chicken is something completely different. This is all about the taste and crunchiness of popcorn with chicken that can be savoured, slowly over a meal. Not only is this healthy QUICK FIX a tastier alternative to the aforementioned fast food, it is the best use of leftover rice cakes, ever!
1 tsp olive oil
7 rice cakes (I used spicy chilli flavoured)
2 tbsp flour
6 thicken thighs, skinned and de-boned
- Set the oven to 210˚C and line a baking sheet with foil. Drizzle a little olive oil on the foil.
- Blitz the rice cakes into small crumbs using a food processor and set aside. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and place the flour into another shallow bowl and set aside.
- Using a meat tenderiser, flatten the chicken thighs until it is more or less the same thickness (around 1½ cm thick). Dredge each piece of chicken with the flour. Dip the chicken into the egg and place it into the bowl of rice cake crumbs, turning it to coat on all sides. Place carefully on the baking tray and continue with the rest of the chicken.
- Roast the chicken until fully cooked and golden brown, around 20-25 min.
Although the original Weiner Schnitzel is made with veal that is dusted with flour before being dipped into egg and breadcrumbs and fried, I find our version much simpler and less messy. We use this recipe to make our favourite chicken or turkey schnitzel.
Olive oil for greasing and drizzling
400g fine breadcrumbs
850g boneless and skinless chicken or turkey
- Preheat an oven to 200˚C and line two baking sheets with foil. Grease each of them with olive oil.
- Beat the eggs in a shallow dish and put aside. Place the flour on a plate and the breadcrumbs in another shallow dish and set aside.
- Roll out a large piece of cling film onto a chopping board and place a couple of pieces of the chicken or turkey on top (you will need to do this in batches). Roll out another piece of cling film and place it over the chicken or turkey, to cover completely. Using a mallet or heavy rolling pin, pound the meat until it is around 3-5 mm thin and set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken or turkey.
- Working with one piece of chicken or turkey at a time, dust each piece with the flour. Then dip each piece into the beaten egg and shake any excess off. Finally, dip it into the breadcrumbs and turn it over, covering it completely. You may find it easier to have one wet hand for dipping the pieces into the egg whilst keeping the other hand dry for covering the pieces with breadcrumbs. Place each piece onto the baking tray and continue with the remaining chicken or turkey.
- Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top of the schnitzel and bake for 15-20 min until golden and cooked through. Serve at once with wedges of lemon.
Thai sweetcorn and spring onion fritters
These make a great starter or light main. They taste great on their own but you could always serve them with satay sauce or a little cream fraiche.
350g sweetcorn (defrost if using frozen)
4 spring onions, sliced finely
1 tbsp green curry paste
1 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp rice flour
4 tbsp polenta flour
- Place about ⅔ of the sweetcorn in a large bowl and mash it with a hand blender until crushed. Add the rest of the sweetcorn, spring onions, green curry paste and fish sauce and mix until blended.
- Add the rice and polenta flour and stir until combined. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the rest of the mixture. Fold everything together carefully until mixed.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium/high heat and pour in a couple of drops of olive oil. Spoon around 4 tbsp of mixture onto the frying pan and cook around 3 min on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with the rest of the mixture and keep warm until serving. Serve with a crunchy salad.
Hearty Greek salad with toasted pitta chips
This salad makes a great dinner on a warm summer day.
4-5 pitta breads or flatbreads
½ tsp dried oregano
1 head of iceberg lettuce
1 large cucumber
1 red, green or yellow pepper
4 tomatoes (or 225g cherry tomatoes)
75g black olives, pitted
½ red onion, sliced (optional)
200g feta cheese
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Handful of fresh oregano
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Cracked black pepper
- Set the oven to grill and brush the bread with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with a little dried oregano and slice the bread into bite size pieces. Grill until crisp on both sides, around 5-7 minutes.
- Wash and prepare the lettuce and place into a large serving dish. Slice the cucumber, tomatoes and pepper into bite sized pieces and add to the bowl. Add the olives and onion (if using) and toss the salad together. Lastly, crumble the feta cheese on top of the salad.
- Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour on top of the salad and gently toss to mix. Sprinkle the salad with the mint leaves, oregano and top with the toasted pitta chips.
Roasted sea bream with Roasted mango and chilli salsa
I love sea bream but you can also make this with red snapper, sea bass or wahoo
Olive oil to grease and drizzle
5 whole sea breams
Juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp soy sauce
1 large mango (or 2 small), cut into cubes
2 red chillies, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
- Set an oven to 200˚C and line a baking tray with foil. Lightly grease the foil and set aside.
- Place the sea bream on the foil and lightly score the skin with a knife, making 3-4 diagonal cuts. Make the marinade by mixing the lemon juice, garlic and soy sauce together in a small bowl. Brush the inside and top of each fish with the marinade until it is all used up. Lastly, drizzle a little olive oil on the top of each fish.
- Make the salsa by placing the mango, chillies and red pepper into a small bowl. Slice the lime in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Place the lime halves on the foil, flesh side down. Mix the salsa together and pour onto the foil around each fish.
4. Roast for around 20 min or until the fish is just done (the flesh is opaque and flakes easily) and the salsa is roasted. Place each fish onto a plate and spoon the roasted salsa on top to serve.