Early mornings, late evenings and packed days leave little room for elaborate weeknight meals.
We all have those days when we would much rather order a takeaway or raid the freezer section of supermarket, than cook a meal at home. For days like these I turn to some of my handy one-pot dinner recipes. Not only are they quick to pull together and healthy, but they also keep very well in the fridge, so you can even make them ahead of time. They’re also extremely kid-friendly! Surely that’s reason enough to try them out in your kitchen asap!
Fried rice has to be one of the most versatile recipes and this fuss-free Cheesy Veggie Rice has to be one of my favourites. Flavoured only with onions and garlic, the hero is a Mexican Four Cheese Mix which gives this dish a gooey (almost risotto like) taste and flavour. It is a mixture of shredded Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla and Asadero Natural cheeses and it features regularly in a lot of my recipes. It tastes great hot or even cold, making it a perfect lunchbox recipe. You could also add precooked shredded meat, tofu or paneer to make this a more wholesome meal.
2 cups pre-cooked refrigerated rice
1 cup chopped spinach
1 tsp garlic (finely chopped)
1 cup parboiled cauliflower
1 cup grated carrot
3/4 cup green peas
3/4 cup boiled sweetcorn
1 cup Mexican Four Cheese Mix (plus a half cup for that extra cheesiness)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tbsp oil or clarified butter (ghee)
1/2 tsp and 1 tsp salt (or as per taste)
2 tbsp chopped basil or coriander for garnish
- Boil water, turn off the heat and add the cauliflower florets with 1 tsp salt. Let it sit for 15 minutes, drain and keep aside.
- Heat the oil in a pan then add cumin seeds, chopped garlic and bay leaf; add chopped onions once the seeds start to crackle.
- Add parboiled cauliflower and cook covered on a medium flame with intermittent stirring; add 1/2 tsp salt while the cauliflower is cooking.
- When the cauliflower is 80% done, add spinach and carrot and sauté for 2 minutes, then add peas and corn, followed by rice.
- Sauté for another minute, then add cheese and mix.
- Once the cheese starts to melt, taste and add salt as required. Give it one final stir, then garnish with chopped basil or coriander to serve.
- Long grained basmati rice works best
- If there are no nut allergies in your house, you could also add some roasted and chopped nuts towards the end (and even some raisins or sultanas)
If there is one Indian roast chicken recipe you need to try, it’s this. Not just because it tastes yummy (and you can control and manage the spice levels to your taste), but also because it is so simple to put together. It works perfectly as a starter, or served with a side of whole wheat roti or naan.
For the marinade:
700g chicken thighs and/or drumsticks (cleaned and cut to desired size)
2 tbsp yogurt
1.5 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp chicken biryani masala (ready-made packs available in Indian Grocery Stores)
1/2 tsp coriander powder (ready-made packs available in Indian Grocery Stores)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp lime juice
1.5 tsp salt (or as per taste)
1.5 tsp any flavourless oil or mustard oil
2.5 cups red onions (finely chopped length-wise)
3 tbsp curry leaves
2 green chillies (optional)
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp oil or ghee for roasting, plus extra
N.B. For most Indian cooking, especially recipes which require roasting and/or cooking at high temperatures, it’s always recommended to use a cooking medium with a high smoke point e.g. avocado oil (refined), almond oil, corn oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, mustard and sunflower oils
For the marinade:
- Mix the ingredients for the marinade well with the chicken, making sure all pieces are well covered with the marinade. Don’t hesitate to use your hands and massage the ingredients really well into the chicken. It works wonders, trust me!
- Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 10 hours. Since we are not using any additional spices during the roasting process, spices in the marinade need sufficient time to flavour the chicken well, so do not cut down this time.
- In a thick bottomed deep wok, heat oil or ghee and temper with cumin seeds and curry leaves.
- When the seeds and leaves start to splutter and release an aroma, add chopped onions and green chillies (if using) and reduce the flame to medium high and roast the onions till brown.
- Then add the marinated meat and continue to roast on a medium flame till done. Please note that this preparation requires cooking uncovered with constant stirring. If you would like your meat with extra char you could also grill it in an oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes once it’s cooked through on the stove top. You might need to brush some more oil on the chicken pieces before putting them into the oven, depending on how dry they look.
- Use a heavy thick bottomed pan, preferably a cast iron skillet for best results
- You could also add a few teaspoons of ghee while roasting to enhance the flavour of the dish
- Using chicken breast is not recommended but if you do end up using it, you might need to double the oil in the marination stage for best results (otherwise the dish will turn out chewy and dry)
Whether a soup person or not (like me), you cannot say no to this extremely flavourful Fish Soup with Sichuan Peppercorns. This one-pot yumminess is seasoned generously with garlic, tomatoes and lots of fresh coriander. Vegetarians can swap the fish for tofu or cauliflower and it will taste just as good.
200g basa fillet (or any white fish) cut into desired size
4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium-sized tomatoes, cubed
4 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
6 to 8 stalks of greens of your choice (bok choy works best in soups)
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns (or as per taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1.5 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 cups water
1 tsp oil
- Marinate the fish fillets with 1⁄2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and black pepper for 30 minutes. For best results, coarsely grind the peppercorns in a mortar and rub on the fillets. You can skip this step if the kids cannot handle the heat.
- Heat a deep heavy bottomed pan and add 1 teaspoon oil. Once the oil is hot, add chopped garlic and black pepper, stir for a minute, making sure it doesn’t get burnt. Then add tomato.
- Mix well for a minute, then add the marinated fish fillets, chopped coriander and 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns.
- Stir in the water and bring the mixture to a boil on high heat.
- Reduce the flame to low, cover and let it simmer for at least thirty minutes.
- Add bok choy or greens of your choice, cover and simmer for another 2 minutes.
- Add salt, mix and serve hot garnished with crushed peppercorns.
- Using a whole fish cut into small pieces enhances the flavours, but fillet is safer to use if preparing for young kids
All images courtesy of Asmita Bharadwaj Das.