One of the most frequent requests I get is for quick, easy recipes for emergency situations; for those times when you are given short notice of unexpected guests. Like when you are suddenly confronted by four or five hungry teenagers instead of just one. Or how about when you’re camping or boating and limited as to available ingredients, utensils and equipment? And what about those busy times when you just need to get something tasty on the table in no time at all!
The following recipes, I hope, will cover all of those situations. Most require ordinary, everyday ingredients, which you are likely to have on hand or can be picked up at the local supermarket. Very little in the way of equipment is needed in their preparation. I have indicated use of a food processor for several, but this is really to speed up the preparation process and all, except for the sorbet, can easily be made by hand.
One thing you need to remember is that when your dish contains only a few ingredients, they will have a big impact on the resulting flavor – so use good quality brands whenever possible.
Tomato Stacks with a Black Olive Salsa
An easy and pretty entrée – you can also use baby tomatoes with a single slice – and serve as nibbles with the salsa alongside.
4 medium-large ripe tomatoes
12 slices of mozzarella*
½ bunch fresh basil
1 cup pitted kalamati olives, roughly chopped 2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp basil leaves, roughly chopped
150ml extra virgin olive oil
50ml balsamic vinegar
zest of 1 lemon
½ chilli, finely chopped (optional)
If necessary, cut a fine slice off the bottom of the tomatoes so they sit flat. Make three even cuts across each tomato, but do not cut completely through. Place each tomato on a serving plate and insert the mozzarella slices and a basil leaf into each cut. Place all the salsa ingredients in a bowl or jar and mix well. Pour over the tomato stacks and garnish with basil leaves. Serves 4.
*Any semi-hard cheese or even a good quality fetta can be substituted for the mozzarella.
Pasta with Tuna
This is one of those dead-easy recipes, which can be quickly made with ingredients commonly found in the pantry. Very suitable for those hungry teenagers…
500gm dried pasta – any shape
6 anchovy fillets
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
200gm good quality tuna in olive oil
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1tbs lemon juice
2tbs capers, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
flat-leafed parsley to garnish (optional)
Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic and anchovy fillets. Cook gently, stirring until the anchovies melt into the oil and the garlic is just beginning to color. Drain the tuna and place it into a bowl. Add the garlic/anchovy oil and the remaining ingredients, except the pasta. Stir to mix. Season to taste. Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water until al dente. Drain, retaining a cup of the cooking water, and put into a large pasta bowl. Add the tuna mix and toss to combine. Moisten with the retained cooking water, if necessary. Garnish with parsley sprigs. Serves 4.
Chicken Breast with Port, Mushrooms and Cream
A recipe to entertain in a hurry – impressive, tasty and requires only everyday ingredients.
4 chicken breasts
1tbs olive oil
500gm button mushrooms
¼ cup of water
250ml light cream
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Flatten the chicken breasts gently with a rolling pin to even-out the thickness, brush with the tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake on a tray at 175ºC for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Alternatively, sauté the breast in the oil in a moderately hot pan for about 5 minutes each side or until cooked through. Start the sauce while the chicken is cooking. Place the mushrooms in a saucepan, along with the water and butter, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Drain, preserving the cooking liquid, and put the mushrooms into a mixing bowl. Mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of the cream and mix the remaining cream into the mushrooms. Add the cornflour mix and stir through. Cook the onion in the remaining olive oil for a minute or so.
Add the port and preserved mushroom cooking liquid and boil down rapidly for a few minutes until thickened slightly. Add the mushrooms and cream and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste. Place the chicken breasts in a warmed serving dish, pour over the mushroom mixture and return to the turned-off oven to steep for 5 minutes. Serve with a simple green salad and some good, crusty bread or throw in some slim-cut potato wedges to cook with the chicken. Serves 4.
Stir Fried Noodles with Prawns
This is very loosely based on a Singaporean dish – char kway teow – which traditionally includes prawns, fish, squid and Chinese sausage or char sui. I have simplified the recipe somewhat, but feel free to use any combination of seafood or meat. Who needs takeaway when you can whip up something this good at home!
4tbs peanut oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250gm raw prawn meat
250gm fish fillets, sliced into 2cm strips
2tbs sweet chilli sauce
500gm flat wide rice noodles*
1 bunch baby bok choy, sliced into thin strips
1 cup bean sprouts
1tbs soy sauce
1tbs oyster sauce
½ tsp sugar
1 red chilli, finely sliced
Coriander sprigs to garnish
Place the noodles in a large bowl of very hot water for a few minutes. Drain and separate. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat and add the garlic. Stir fry for one minute then add the sea food and fish. Cook stirring for 3-4 minutes. Add the noodles, bok choy and chilli sauce and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add the bean sprouts, chilli and soy and oyster sauces and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately. Serves 4.
*You can substitute any noodles – dried or fresh – prepared according to the packet’s instructions.
Individual Jaffa Cheesecakes
These little no-bake cheesecakes are quickly firmed-up in the freezer.
6-8 chocolate ripple biscuits
30gm softened butter
Zest and juice of 1 orange
250gm softened cream cheese
¼ cup thick cream
100gm chocolate to garnish (optional)
Line 6 muffin holes with paper patty cases. Put the biscuits into a food processor and pulse to form coarse crumbs. Add the butter and process briefly to mix. Divide the crumbs equally among the paper cases and push down with the base of a suitably-sized glass. Place in the freezer while you proceed with the recipe.
Wash out the food processor bowl and add the cream cheese, orange zest, juice, sugar and cream. Process until smooth. Remove the muffin tin from the freezer and divide the cheesecake mix evenly among the paper cases. Freeze for between 20-40 minutes and then place in the refrigerator or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Return to the freezer to firm-up for 20 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
Garnish: Either shave chocolate curls from the chocolate using a swivel-bladed peeler or melt the chocolate and paint onto pre-cut, nonstick baking paper wedges. Allow to set before peeling off the paper.
Super Quick Lemon Cream with Berries
This is a quick way to dress up fruit or whip up a trifle-like dessert. The smoothness of the cream balances the tartness of the lemon, while the yoghurt keeps it from being too rich.
4 cups mixed berries – blueberries, strawberries raspberries, blackberries or any combination zest of lemon
1 cup good quality lemon butter (curd)
1 cup good quality plain thick yoghurt
1 cup cream, whipped (or buy ready-whipped) Sugar to taste
Place the lemon butter, yoghurt and whipped cream in a bowl, whisk gently to mix and sweeten to taste, if necessary. Serves 4-6.
Simply pour over berries – blueberries are particularly nice, but strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, blackberries or a mixture are also very good.
Quick Lemon Cream Trifle
4-6 sponge finger biscuits
2tbs orange juice or liqueur
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 quantity lemon cream and chocolate to garnish*
Cut the sponge finger biscuits to fit the base of individual bowls or parfait-like glasses. Drizzle over the juice or liqueur, spoon over the berries and top with lemon cream.
*Garnish with chocolate as instructed in the cheese cake recipe above.
Quickest Sorbet Ever
If you keep a can of fruit in your freezer, you need never be at a loss for dessert! Although I have used lychees and limes as a very refreshing combination, you can substitute any other canned fruit in sugar syrup. For example, you could try strawberry with strawberry liqueur or blueberries with crème de cassis – the list is endless.
1 approx 500gm can lychees in sugar syrup 1tbs of lime juice or liqueur of choice
Freeze the can of lychees. When ready to serve, stand the can in a container of hot water for 30 seconds. Open and tip into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to form a sorbet.