Those of us with busy lives know that a little preparation goes a long way. Planning meals, creating batches of favourite recipes for the week’s lunches and having healthy snacks on hand can all contribute to a balanced lifestyle, reducing stress and ensuring you nourish yourself with good food every day. Sometimes, however, the best laid plans can go astray, and these suggestions for pulling together a nutritious meal in minutes can help keep things simple.
Pack in the protein
The humble egg is the basis for a myriad quick-cook recipes and snacks. Scrambled, poached or baked, they are a source of protein and can be a delicious and filling basis for speedy supper. Best of all, you need only storecupboard staples to bring them to life: whether it’s a simple omelette or frittata packed with finely diced fresh vegetables, poached eggs on avocado toast, hard boiled eggs sliced into salads or quarters to noodle broth, there’s usually no need to buy any extra ingredients.
Here’s one very fast and filling recipe, based on Middle Eastern ‘shakshuka’. This simple feast is based on just two eggs and tomatoes – so it includes at least one of your recommended daily servings of vegetables.
- Add a can of tinned tomatoes to a frying pan over a medium heat. Allow to reduce slightly, then add any vegetables – sliced peppers and onions work particularly well. Reduce further until it’s a rich sauce.
- Season to taste; spices that work well here are chilli and smoked paprika for a more warming meal or oregano and thyme for a Mediterranean-inspired version.
- Form two wells in the sauce and carefully crack one egg into each. Continue to cook until the egg white has set – leaving the yolks still soft and dippable.
- Gently scoop onto a plate, add fresh black pepper and serve immediately with flatbread for dipping.
Go for grains
While pasta can be perfect for fast family feasts, it’s nice to make a change. Some grains, like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, need a little bit of time to prepare, but are easily left to simmer while you get on with other things. The simplest and fastest of all is cous cous.
- Prepare by placing in a heat-proof bowl and covering with boiling water - or preferably stock, for extra flavour. Cover and let stand for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, quickly stir-fry some sliced, seasoned fresh vegetables in a little oil. Keep it crunchy and lightly cooked, and add your favourite spices and flavourings here.
- When the cous cous has absorbed the liquid, fluff with a fork, transfer into your serving bowl(s) and spoon on the vegetables. Add your chosen protein: simply fried tofu, grilled halloumi slices or shredded leftover roast chicken all work well.
- Top with a spoonful of plain yogurt and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds for a fresh mixture of sweet and savoury.
Particularly on sunnier days, there’s nothing like a fresh salad. Here we suggest some delicious flavour combinations that will make even the lightest lunch a moment to savour. Keep any dressing separate until the last moment so the vegetables stay crunchy and fresh.
- Endive, fresh fig and gorgonzola
- Fennel, rocket and almonds
- Lettuce wedges, asparagus and hard boiled eggs
- Avocado, tomato and mozzarella