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Emergency dinners... without having to call the chippy!
Member Name: Daffydill
Advantages: Simple, quick and easy.
Disadvantages: Not quite as easy as calling the takeaway1
We have all been there, late night after work, forgotten to pick up vital items from the shops, or just too tired to cook something more substantial. What dishes can easily be pulled together to make it look like you have gone to a little bit of effort!
First off I think it is important to list some essentials that every home needs for emergency dinners:
Tins, tins and more tins, yes tins in every form baked beans, condensed soup, tuna, sweetcorn, the cans keep for years and are always useful in creating a hearty meal. Never forget tinned tomatoes or passata can always help create a nutritious meal quickly.
Flavourings and sauces - a basic spice collection find a few that you find keep popping up in recipes I keep curry powder, turmeric, garam masala and not much else. Other useful sauces include sweet chilli, Worcester sauce, tomato ketchup, tomato puree, can all give added oomph to a dish. Any jars of lazy garlic and chilli are always welcome.
Herbs - keep a few potted herb plants around your garden/ kitchen, they're cheap and fresh and a lot more cost effective than buying packs of fresh herbs. I have found basil particularly easy to keep in a small pot.
My little helper in the kitchen - I picked up a Black and Decker mini chopper in a charity shop for about £3, and I use it to chop my onions, chilli, garlic and herbs. You can pick a Kenwood one up on Amazon for no more than £15, and has saved not only my time, but my eyes from the onions!
Then my theory anything left in the fridge/ cupboard is good to throw in to just about anything. I am no proficient cook, but have learnt to produce quick meals over the past few years as a medical student. I have tried to include a few snack items, along with dinners and most importantly (for me anyway) desserts.
Just a little bit peckish and want a quick snack? Friends coming over to watch a movie? Don't worry you can make your own snacks at home equally as good as the cinema, or corner shop.
Nachos - my favourite for curling up and watching a film with, I may have my own popcorn maker but nothing can compete with the mighty nacho. Nachos can be purchased in a big value pack from Tescos for about 30p in a ready salted flavour. To make simply spread on a heatproof plate, add some salsa, you can either make your own or use a jar (I've always been naughty and used the jar), and add grated cheese, place in the oven at about 180 until the cheese melts. To spice up the nachos add a few jalapenos, or for something more filling add some cooked chicken. Those that have not been covered in salsa can also be dipped in some guacamole or other dips.
Wedges - Another great snack to share with friends, and the main things you need is some potatoes, oil and an oven. Cut potatoes you would use for jackets or chipping, and cut into wedge shapes, you can choose to remove the skins if you want. Add enough oil to coat the wedges and add some herbs, cajun spice or any other flavourings you choose, spread out on a baking tray. Cook at 180 degree for twenty to thirty minutes, or until crispy on the outside and piping hot on the inside.
Mezze/ Tapas - Yes this is a bit of a free for all of snacky foods, however I personally find it one of my favourite dinners to share with friends. I like to include a bit of everything, warm and crusty baguettes along with various spreads including cream cheese, pate, along with other salads and cold cheeses and meats. Dips and crudites are easy to make and quick to share, cut pieces of celery, cucumber and carrot, and serve with dips - more salsa? The wedges, nachos and pizzas all fit nicely into this 'meal'. I normally share this with a few friends and we each agree to bring or make one component. Not so much of an emergency, but between us we normally have all the ingredients to make each of the components.
Pizza - Even with the buy one get one free deals, Papa Johns and Dominos can totally blow my budget for the week. All that is needed is a base, tomato sauce, and some cheese and other toppings.
Bases- there are loads of options that I have tried and work well crumpets, sliced ciabatta, bagels, naan bread, tortilla and my favourite English muffins.
Sauce - All is required is some passata, a little bit of salt to flavour, ketchup and some mixed herbs to spread on your base. If you want to turn the heat up simply add some chopped chillis from a jar.
Cheese and toppings - Grated mozzerella is great, but cheddar is very good too! Then find any store cupboard goodies to throw on top of your pizza. Pile on top and grill in the oven until the cheese melts.
You can even theme your pizza - an Indian pizza with tikka chicken, chilli tomato sauce on a naan bread base or a Mexican pizza on a tortilla base with jalapenos, peppers and chicken.
Things on toast - The ultimate in emergency dinners. Some toast and a can of beans or spaghetti, can easily provide a fulfilling meal. Dinners can easily be switched around by flavouring beans with curry powder or Worcester sauce.
If a snack is not substantial enough and you want something a bit more filling, then here are some fall back recipes that always impress friends.
Fresh pasta with cherry tomatoes - The oven roasted cherry tomatoes are the star of this dish. Simply halve a small bag of cherry tomatoes and lay on an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and pop in the oven for half an hour on 180, watch the tomatoes don't burn though. In the mean time cook some spaghetti, and fry a couple of diced garlic cloves in olive oil, and lightly heat through some prawns. When cooked add the spaghetti to the pan along with the tomatoes, gently mix through and add a handful of fresh basil leaves, serve with parmesan shavings. The simplicity of this dish relies on good quality ingredients but is really flavoursome, and fresh tasting.
Pasta bake - another easy to bake, easy to forget about dish. Weigh out the desired amount of penne pasta for four, and coat in a tin of condensed soup, along with another cans worth of water. Add any other items to make the pasta bake more interesting, cooked meats, canned tuna and sweetcorns, bake in the oven at 180 for twenty minutes, for a crispy top, add some crushed crisps and cheese and return to the oven for another twenty minutes.
Speedy spag bol - This is the easiest recipe for spaghetti bolognaise I know, with an added twist. For four sweat off a small onion, with a couple of garlic cloves, brown the mince, and add Sainsbury's tomato and chilli pasta sauce. This gives the spaghetti bolognaise added flavour and a warm heat, I also like to add a little red wine (optional) to give a really rich bolognaise sauce.
Makhata - A chicken makhata is a mild curry and a recipe I adapted from the internet. If you really want to cheat use microwave rice, or use the normal boil in the pan rice, put it in at the start, and the dish should be finished by the time the rice is ready.
For two, dice a small red onion, one medium chilli and two cloves of garlic, and fry until the onions are a nice golden brown colour, add a diced pepper and allow it to soften. Then add a can of chopped tomatoes and 200 ml of chicken stock before bringing to the boil, allow to simmer for five minutes. Then add one pack of tikka sliced chicken (from the sandwich aisle), a tablespoon of tomato puree and a teaspoon of garam masala spice and a small handful of ground almonds. Heat through. Serve with the rice, along with natural yoghurt and fresh corriander.
Sausage Casserole - This is a real winter warmer, not a looker but tastes great. Either use two cooked sausages per person, or a cooked Matteson sausage between three. For three, again start by dicing an red onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, allow all to brown in the pan, dice and add one pepper and allow it to soften. Then add a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of baked beans, along with a tablespoon each of tomato puree and Worcestershire sauce, and a crumbled vegetable stock cube. Bring to the boil, and keep stirring, add the cooked sausage, serve with crispy bread when the whole casserole is piping hot.
Who doesn't love a good pudding, they can be made quickly and easily too, with some things that you may have lying around the kitchen.
Ice Cream Sundae - This is a favourite when I'm entertaining. All you really need is a big tub of vanilla ice cream. Quickly prepare some chopped fruits, get a hold of some sweets, chocolate buttons, sprinkles. To make a rich mars bar sauce, melt a couple of mars bars with some cream for a calorific treat.
Eton Mess - I love this in summer, lightly whip some Elmlea cream with a small amount of caster sugar, you don't want this too firm. Lightly crush some meringue nests, add whatever chopped fruit is in season and fold through. My personal favourite at the moment is peach melba, the tartness in the peach and the raspberry cuts through the sweet cream and meringue combination.
Choc Muffin Surprise - Another indulgent snack, take one double chocolate muffin, carefully slice off the top and scoop out the middle, in its place fill with ice cream of your choice, put the top back on, and place in the microwave for no more than thirty seconds. This results in a warm chocolately pudding with a gooey centre!
Wow - that was a bit longer than I thought it was going to be, I hope this gives you some ideas for cutting corners for dinners, or trying dishes that you wouldn't have considered making before.
Summary: Easy dinners for the culinarily challenged!