Monday, 16 December 2013

Home Cooked Fast Food

We all know that fresh, whole foods cooked at home are going to be healthier for ourselves and for our families. Sometimes though, when time is short, it is tempting to just pick up a take away or have something delivered. Funny thing is, with a bit of planning we could actually cook a meal in the time it takes for that food to be delivered, or for someone to drive down and pick it up.

I have a few standard, could make it in my sleep, recipes that I fall back on when I need to make a meal but am short on time. This is what I have provided for you here. These are some of my family favourite meals that take a minimal amount of time and effort to prepare, and really deliver on flavour.

Burger and Chips 

Image in public domain, courtesy PD Photo


Serves 4
Total cooking time: 30 minutes

You will need:

Frozen oven chips (fries), enough for 4 people

500gm ground minced beef*
worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

4 slices extra mature cheddar cheese
4 wholemeal burger buns, or baps
Optional toppings:
lettuce leaves
2 whole tomatoes, sliced
dill pickles, sliced
sliced red or white onion
mushrooms, sliced and cooked

1. Preheat the oven to the temperature as directed on the pack of oven chips.

2. Combine the mince with about 1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Divide and form into 4 patties.

3. Put the chips into the oven and set timer for 25 minutes.

4. Heat a frying pan or a grill plate. Add a small amount of oil to prevent sticking.

5. Place burgers in the heated pan, cook on one side until browned just over halfway up the side.

6. Flip the burger over. Cook another 5 - 7 minutes. Add a slice of cheese, if desired, to each burger while it finishes cooking.

7. While the burgers finish cooking, slice the buns in half and lay with inner side up under the grill. Toast lightly.

8. Assemble burgers, using whichever of the garnishes you wish.

9. Take the chips from the oven and serve alongside with burgers.

Remember - the thicker the burgers are, the longer they will take to cook.

*A lean mince will have less shrinkage than a regular mince, but will end up dryer inside and have less flavour. Also, most of the fat from the regular minces will cook out anyway. Just let your burger sit for a minute on a double-thickness of paper towel after removing it from the pan before you assemble your burgers if you want to wick away more of the grease.

Chilli-Tuna-Mac-and Cheese

This is my twist on plain old macaroni and cheese
Chilli, garlic and onion by NanLT

Serves: 4
Total cooking time: 20 minutes

You will need:
1 large pot salted water
1 cup frozen peas
1.5 cup dried pasta (macaroni or penne pasta works well)

1 onion, chopped
1 red chilli (seeded and diced)
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon ground chilli (optional)
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 pint milk
1 cup grated cheese (I like to use a amture cheddar)
2 tins tuna, drained
1 tin mixed beans in chilli sauce
1 tin chopped tomatoes

Add the peas to the water.
Bring the pot of water to a boil.
Add the pasta and let it cook until done.
Drain when cooked and return to the pot.

Meanwhile, in a second large pot, cook off the onions and chilli in the butter until soft. Add the ground cumin, ground turmeric, and ground chilli if desired. Continue to stir another minute.

Add the flour and stir constantly for 3 - 4 minutes.

Add the milk, a small amount at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. It will be diluted when you add further ingredients, so get it just a bit thicker than you think it needs to be. Continue stirring. Bring it up to a boil, and let it boil for 1 - 2 minutes.

Add the cheese. Once melted, add the tins of tuna, beans, and tomatoes.

Drain the cooked pasta and combine with the sauce mixture. Bring up to heat. Season to taste.

Serve hot.

Chicken Strips with Broccoli Spears and Chips

Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Serves 4
Total Cooking time: 40 minutes

You will need:
4 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chipotle in adobo sauce
or, 1 teaspoon dried cajun spice mix

Frozen oven chips

Broccoli spears
I like to use Purple Sprouting Broccoli when in season

Preheat the oven to the temperature directed on the pack of frozen chips.

Cut the chicken breasts in strips 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches long
Place in a bowl with the olive oil and chipotle or cajun spice. Mix together. Leave to marinate while prepping the broccoli.

Put the chips in the oven, set the timer for 25 minutes.

Prepare the broccoli and put in a pan of boiling, salted water for about 5 - 7 minutes. Drain when cooked. Or,
Steam for 10 minutes.

Heat a frying pan. Add half the chicken. Cook completely. Remove to an ovenproof dish lined with 2 layers of kitchen paper. Bring the pan back up to heat and cook the remaining chicken.

Dipping sauce:
Combine 1 cup mayonnaise with 1 teaspoon chipotle in adobo sauce.

Combine 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon catsup, a dash tabasco sauce, a pinch of salt.

As an alternative

Instead of marinating the chicken strips in a sauce, dip in beaten egg then dried bread crumbs and shallow fry in olive oil.