5 minute recipes

Spuds in a sack

Good for novelty factor Children love novelty and it doesn’t get more novel than cooking potatoes in a paper bag.  Yes indeed, this dish not only needs no washing up (just throw the paper away or recycle it) but is delicious and satisfying to cook too. The French call it pommes de terre en papillote, but I think spuds in a sack has a classier ring. You just put some mini new potatoes (chop up larger ones) on a big piece of baking paper with some butter, salt and mint (although you could use any herb or even add whole garlic cloves) and then fold the paper in half and turn the sides up so it is a tight fit – that’s your bag and whilst it wouldn’t work for a trip to Sainsburys, for this it is perfect. Serves: two Start to finish: Two minutes to prepare, 25 minutes to cook Ingredients 12 mini new potatoes (If you want to change the quantities, I think you need six per person) 30g butter sprinkling sea salt sprig of mint baking paper Take a large piece of baking paper and place the scrubbed new potatoes near the middle. Add the butter, salt and mint. Fold the paper in half and turn up the sides and then put in an oven preheated to 180c oven for 25 minutes or until cooked through....

Marmite Welsh Rarebit

Good for: weekend lunch. Cheese on toast is a bit of a stalwart in our house. We may run out of most things, but cheese, bread, milk, never! I’m not that crap. Well, maybe sometimes. Anyway, this is my new favourite. Slightly more complex than cheese on toast, but not much. And it’s got Marmite in it! Anything with Marmite gets my vote (even chocolate, yes Marmite chocolate). This doesn’t take much more time than cheese on toast, but it feels more substantial which in turn makes me feel like a better mum. I know, it’s that easy to make me feel like a good mum! I don’t think I’ve ratcheted up the right guilt quota yet – give me time, my children are still young. Marmite Welsh Rarebit Serves: 2 Start to finish: 5 mins plus 5 under the grill 150g grated hard cheese 2 slices of bread per person – ideally thick sliced 15ml cream 15ml milk – instead of stout 2 egg yolks 1 desert spoon Marmite Splash Worcester sauce There are many roux-based Welsh Rarebits, but this isn’t one of them, it’s a bit easier and quicker. All to the good if you’ve got a baby on your hip, or hungry kids baying. Toast the bread. Mix the cheese with egg yolks, cream, Marmite and Worcester sauce. Add milk to get a nice consistency, so that the cheese will be easy to spread on the toast. Place toast on foil on grill. Spoon on cheese mix, place under the grill until it starts to bubble and brown, for about five minutes. Organized by Parcel...

On the 7th day of Christmas… homemade decorations

Good for snowy days in My four-year-old made this Christmas decoration for me at school. Admittedly it won’t be stocked in the Conran Shop any time soon, but it will take pride of place on my tree this year and every one thereafter. Christmas is all about nostalgia and ritual and when growing up my favourite decorations weren’t the shiny new baubles bought that week from Woolies but old ones that had been carefully packed in the attic year after year – some since my mum was a little girl herself. Anyway, these are are very easy to make out of salt dough. You can cut them into any festive shape and once baked or air dried you can paint or glitter them to your heart’s desire.  Homemade Christmas decorations Serves: Makes about 12-20 depending on size of shapes Start to finish: How long is a piece of string? Dough takes two minutes to make, but the rest’s up to you 1 cup of salt 2 cups of flour 1 cup of water Mix the salt and flour together in a bowl then add the water until a large ball has formed. Knead on a lightly floured work surface and roll out until it is about one centimetre thick. If it is too dry then add more water. If too wet, more flour. Cut out shapes and then take a pencil and make a hole large enough to thread a ribbon or pipe-cleaner through so you can hang the shapes on the tree. You can air dry the biscuits overnight or put them on a greased baking sheet and...

On the fourth day of Christmas…slow roasted pork shoulder

Ah, pork shoulder. Few things sound less romantic. Except for brisket, and maybe faggots. But it’s delicious and a stress-free way of feeding a crowd. I cooked one on Sunday – well I started to cook it on Saturday at 4am as I was up with teething son #2, and it was ready for Sunday lunch. I did a Nigella marinade which, in the name of stress-free cooking, I will skip next time as it didn’t permeate the skin through to the meat. But that didn’t matter, the flavour of slow-roasted pork is such that it really doesn’t need much gilding. I had worried that the pork was only going to have about 20 hours in the oven, not the 24 recommended in the recipe. Luckily one of my lunch guests was a proper chef who knows about these things, and she said the pork would actually be cooked after about 12 hours, making the whole dish even easier, as you don’t have to worry too much about timings. It’s the perfect dish for a large group of people, served with cabbage, potatoes, maybe some Bramley sauce. The kids devoured it, as did the adults. Slow roasted pork shoulder Serves: 12 servings Start to finish: 5 minutes faffing, 8-24 hours roasting One 12-14 lb scored pork shoulder – get the butcher to score it, as it’s difficult to do yourself Um, that’s it, although if you want to get all fancy pants with marinades, check Nigella or Hugh FW Preheat your oven to the hottest it will go. Then put the pork on a rack over a roasting pan, skin-side up. Put it...

On the third day of Christmas…cranberry sauce

Good for: all round Christmas smugness If there is one thing you should never make at Christmas it is cranberry sauce. Well that’s what all those annoyingly useful entertaining at Christmas lists tell you. I disagree. And I will tell you why. I love cranberry sauce. Not just with turkey and bread sauce on the big day itself, but afterwards with leftovers, in sandwiches or a slice of cold ham. It keeps well in the fridge too. I particularly like to make it because no one ever expects you to and it is woefully, embarrassingly easy. All you do is sling a bag of cranberries (about 300g) in to a saucepan along with about 180g caster sugar, 100ml of water and the juice of one orange. Then you just let it bubble merrily away for 15 minutes or until all the little berries have popped (for some reason watching them explode is extremely satisfying) and that is it. You’ll need to taste it whilst it is cooking to check if it needs more sugar (if it is too sweet, a bit of lemon juice works wonders). It freezes well and mine is now clad in tupperware and waiting to be defrosted on Christmas Eve. When I reheat it, I may pop in a tablespoon or two of brandy to liven things up. It is Christmas after all. Serves: there’s enough for Christmas Dinner and beyond Start to finish: 1 minute prep, 15 minutes bubbling 300g cranberries 180g sugar one orange brandy...

Fish parcels

Good for: a grown up dinner or, if you’re lucky, a kid’s tea… Fish parcels, they’re so easy I don’t know why I make them so rarely. Pretty much any fish works, just supplemented with what you have in the fridge. Best of all, if you seal the parcels properly there is precisely no washing up! I often use rainbow trout. It’s an unfashionable fish, which is odd, because it’s delicately flavoured, easy to get hold of – most supermarkets sell it fresh at their fish counter or vacuum packed in their big fridges, and it’s cheap. Plus it’s an oily fish and will make you and your children exceptionally clever. What’s not to like? Fish parcels Start to finish: 5 minutes prep plus 10 mins in the oven Serves: 2 adults or one adult and two children. My 3 year old loved it, my one year old wouldn’t unpurse his lips long enough to have even a spoonful. 2 trout fillets Half a lemon Knob of butter 4 tablespoons of frozen peas One spring onion, finely sliced Pepper Stick the oven on at 200 degrees Centigrade. Cut two large squares of foil, one for each fish parcel. In the centre of each piece of foil rub some oil or butter so the fish doesn’t stick. Place the fish on top. Put half the peas on top of each fish with a knob of butter, half the spring onion, a squeeze of lemon, and a grind or two of pepper. Pack up the parcels and put them on a baking tray. Place in the oven for ten minutes. The time the fillet needs...

Make your own playdough

Good for: wet afternoons It’s half-term so obviously the sky is grey and there is intermittent rain. Here’s something that might relieve your/their spirits. Playdough Serves: 1-2 Start to finish: 5 minutes 2 cups of plain flour half a cup of salt 2 teaspoons of oil half a cup of water 4 drops of food colouring Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the oil and stir. Drop in the colouring and gradually add the water, mixing it in slowly as you pour. Knead the colour in. The perfect recipe for a damp afternoon....

Better-than-Ginsters pasties

Good for: lunch either at home or on-the-go. Useful for using up stuff lurking at the back of the fridge. My husband got me into pasties. Well I say pasties, but what I mean is Ginsters cheese and onion slices. When on long car journeys we’ve got into the habit of buying one each at a garage en route. Although they are easy to eat in the car, truth be told they are pretty minging. They are stodgy and leave you feeling curiously soiled after just one bite. Outside of a car I don’t think I have ever eaten one or indeed wanted to. It’s a shame because in essence a cheese pasty should be a beautiful thing. Flaky pastry, melted cheese, maybe a bit of ham, pickle or chopped onion to spice things up. Some shop-bought things are so good (like fresh custard) that you would be bonkers to make your own, but a shop bought pasty does not even deserve to share the same name as a home-made one. No really it doesn’t. And if you buy ready-rolled pastry (which obviously you should) they take minutes to make. They are lovely straight from the oven, but also travel well so make the ideal companion for packed lunches and half-term excursions. Rather oddly it doesn’t matter if you use shortcrust or puff pastry – they are just a bit different – one is, well puffier. Cheese, ham and onion pasties Serves: 4 Start to finish: 5 minutes prep, 25 minutes in the oven 4 spring onions – finely chopped 100g cheddar cheese – grated 100g thick cooked ham...

Shake and Bake – chicken and sausage one-pan dinner

Good for: easy Sunday lunch, or evening meal for you and friends. Kids love it too. This takes five minutes to throw together (well, a bit longer if you marinade the chicken properly) and then you literally slam it in the oven and pour yourself a glass of wine and forget about it whilst it cooks. It is a guaranteed plate clearer in our house. I use two pieces of chicken and two sausages per person – but adjust the quantities depending on how hungry/greedy you’re feeling. Start to finish: 5 mins prep, 2 hours + marinading (OPTIONAL!), one hour cooking Serves two 1 onion 2 potatoes 4 sausages 4 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 teaspoons French mustard handful of thyme leaves 1 lemon salt pepper Peel and chop the onion into sixths and put into a bowl with one tablespoon of the oil, lemon juice, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper. With a sharp knife slash the chicken thighs three times before adding them to the marinade. Give it a stir to ensure everything is evenly-coated. Marinade in the fridge ideally overnight, but I’ve marinated for a matter of minutes before and it tasted just as good. An hour before you want to cook, take the chicken out of the fridge. Heat the oven to 200C. Cut the potatoes into wedges. Pour the remaining oil into a large non-stick roasting tin arrange the sausages, potatoes, chicken and onions in one layer. Cook for an hour or until everything is crispy and golden brown. The sausages and potatoes may need turning. Enjoy.   You...

Something for the weekend – lime butter

Good for: adding zest to a Friday night fish supper By the time Friday night arrives all I want to do is kick back with a glass of wine and celebrate the beginning of the weekend. The idea of cooking my fourth meal of the day is less than appealing, but I also want to eat something nice. Take-aways have their place, but round my way you won’t get anything delivered in under 40 minutes, and generally, I can’t wait that long. So this zingy lime butter takes minutes to assemble and makes a beautiful dish of pretty much any pan fried or grilled fish. I had it with mackerel last night, and slathered it on the new potatoes as well. Bloody lovely. Lime butter Start to finish: 3 minutes, plus the time it takes you to cook the rest of the meal Serves: 2 or double the quantities and keep in the freezer for Friday night emergencies 1/4 tsp Maldon salt or similar grated zest of two limes 50g soft butter Make sure butter is not too hard (keep it out of the fridge for a bit) and then mash in the salt and zest with a fork. Jill Dupleix (it’s her recipe) suggests wrapping it into a “bonbon” of foil and popping it in the freezer for an hour, but I reckon that’s so it looks nice. I never bother and it tastes fine. You might also like… Super-fast kedgeree One minute mackerel pate Thai prawn and pineapple...

Lifesaver no. 2

Good for: kids’ lunch or tea in a hurry Last month Claire brought you her three-minute life saver – Buitoni pasta. All in the name of healthy sibling rivalry I would like to trump her three minutes with my 90 second dish of dishes. Competitive? Me? Amoy make straight to wok noodles that are the under-pressure cook’s best friend. They cost about £1.80 for two packs and most supermarkets sell them. They come part-cooked and you just fry them in a pan with some garlic-infused oil (saves chopping a whole clove – notice a theme, here?) throw in some tinned sweetcorn, add an egg and a splash of soy sauce and voila – Chinese egg-fried noodles in under 90 seconds. If I have more time I may add some onions, left-over chicken or prawns or any thing else that is lurking in the fridge. Beat that sister. Kiddy tea in 90 seconds flat Serves: 2 children Start to finish: 90 seconds Amoy straight to wok noodles Garlic-infused olive oil An egg Handful tinned sweetcorn Soy sauce Fry the noodles in the oil, add other ingredients. Ready in 90 seconds. If you like that you might also like… Slack mummy soup – at least 3 of their five portions of veg in an easy 5 minute soup Lifesaving macaroni – cooked in 3 minutes Pitta...

Lifesaver 3 – slack mummy soup

This is something I give my children when I’m worried their legs will turn into rickety breadsticks and their blood has turned into houmous due to all the, ahem, “mezze” style teas I’ve been giving them. It’s just as quick to make, and easier to pull together. The trick is to always have some of this winter vegetable mix in the freezer. It’s a kilo of chopped carrots, swede, onions, turnips and leeks, all for the bargain price of £1.49. Sainsburys do something very similar, as I’m sure do Tescos et al. [Postscript: I’ve since tried it with both Tesco and Sainsburys veg and it really is not as nice. The Ocado/Waitrose one has better quality and more interesting veg]. It might not sound very preposessing, but add cream cheese or some other requisite dairy and you get a delicious cheesey creamy mush, which kids love. And with that amount of root vegetables, how can it not be healthy? Slack mummy soup As much winter vegetable mix as you think your children need, (it’s probably worth removing excess onion) A dollop of cream cheese/creme fraiche/natural yoghurt, whatever you have in the fridge. Put vegetables in boiling water – or stock, I use marigold bouillon, and cook for 4-5 minutes. When done strain leaving a couple of table spoons of water in with the veg. Add as much of the dairy bit as you think your child wants/needs and puree. You get a tasty soup which is quite thick so it’s easy for your child to eat. Garnish with what you have in the fridge, a few chives, a bit...

Mackerel pate

Good for: healthy lunch for you and the kids. I love mackerel; delicious, cheap, healthy and sustainable (yes, you see, I care). It requires the bare minimum of cooking and with it’s strong flavour, it doesn’t need many other ingredients. What’s not to like? This pate is made with smoked mackerel which normally has quite a good shelf life, and is generally easier to get hold of than the fresh stuff. We have it for lunch and it’s great for picnics – quicker than rounds of sarnies and easier to transport. The recipe has been taken, pretty much word for word, from Fay Ripley’s Family Food book, which I, like my sister, am a big fan of. She suggests removing half the mackerel’s skin, and keeping the other half on so you get a dose of the healthy oily stuff, which sounds like a good idea to me. Makerel pate Start to finish: a minute Serves 2-3 adults 200g smoked mackerel 2 tablespoons cottage cheese 1 tablespoon creme fraiche juice of one lemon pepper Put it all in the food processor and bob’s your...

Lifesaver

This stuff has saved my life on more than one occasion. Pasta in three minutes. Many a time I’ve wondered why the kids are going mental, looked at the clock and realised it’s quarter past teatime and their dinner is not even a formulated thought in my head, let alone on the table. At times like that I whip out Mr Buitoni’s finest pasta, some butter, grate some cheddar cheese and voila, dinner is ready in under five minutes. OK, so it’s not the most nutritionally sound meal they’ve ever had, but you don’t hear them...

Something for the weekend – Thai prawn and pineapple curry

Good for: an alternative to the usual Friday night take away. Friday night is curry night in our house. We normally get a take away because we are too tired to cook and just want to kickback with a glass of wine. But sometimes, if I hanker after something homemade, this Thai prawn and pineapple curry is just the ticket. It can be rustled up in five minutes from stuff you have in the freezer or larder, is absolutely delicious and costs a lot less than the full Monty from your local Bengal Brasserie. This recipe comes from an unassuming Marks and Spencer Thai cookbook I bought years ago. It only cost a fiver but it has a couple of great – and fast – recipes. Anyway here goes… Thai prawn and pineapple curry Start to finish: 5 minutes (add 5 minutes if served with proper rice) Serves: 4 Large can of coconut cream Small tin of chopped pineapple (or fresh if you’re feeling fancy) 2 tbspns red Thai curry paste (My favourite is by Thai Taste. It feels homemade and comes in a large pot, but I freeze the leftovers in individual portions) 2 tbspns fish sauce 2 tspns sugar 350g frozen tiger prawns – defrosted 2 tbsp chopped coriander 2 spring onions to garnish rice Put the coconut cream, pineapple, curry paste, fish sauce and sugar in a pan. Heat over a medium heat until almost boiling. Add prawns and coriander and simmer gently for three minutes or until the prawns are cooked. Sprinkle with shredded spring onions and serve with rice. That’s it. Honest. The picture below...

Two for the price of one

Good for: their tea, your lunch, dinner. You name it, they’re good for it. I am a big fan of the culinary shortcut and this is one of my favourites. Waitrose do these lovely organic beef mini meatballs. Actually I think they come in pork too, but I’ve never tried those. I normally get two meals out of each pack (meatballs with tomato sauce for the whole family and mini burgers for a kiddy lunch) and as they only cost £2.99 that’s not bad. Meatballs Start to finish: 5 minutes to prepare, 30 minutes to cook Serves: 4 adults or lots more small children 16 mini meatballs 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion 2 cloves garlic 1 carrot 1 celery stick a slug of red wine (or apple juice if just for kids) 1 bottle passata 2 bay leaves 100ml milk Don’t be put off by the longish recipe list, this is super-fast. So first, the meatballs. I start off by making a simple tomato sauce. Melt the olive oil in a large pan and put in the finely chopped onion, garlic, carrot and celery (rather than chop it by hand I blitz all four in a food processor). Fry slowly until soft and then add the wine or apple juice and bottle of passata. Add the bay and season with salt (if you’re using – I always do) and pepper. Cook until it is thick and tastes sweet. Then add the milk – this makes it ever so slightly creamier. Plop the meatballs in one by one and cook for 20 minutes until they are done. This freezes...

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