It's not all steak and cakes, all the time at Sarah's house, you know. Or at least it shouldn't be! I often find it a challenge deciding what to cook for dinner, with time, budgetary and health concerns all playing an important role. Below I have a selection of simple and quick(-ish) meals I've made recently. I hope that fellow time-poor food lovers can find some ideas for your weeknight meals!
Golden Root Vegetable Quinoa
This recipe comes from How to Eat, my most cooked-from recipe source (need proof?). The stew itself takes over an hour to prepare, but most of that time it's just simmering away by itself, and it's easy enough to increase quantities so that you have leftovers for the rest of the week. Nigella serves the vegetable stew with couscous and a chorizo sausage, but in the interest of health, I omitted the chorizo and replaced the couscous with quinoa.
Quinoa, in case you're not yet familiar with it, is a nutritionally excellent grain - full of protein, lysine and iron, and a good source of calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. Woah! (Click here for a nutritional breakdown). Lucky for me, it tastes pretty good too. It is often described as generally "nutty" (not specific or helpful!), but I found that it tasted rather like sesame, with a similar texture to couscous. Delicious.
With the stew, I had to have harissa. Nigella's harissa (also from How to Eat), is my favourite version. It's garlicky, strong, punchy, and fucking hot. You have to deseed a lot of dried chillies, chop them up, soak them in hot water and then pound them with garlic and roasted spices. Please folks, if you're making this, use gloves, wash your hands thoroughly, and don't touch your eyes or any other delicate parts of your body for a good few hours afterwards! Trust me.
Check out the chillis....
That's right folks, I'm the pope of chilli-town.
Salmon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Greens
This is from the Templefood chapter of Nigella Bites. I can't say this is the most dazzling of dinner recipes, but it is reliably good, easy and healthy. I do love the sauce Nigella suggests to go with though - soy sauce, sesame oil and mustard powder.
This one's a Sarah special, made without a recipe. Can you believe it? I just made a simple risotto base, and added some cooked and processor-blitzed broccoli. Topped it off with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a dollop of pesto. Yum yum. I have to say, it wasn't the world's greatest pesto. I bought a gourmet-looking tub at the supermarket, only to discover that it was disappointingly bland. When I had a closer look at the ingredients, it had canola oil and cashews instead of olive oil and pine-nuts. Why would you bother? Blergh.
Mirin-Glazed Salmon with Steamed Broccoli with Garlic and Ginger
The salmon comes by way of Nigella, the vegetables from Jamie Oliver. The salmon is quickly marinaded, then pan-fried. You make a sauce by letting the marinade bubble away in the hot pan, then adding some rice vinegar. For the broccoli, you make a dressing by frying finely sliced garlic in oil until crisp, then mixing it with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and toasted sesame seeds. The flavours of the vegetables complemented the salmon and became a simply stunning dinner.
I made this one a while ago (and you can see a sliver of it in my header!) using a bottle of delicious Yumm Dressing that I picked up at a farmers' market not too long ago. With the dressing, they gave me a flyer with a bunch of serving suggestions on it, which is where I got the idea for the salad. Baby spinach, cooked chicken pieces, red onion, avocado, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. It sounds a bit 90's, but it tasted great!
Spaghetti with Spinach
From Everyday by Bill Granger. As you'd expect any of Bill's recipe to be, it's extremely easy. Bill suggests wholewheat pasta, I used wholemeal spelt spaghetti. You toss the pasta through garlic sautéed in olive oil, baby spinach leaves and parmesan cheese. It's not bad, but be warned it's very bland. I needed a lot of salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil to make it tasty.
Risotto with Roasted Pumpkin, Rocket and Goat's Cheese
This risotto was the cover recipe from the Italian Issue of Delicious, May 2006, and I had to make it as it contains 3 of my mum's favourite ingredients - pumpkins, rocket and goat's cheese. You roast the pumpkin separately and fold it through the risotto at the end. I found it gave the pumpkin a wonderful caramelised flavour. My whole family loved the risotto, especially my mum, and we demolished it in record time.
This burrito recipe comes from Jill Dupleix's Lighten Up. She suggests it as a breakfast, but I had it as a light lunch. Lightly toast a tortilla, top with smoked salmon and diced avocado, top with and a sharp and limey-dressed salad and wrap up. I loved it! It was so fresh and vibrant, but still rich enough to be satisfying.