To be honest, I’m not comfortable with restricting these meals ‘for working mums’ only. I believe that in this fast-paced era we live in and with the astronomical number of after school activities, stay-at-home mums can be equally busy, and their struggles aren’t any less.
These recipes are genuinely manifested during storms of panic attacks in the kitchen, when all odds were against me; time and scarcity of ingredients. Nevertheless, most of these recipes turn out to be a big success and are then added to our home staples.
I secretly cherish them more as they carry those memories of how they came to life, I mean to our table – all while appearing to be calm and in control masking my inner turmoil. Another hidden reason for my discreet admiration is, that although healthy food was not high on the agenda in those moments of fluster – was just seeking an edible wholesome dish – yet the nutritious value of these meals is significantly high.
1) Tuna with Orzo Pasta (Lesan Asfour): Serves 4
I love ‘lesan asfour’ which turns out to be Orzo Pasta – a relatively new discovery for myself. I always stock but rarely use it and it’s mostly forgotten at the back of my pantry. Until the day came for a quick pasta dish and I thought, well it’s pasta after all. The outcome is a brilliant recipe that leaves you nourished and satisfied.
1 ½ cup orzo pasta (boiled for 5 mins then strained) – 1 medium onion, finely chopped – 1 tuna can, drained – a handful of black olives, pitted – 2 tbsp tomato paste – ½ tsp dried basil – ½ tsp dried oregano – 2 garlic cloves, minced – 2 tbsp olive oil – 1 tbsp lemon juice – salt & black pepper.
1. Start by boiling the orzo pasta in salted water for 7 mins, then strain and keep aside.
2. Meanwhile, chop the onion and stir fry in oil until light golden colour, then add the garlic and tomato paste.
3. Season with salt & pepper, sprinkle with the dried herbs then stir in the tuna & olives.
4. Add 2 cups of water; bring to the boil and simmer for 3 mins then add the pasta.
5. Simmer until sauce is partially absorbed, while often stirring gently.
2) A Super Quick Stir-Fry: Serves 4
While stir fries are quick to cook, they still need a lot of prep. So, it was inevitable that my good old kitchen machine will be needed here. Again, turned out to be a great unintentional move to trick my kids into eating heaps of veggies without even noticing – another reason to be chuffed about it!
2 carrots – 1 medium onion – 2 courgettes – 250g chestnut mushrooms – 400g medium prawns, peeled and deveined – 200g rice noodles – 3 garlic cloves – 3 tbsp vegetable oil – ½ tsp ginger powder – ¼ cup soya sauce – 1 tbsp oyster sauce (optional) – salt & black pepper.
1. In the kitchen machine, blitz all the vegetables including garlic and onions; until roughly chopped.
2. Soak the noodles in a bowl of cold water for about 3-5 mins until it softens, then drain.
3. Heat the oil in a wok or a large pan, until you see smoke coming out.
4. Add all the chopped vegetables and stir fry with a splash of soya sauce until light golden colour and excess liquids dry out.
5. Add the ginger, season with salt and pepper and then stir in the drained noodles; until well mixed.
5. Add the rest of the soya sauce and the prawns, mix gently until prawns are pink and cooked. You can add more soya sauce if you like and a splash of sesame oil at the end (optional).
3) Chicken Bouchées: Serves 4 to 6
Another unconventional meal that is embarrassingly easy to make yet the joy it brings to everyone is just immeasurable!
My memories of bouchées go back to attending birthday parties in the 80s as a child. Apparently, it was trendy back then, yet they always had a special place in my heart – not just for nostalgic reasons – but because crispy puff pastry filled to the rim with creamy chicken is just heavenly.
So, when I saw them in supermarkets as already-baked shells, it was a done deal for me to revive those memories. I simply filled them with my regular creamy chicken with peas recipe (that I would usually have with white rice) and served them with a leafy salad.
500g chicken fillets, diced – 1 medium onion, grated – 200g chest-nut mushrooms (optional), sliced – 250g cream – 1 tbsp lemon juice – 2 handfuls frozen peas – 1 handful flour – 2 tbsp vegetable oil – 1 pack of ready-made Bouchée (6 pieces) – salt & black pepper.