Scrumptiously simple recipes from pan to plate in minutes!
We lead such busy lives these days that it’s all too easy to become reliant on convenience foods. Finding time to cook a meal yourself can seem daunting – so much easier to pop something in the microwave or buy a takeaway. But making a dish from scratch doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and nothing beats good home cooking in terms of flavour or nutritional value.
For my new book, I’ve assembled a range of delicious, easy dishes that can be put together as quickly as possible using a mixture of fresh ingredients and store-cupboard staples. I include week-night dishes that are ready to serve up in under 30 minutes; recipes that can be made ahead of time and then cooked or assembled when you’re ready; quick roasts and satisfying stews that can be on the table much faster than traditional options but without any loss of flavour; and easy-to-prepare meals that cook while you do something else. Read on to get started.
Asian beef and red pepper stir-fry
DOWNSIZE FOR SPEED
Bear in mind that the size of the ingredients makes a difference to how long a dish will take. A smaller cut of meat will cook in a fraction of the time of a large joint, for example, but is just as tasty. The Marinated Mango Pork Medallions on the recipe page below are brimming with tangy flavour and take only 5-10 minutes to cook. The meat is marinated quickly first, which is such an effective way to add instant flavour to a dish, be it meat or a fish dish such as the Ginger Teriyaki Salmon on the recipe page below – again, just 5 minutes cooking.
People are often wary about cooking fish, yet it’s one of the quickest foods to prepare. Why not give the salmon a go?
ROCK THAT WOK
How you cook is as important as what you cook when it comes to speed. For the TV series that accompanies Quick Cooking, I visited London’s Chinatown and watched chefs at work as they furiously chopped and stir-fried vegetables at lightning speed over fiery flames. I don’t advise such hectic methods at home (even if you are in a hurry!) but I’m inspired by Chinese and Thai traditions – hence the succulent Asian Beef and Red Pepper Stir-fry on the recipe page below.
Chocolate cappuccino tart
I also visited Rome for the TV programme. When it comes to quick cooking, Italy is hard to beat and of course pasta is such a great store-cupboard stand-by. Try the Romano Pepper and Herb Penne on the recipe page below.
QUICK, QUICK SLOW
While stews generally rely on slow cooking, I’ve included one speedier version in this special pullout – the Lamb Tagine on the recipe page below. For the TV series I travelled to Marrakech, where I watched a family prepare a tagine in the time-honoured way, each ingredient added to the dish in exactly the same order as it had been done for generations. My version still takes some time to cook but it’s very quick to prepare and tastes utterly delicious. The oven does the work.
Upside-down rhubarb pudding with caramel sauce
Certain items are ideal for adding flavour quickly, such as roasted red peppers in oil, which provide a tasty alternative to roasting red peppers from scratch, or richly savoury oriental condiments – perfect for instant Asian-style marinades. Another favourite is shop-bought puff pastry – a convenient and very useful option for tarts and pies. Try the Italian Galette on the recipe page below.
DON’T SWEAT THE SWEET STUFF
Good-quality shop-bought lemon or orange curd can be a real time-saver for desserts (check the label and avoid those with additives). Try the moist and creamy Apple and Lemon Sandwich Cake on page 46. Splitting things up into smaller quantities also helps if you’re in a hurry – the no-churn Rum and Raisin Ice Cream on the recipe page below is even quicker to prepare if you freeze it in ramekins rather than a large container. For a teatime treat, try the Scone Fruit Crown on the recipe page below, which looks impressive and, being composed of mini scones, needs just 10-12 minutes in the oven. Perfect to serve a crowd.
READ MY TIPS
Throughout the recipes I give tips on how to save time or make the preparation more straightforward, as well as advice on preparing ahead and freezing where possible. For the TV series I visited a wide range of restaurants and eating places, but what struck me about all of them was how well organised they were. Thinking ahead is something of a mantra of mine as I strongly believe that it can really help, especially when you’re busy. A little bit of forward planning makes all the difference.
Researching and putting together these dishes has been a great pleasure. I hope you enjoy making them and you discover in the process that you’re never too busy to knock up a nourishing and delicious meal. Once you get into the swing of it, you won’t look back – I guarantee it. You’ll soon be rustling up your own speedy lunches, suppers, puds and bakes – much tastier and more satisfying than any convenience foods or takeaways.
When you have a little more time
MAKING YOUR OWN STOCK
Good-quality stock can make all the difference to a recipe, especially when you are cooking something like soup. There are good fresh stocks available in the supermarket but if you have the time it’s worth making your own. If you do, be sure to make enough to freeze some and you’ll have homemade stock ready for when time is short. It is useful to freeze the stock in portions – try 150ml (¼ pint), 300ml (½ pint) or 600ml (1 pint) containers.
- To make 2.5 litres (4 pints) of chicken stock, place 1.5kg (3lb) raw chicken/game/turkey bones in a stockpot with 2 peeled onions and brown over a medium heat. Pour in 4 litres (7 pints) of water and bring to the boil. Add 3 carrots, 3 celery sticks, a bouquet garni (bay leaves and sprigs of thyme and parsley) and some peppercorns and leave to simmer, half covered, for 2½-3 hours. Strain the contents of the pan into a large bowl, then decant into a container for freezing or use straight away – try the Korma-style Chicken Curry on the recipe page below.
ROASTING YOUR OWN PEPPERS
The roasted peppers you can buy in a jar are a delicious and easy addition to a recipe, especially the peppers in oil, but if you have time and raw peppers in the fridge then you can roast your own very simply. Preheat the grill and line the grill pan with foil. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and arrange the peppers cut side down in the grill pan. Grill, turning regularly, until blackened all over. Remove the peppers to a bowl, cover with a plate and leave to cool – the steam will loosen the skin. Strip off and discard all the black skin, then cut each pepper into strips. You can use these roasted pepper strips in any number of recipes – try the Romano Pepper and Herb Penne on the recipe page below – or store them in sterilised jars for another day.
MAKING YOUR OWN LEMON CURD
Lemon curd is actually very easy to make and, while shop-bought varieties are good for when you are in a hurry (be sure to buy luxury curd made with pure ingredients), it’s lovely to make your own. Break 4 eggs into a saucepan and whisk to combine. Stir in 300g (10½oz) sugar, 225g (8oz) butter, cut into pieces, and the finely grated zest and juice of 4 lemons. Once everything is combined, place the pan over a medium heat and whisk continuously until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and is slightly thickened – this could take 7-10 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it may split. If you are an inexperienced cook, whisk the curd in a bowl over simmering water. It will take longer but is foolproof. Remove from the heat and leave to cool before serving.
SAVE 20 PER CENT ON MARY’S NEW BOOK
Mary Berry Quick Cooking will be published by BBC Books on 21 February, price £22. As well as Mary’s introduction, the book contains more than 100 all-new recipes, plus her crucial tips for each one. Chapters include: Light Bites and Tapas; Speedy Soups; Salads and Grains; Fish; Poultry and Game; Pork, Lamb and Beef; Rice, Noodles and Pasta; Quick Veg; Puddings, and Baking. To order a copy for £17.60 until 3 March, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.