Five quick’n'easy weekday dinners

by Esther on August 30, 2012

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I don’t know about you, but after rushing home from work the last thing I want to do is spend an hour or more slaving over the stove. The ideal recipe in my book takes less than 30 minutes to cook and preferably 5 ingredients or less. (That’s why Rachael Ray is quite possibly my favourite TV chef-type personality, though some of her recipes, it must be said, barely qualify as recipes.)

That said, I’m not a fan of hugely processed food. Stuff that’s canned or frozen just doesn’t taste as good, as a rule, and TV dinners fail on deliciousness, value, health AND never fill me up completely.

When life gets busy, I often find myself subsisting on noodles, toast and cereal. But there are plenty of other quick and dirty options you can whip up in a pinch, and wing it:

 Coconut curry

curry noodle Five quickneasy weekday dinners

I was born in Malaysia, and thus, laksa is one of my all-time favourite dishes. Thai coconut curry appeals to that same part of my palate, and it’s uber easy to make.

All you need is a couple of tablespoons of curry paste (red, green, yellow – whatever takes your fancy. I usually have a couple of different kinds in my fridge), a can of coconut milk, your veggies/meat of choice, and some noodles.

a) Fry the paste for a few minutes till it turns fragrant

b) add your solid ingredients and cook through

c) add coconut milk and heat through

Some fresh coriander or basil, spring onions, lime juice or fish sauce can zazz it up at the end. Serve with noodles!

Suggested recipe here.

 Falafel patties

Falafel Patties Five quickneasy weekday dinners

After a few turns at this, I no longer consult a recipe. I just eyeball all the ingredients, because it really is as simple as

a) processing a can of chickpeas together with a little onion, garlic, herbs and spices of your choice (cumin, cayenne, paprika, chili, and others along those lines work well)

b) adding in a little flour, enough to make the mixture come together to form balls. Cover and refrigerate them overnight (if making a day ahead) or proceed (the patties may be somewhat mushy, but still delicious).

c) Bake them on a lightly greased oven sheet for 20-30 minutes, or fry them in a lightly oiled pan for about 5 minutes on either side. Serve up with hummus/yoghurt/other condiment of choice, or inside a pita with salad.

Suggested recipe here.

Onion and white bean bake

5959925667 a85e5a6063 z Five quickneasy weekday dinners

This one does take a little while, although it’s not onerous. It may, however, make you rather gassy. But it’s so comforting and so ideal for a soothing autumn/winter evening. And all you need are onions, a couple of cans of white beans, chicken stock and cheese.

a) Caramelise 4-5 onions in a pan

b) When done, make a layer of onions in a baking dish. Top with a layer of white beans, then a layer of cheese. Repeat as many times as needed

c) Pour over a half cup of chicken stock, then bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes, or until the smell overwhelms you and you wrench the oven door open in your haste to devour it.

Suggested recipe here.

Greek-style rice

palakrice 400x300 Five quickneasy weekday dinners

Get your greens in, plus a healthy serving of rice to bulk up the dish.

a) Fry onion until clear, then add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes

b) Add in a few handfuls of spinach leaves (I’d recommend a couple of handfuls at least)

c) Once wilted, add uncooked rice, double the amount of chicken story (if 1 cup rice, then at least 2 cups stock), and bring to the boil

d) Cover and simmer until rice is done. To serve, sprinkle over feta and lemon juice, and season to taste.

Suggested recipe here.

 Lemon chicken

sticky lemon chicken Five quickneasy weekday dinners

I’m not a big fan of the greasy, fatty lemon chicken served up at Chinese takeaways, but a lighter homemade version always tickles my tastebuds.

a) Take a couple of skinless chicken breasts and coat them in flour

b) Heat some oil in a pan, drop in the chicken and brown on both sides for a few minutes to seal in moisture

c) Transfer chicken to a baking dish. Quickly juice a couple of lemons into the pan, deglaze by mixing in all the good bits left behind, then pour over the chicken

d) Sprinkle zest of both lemons over the chicken, along with some brown sugar (use your discretion; I like mine quite sweet)

e) Bake for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear

Ideally, serve up with some kind of vegetable, but I won’t judge you if you don’t.

Suggested recipe here.

Like most of the human race, Esther is busy chasing that elusive trifecta of health, wealth and happiness. She hails from New Zealand, where she writes for a living, and, apparently, for fun. Likes include running, guitar, and semicolons (on the blacklist: yoga, reality TV and heels). She spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about, making and consuming food. Otherwise, you'll find her engrossed in a book, fiddling around with her DSLR, or indulging in some personal finance geekery (or blogging about all of the above at nzmuse.com)
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