Three Shortcut Meals

Posted on June 3, 2014


11 Minute Pasta on things{we}make

Some days I want delicious food and I want it NOW.

Who am I kidding? That’s pretty much all the days.

In these situations we occasionally reach for the wodge of takeaway menus, bulldog clipped together in the kitchen drawer, or decide to head off to a pub, restaurant or café in search of satisfaction.

Often though, we are disappointed and there follows laments of “We could make this better at home”, “Are they going to even bother taking our order?” or “You’d better open a window, this bedroom reeks of curry”.

As an alternative we have some back up meals that allow us to eat with minimal effort and without leaving the comfort of our own home. I’ve not shared these before because they are a bit embarrassing to release on the foodiest of you. They often don’t earn an outing of the Nikon, just a quick iPhone photo. My Instagram account is an ode to the quicky dinner or even quicker lunch.

These 3 ‘Shortcuts to Flavour Town’ (my original, yet too cheesy title for this post) provide a solution for the terminally hungry and chronically lazy, of which I am both.

11 minute – One Pot Pasta

OnePotPasta on things{we}make

We ate this again last night and the level of interest online inspired me to write this post. It is the fabled and eternally pinned ‘All in one Pasta’. The recipe I used initially was from Martha Stewart but I document my British version here due to numerous requests and…as with all US to UK translations, all cooking is not equal.

If you haven’t heard of it where on Earth have you been? The only reason I hadn’t tried it thus far is that I never had fresh basil and a big bowl of tomatoes to hand at the same time. I was sceptical of throwing everything in the pan and boiling it all up, but had heard so many positive reviews we had to give it a try.

It’s pretty good! With a few ingredients the sauce ends up quite creamy and the flavour really rather pleasing. I plan to try some variations on the theme soon with additions like chicken stock, wine, courgettes etc.

Martha, bless her, even made you a video so you can watch her make it which you can view with her original recipe.

One Pot Pasta – Ingredients (serves 3)

  • 340g/12oz good quality linguine – cheap spaghetti would go gluey
  • 340g/12oz cherry or baby plum tomatoes halved or quartered if large
  • 2 large shallots or salad onions – thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • a large pinch of chilli flakes (a small pinch if it’s for kids)
  • 2 whole sprigs of basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of Maldon sea salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (1070ml) cold water

To finish

  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Torn basil leaves

Throw the whole ingredients list above into a large straight-sided pan.

Bring to a boil over high heat.

Boil the mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated. Martha says about 9 minutes but the firm De Cecco pasta that we like takes more like 11-12 minutes.

Leave it to rest for a minute, remove the spent basil stems then serve, sprinkled liberally with parmesan and torn basil leaves.

15 Minute Crispy Chinese Lamb

Crispy Lamb on thingswemakeAfter a roast lamb dinner at our house there is always a hunk left with random pieces of meat attached to the bone and half a jug of delicious lamb gravy.

Next day, or more often 2 days later (to allow the smell of gravy to leave the house from the first instalment) I carve off slices of meat and cut them into strips. Think takeaway ‘crispy chilli beef’ size pieces.

George loves this. It’s a tastier option than the ‘Monday tea’ we had as kids, which was usually leftover meat heated up in gravy for Sunday dinner – the sequel.


  • Strips of leftover roast lamb or beef (Lamb crisps up better)
  • Leftover gravy
  • Sweet Chilli Sauce
  • 5 spice
  • Plain flour
  • Rice
  • Frozen peas or soy beans

Put a handful of plain flour in a bowl, add more than a generous amount of 5 spice powder and a good amount of salt. (Sorry it get’s no more precise than this with these sort of meals)

Toss the freshly cut, cold lamb in the seasoned flour until it is well coated. Shake any excess flour off and then shallow fry it in around 1cm of very hot sunflower oil or Trex, turning occasionally until crispy. Drain on kitchen paper, it crisps more as it cools.

Simultaneously (it is possible, I promise) cook the rice and pimp up the gravy: Boil 200g of basmati rice in boiling water for 10 minutes, adding a handful of soy beans or peas after 5 minutes.

To a jug of leftover gravy add some more 5 spice and a good dollop of sweet chilli sauce and microwave until hot.

Serve the crispy lamb on your rice, pour the extra tasty gravy and some more chilli sauce on top and you have dinner on the table in 15 minutes.

10 minute Chicken SOUPreme

Do you see what we did there?

If you are easily offended by the use of tinned goods, turn away now. This is one that we pull out for camping trips or, for reasons best known to himself, when Ed wants ‘pale’ food if he is feeling a bit delicate.

  • Toss strips of raw chicken breast in 2 tablespoons of flour and some chicken seasoning.
  • Fry in sunflower oil until almost cooked through.
  • Pour over a tin of Heinz chicken soup.
  • Simmer until hot and thickened
  • Cook 200g of basmati rice (do you notice a theme here?)
  • Make a ring of rice, like off-of the 70’s and fill it with the chicken soup-preme.

When camping we take it to next level low-browness and use ready cooked roast chicken pieces. If you feel like you need to add vegetables, throw in some peas or sweetcorn halfway through.

You know what? There’s not even a photo of this one. Just imagine something out of the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook and you’re pretty much there.

Please let me know your quicky short cut meals. I’m always happy to add something to the list.