Sometimes you need a meal in a hurry, so below are a selection of recipes that fit the bill. The goal is that they should be on the table in less than 30 minutes, and should be healthy so you feel better for eating them.

Ramen

This Japanese noodle soup can be a little daunting at first, with a list of ingredients that probably aren't already in the cupboard. The good news is that most of the ingredients keep for quite a while, and can be found in any decent Japanese shop. As with all soups, a good stock helps the overall flavour, and using good quality ingredients is quite important in this dish. Makes 2 good portions.

Ingredients

  • 2  eggs
  • 100g dried ramen noodles
  • Dried seaweed, rehydrated in water
  • ½  small can sliced bamboo shoots.
  • ½  cup drained sweetcorn
  • 150g of Shitake or alternative mushrooms
  • 2 pints good quality stock
  • 2 tsp instant dashi granules
  • 2 tbsp fresh miso paste
  • 4-6 Gyoza dumplings (optional, frozen is fine)
  • ½  bunch of spring onions, finely sliced
  • Chili oil & Soy sauce to taste

Instructions

  1. Hard boil the eggs for about 10 minutes, then slice in half and arrange in the serving bowls.
  2. Boil the noodles until cooked (3-10 minutes depending on the noodles used), then place in the serving bowls.
  3. Arrange the rehydrated seaweed, spring onions, bamboo shoots, and sweetcorn in the serving bowls.
  4. In a large saucepan heat the stock, dashi granules and miso paste to bring the soup base to a gentle boil.
  5. Add the gyoza dumplings and mushrooms and cook for a five minutes.
  6. Add Chili oil, Soy sauce and miso paste to taste.
  7. Divide the soup between the serving bowls.
Chicken Noodle Soup

Made with pre-cooked chicken or the remains of a roast, this is a fast and tasty meal - perfect for when you want something warm and nourishing in short order. If you fancy a spicy variation on this theme, then a Thai curry soup is also delicious. In the recipe below, replace the water with Coconut milk, add some Thai Green Curry paste in at the start and finish with a little Thai fish sauce.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 pre-roast chicken thighs (bones removed and cut into small pieces) or the picked chicken left over from a roast.
  • 1 leek or a medium onion
  • 2 nests of glass or fine egg noodles
  • 1 pint good quality stock
  • ½ pint water
  • ½ cup of sweetcorn
  • 1-2 dried chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs

Instructions

  1. Fry the leek or onions in a knob of butter in a heavy bottom saucepan or casserole dish until they start to brown
  2. Add the chicken and fry for a couple more minutes until the chicken starts to brown
  3. Add the stock, the water and the chili & herbs and bring back to a strong simmer for 10-15 minutes (longer if you fancy)
  4. Add the sweetcorn and noodles, bring back to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes (more if the noodles require it)
  5. Serve immediately in bowls
Pork Loin a la Creme

This is a quick and easy version of a delicious creamy paprika stew, translated into a pan-cooked recipe whilst retaining the spirit of the original. It's fairly quick and easy with not much stress, but it does require you to stand there and cook it for about 20 minutes - one slight disadvantage over the original, which just went into the oven until done. Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. The sauce comes out fairly rich and creamy, and does a good job as gravy.

Ingredients

  • 2 good sized pork loin steaks (without a bone)
  • 4 large shallots (or 6 small one), finely chopped
  • A good knob of butter
  • Half a pack of mushrooms (about 125g), sliced
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 small glass of sherry or 1 large glass of white wine
  • Half a small tub of crème fraiche
  • Salt and pepper to season

Instructions

  1. Heat a little oil in a good quality frying pan  (one that can take high temperatures) over a high heat until the oil is just about smoking.
  2.  Balance the pork loin skin side down and cook until the skin is crispy and the fat has started to render - about 6-8 minutes. This is nearly impossible with just one steak, as it'll fall over, but with two or more next to each other it becomes fairly easy. Skip this step if you're short of time, or if you can't be bothered.
  3. Fry the pork chops for about 3 minutes on each side - no more.
  4. Remove the pork chops from the pan and place, covered, on a plate to rest and keep warm
  5. Add the Shallots to the pan and fry in the butter until they just start to brown.
  6. Add the Mushrooms and the Paprika to the pan and cook for a couple more minutes.
  7. Add the pork back into the pan, then add the sherry and reduce by half (cook the dish until half the liquid has evaporated). If using wine, reduce by a little more.
  8. Add in the Crème Fraiche and re-heat until the whole dish is bubbling.
  9. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Smoked Haddock Chowder

This is a (fairly) quick and easy dish that turns out a lovely, creamy, rich chowder infused with the smokey flavour Haddock. Perfect with fresh bread as a light lunch or as a starter.

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 rashers of smoked bacon, sliced.
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 pints chicken stock
  • ½ cup of rice
  • 1 can of sweetcorn
  • 2 medium tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped quite small.
  • Half a medium tub of cream (or a whole small tub)
  • 1 lb smoked Haddock, cut into approx 1" cubes
  • Pepper and a (very) little salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Fry the onions and the bacon in a little oil until they start to colour.
  2. Add the stock, the rice, and most of the sweetcorn and bring back to the boil.
  3. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the rice is done.
  4. Using a had blender, blitz the soup until thick and creamy.
  5. Return to the heat, add the chopped tomatoes and the remainder of the sweetcorn and  bring back to a low simmer for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes are cooked.
  6. Add the smoked Haddock and cream and turn off the stove, leave the pan on the ring - the residual heat will cook the fish.
  7. Season to taste (remember that both the bacon and stock will have salt already) and serve.
Garam Masala

There are many recipes for Garam Masala, and an almost infinite number of arguments over which is best. Here's the basic recipe that I use as a starting point, feel free to make up your own!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Coriander seed
  • 1 tbsp Cumin seed
  • 1 tsp black Peppercorns
  • 3 large pods Cardamom (black is best, but green is fine)
  • 2 Cloves
  • 2 tbsp ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Bay leaf

Instructions

  1. Gently roast all the spices, except the Ginger, Cinnamon and the Bay leaf, in a dry frying pan or skillet, until the colour has darkened and the Cumin is making a little popping sound.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Remove the small seeds from inside the Cardamom pods, discarding the pod shells.
  4. Grind all the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar, until smooth.
  5. Store in an airtight container.
Mild Kerala (South Indian) Curry

A mild curry made with coconut milk, which is quick and easy - takes about 5 minutes to prepare and 20-30 minutes to cook. Serves 2-3.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized Onion
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, crushed
  • 2-6 dried, chopped Chili peppers (2 for a mild curry, 4 for medium, 6 for hot)
  • 2 tsp Coriander seed, ground
  • 1 tsp ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp ground Turmeric
  • 1 lb Chicken or Lamb, cut into 1" pieces
  • 2 fresh Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tin chopped Tomatoes or Passata
  • 1 small tin Coconut cream, diluted with 200ml boiling water, or 1 tin Coconut milk
  • 6 Curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala
  • Salt and Pepper to season

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the Onion and Chillies peppers and fry in a little vegetable oil (or Groundnut Oil) over a medium heat for a 10  minutes or until cooked.
  2. Add the Chicken or Lamb and fry for 5-10 minutes until the meat is browned all over.
  3. Stir in the Ginger, Turmeric, Coriander seed and Garlic and fry for another couple of minutes.
  4. Add the fresh and tinned Tomatoes, the curry leaves, and the Garam Masala and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
  5. Add the Coconut Cream and water (or Coconut milk) and bring back to a simmer for 15-20 minutes before serving with boiled rice
Thai Curry

A big bowl of vegetables in a thick coconut soup with classic Thai flavours. Feel free to substitute different vegetables and adjust the curry paste, fish sauce and lime to taste. Add prawns or cooked chicken to make a more substantial curry. Serves 2 generously, or 3-4 with rice.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for frying.
  • 1 medium onion, sliced.
  • 2 pak choi, bottoms sliced fairly thinly, leaves roughly chopped, kept separate.
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets.
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour.
  • 2-4cm of fresh ginger (to taste), crushed.
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed.
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai curry paste (to taste).
  • 1 small carton (250ml) coconut milk.
  • ½ teaspoon Thai fish sauce.
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce.
  • Juice of half a lime.
  • 1 tablespoon sugar.
  • Tabasco chili (optional, to taste).
  • A good splash of toasted sesame oil (optional, to taste).
  • 1 small pack of glass noodles - cut into small pieces if you can be bothered - they’re really hard to cut, but it makes it easier to eat. Alternatively add cooked rice into the dish, or serve with cooked rice, or leave out entirely.

Instructions

  1. Fry the sliced onion over a medium heat until cooked through and just starting to turn brown (5-10 minutes), then remove from the pan into a large bowl.
  2. Fry the sliced bottoms of the pan choi until cooked (a few minutes), then remove from the pan and put in the bowl with the onions.
  3. Fry any additional vegetables or protein, and once cooked remove from the pan and put in the bowl with the onion and vegetables.
  4. Add a tablespoon of plain flour to the vegetables / protein in the bowl and mix thoroughly until coated. This will help thicken the curry later.
  5. Add the crushed ginger, the garlic, a good splash of the coconut milk, and the curry paste to the frying pan and fry gently for a 2-3 minutes, stirring well to mix well.
  6. Add in the Thai fish sauce, the soy sauce, the lemon juice, the sugar, the Tabasco, the sesame oil and the remainder of the coconut milk to the frying pan. Bring back to the boil, stirring well.
  7. Add in the broccoli florets and any other vegetables which are going to be simmered to cook. Stir well and bring back to the boil.
  8. Add back the cooked vegetables, the protein and the glass noodles. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes to allow everything to heat through and the favours to develop.
  9. Serve in a large bowl, or with a bowl of rice if you prefer.

Variations

More vegetables can be added - cook the vegetables either by frying at the start, or by simmering at the end (depends on the vegetable). Also, don’t be scared of microwaving the veg first, if that’s more convenient. Good vegetables are ones that retain a bit of texture. Some which I find work well are:

  • Mange-tout, roughly chopped (simmer at the end).
  • Sugar snap peas (simmer at the end).
  • Carrots, sliced thinly (microwave, then simmer).
  • Sweet pepper / Capsicum, sliced thinly (fry at start).
  • Lettuce / sliced fairly thinly (simmer at the end).
  • Chinese leaf - prepared and cooked like the pak choi.

Protein works well, turning this from a mostly vegetable dish to a more complete meal. Either chicken or prawn works very well. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces or prawns can stay whole. Fry the protein in the pan after the vegetables, making sure that it’s done all the way through. Then add back in when everything comes together at the end.