If you work long hours, you probably have a lot on your plate.
It’s something our editors can relate to. Whether they are dealing with breaking news or meeting every deadline, they are constantly rushed off their feet. So, when they finally get home and peer into their refrigerators, the last thing they want to do is create a complicated meal that involves hours of preparation and cooking time.
We asked a few Gulf News editors and busy readers what they cooked up when they were hungry and had no time to spare. And true to form, they shared the improvisations and short cuts they use to create satisfying meals that have no frills or hassles.
Here are their quick, easy and delicious recipes, which take less than 15 minutes to make:
Four-step tomato basil pasta
Evangeline Jose, Social Media Editor, came across this recipe on a food channel’s video on Facebook. She said it looked easy and delicious, and when she tried making it, it didn’t disappoint.
She keeps returning to this dish for a few reasons: “My son and I are huge pasta fans… and I love the taste of sautéed garlic. And, the fact that it is ultra-easy and needs only five ingredients, all of which are so easy to find at any small grocery store.”
- 500g linguine pasta (or spaghetti)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2-3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 400-450g cherry tomatoes, whole
- 1 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
- Salt to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)
- Fresh parsley, chopped (for serving)
- A pinch of sugar (optional)
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick.
- While the pasta cooks, in another skillet or a heavy saucepan, heat 1/3 of the olive oil over medium-high flame. Add the chopped garlic, sauté it till the raw smell disappears, toss in the tomatoes, pinch of sugar (optional), salt, and pepper to taste, and allow to cook until the tomatoes burst, stirring occasionally. This takes about 7-8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, check if your pasta is cooked al dente, drain and transfer to a large bowl.
- Toss pasta with the burst-tomato sauce and basil, and drizzle the remaining olive oil on top.
- Serve warm, topped with freshly chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
Indian Poha or flattened rice with spices
Sonal Tiwari, Assistant Features Editor from Food, first made poha when she moved out of her parents’ home and headed to Mumbai, India, for work, a few years' ago. She follows her mother’s recipe, and it holds a certain nostalgia for her, since she grew up eating it for breakfast, especially on the weekends.
Tiwari said: “I am fond of this Indian savoury dish, because I can make it into a wholesome meal by adding different ingredients, especially on busy workdays. It cooks fast, requires very little preparation and tastes delicious. I like the fact that the flattened rice has so much scope for experimentation and how well it absorbs the different ingredients and aromas. Be it the crunchiness of peanuts and onions, the sharp tangy flavour of mustard seeds, the nutty aroma of curry leaves, with a dash of lemon juice and coriander leaves… flattened rice makes it all come together really well.”
- 1 medium bowl flattened rice
- ½ medium cup peanuts (use as much or as little as you like)
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 6 to 7 fresh curry leaves
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil (you can also use clarified butter or ghee)
- 1 to 2 green chillies (optional)
- For the garnish:
- 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
- ½ carrot
- 1 tbsp grated coconut
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Rinse the flattened rice in a colander, preferably under running water for about 15 seconds. Keep the colander aside to drain any excess water. Sprinkle water on the rinsed flattened rice to retain moisture as you begin preparing the next step – frying peanuts.
- Heat a small sized saucepan and add 4 tbsp oil to it. Once the oil is hot, on medium flame, add ½ cup peanuts and fry them until they start turning dark in colour. Keep tossing and turning the peanuts with a ladle and make sure all sides are fried evenly. You can also deep-fry them but I prefer it this way because I can repurpose the oil, without having to remove excess from the sauce pan.
- Once the peanuts start turning dark brown, collect them with a ladle and put them on a kitchen tissue/towel. Doing this will drain any excess oil. Keep it aside.
- Since the oil is already hot, lower the flame and add mustard seeds, chopped green chillies and curry leaves. As they begin to splutter, add the poha and peanuts to the saucepan and mix well.
- Now add ¼ tsp turmeric powder and salt to taste and mix the poha well for about 30 seconds on low flame. Keep mixing it and don’t let it rest, or else the poha will start sticking to the saucepan. At this point, if you think the poha is drying up, sprinkle some water again and keep mixing.
- Add a pinch of sugar and red chilli powder (for colour) and turn off the flame. Mix well and cover it with a lid.
- Time to garnish: Sprinkle coriander, grated carrot and coconut, chopped onions, pomegranate seeds and 1 tsp of lemon juice.
- Note: You can use any or all the ingredients for garnishing.
- Serve hot. Best enjoyed with homemade masala chai (spiced milk tea).
Shrimp and broccoli stir fry
Manuel Almario, Senior News Editor, found a way to whittle down his mother’s recipe to a process that takes just 15 minutes. He said: “My mum used to cook this shrimp stir fry for me back in the Philippines. It’s so yummy, and so I brought her recipe with me to Dubai. In the course of time, I experimented and added vegetables like broccoli or spinach and a little sprinkle of cornstarch to get it crunchy. I would highly recommend this recipe for busy and health-conscious people!”
- 1 kg medium shrimp
- ½ kg broccoli or spinach
- ¼ cup salted butter
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- ½ tbsp black pepper powder
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- ½ cup 7up or Sprite soda
- 1 tbsp ginger
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 spoon cornstarch
- Heat salted butter in a frying pan until it melts, then add minced garlic, onion, and ginger.
- Add shrimps to the pan and sauté on medium heat, till it turns pink (about 4 minutes).
- Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, black pepper, brown sugar and soda to the pan.
- Next, add broccoli or spinach, cook for 3 minutes, then pour cornstarch to thicken the sauce and make the vegetables crunchy.
- Sprinkle with chopped green onion. Serve and enjoy!
Living in UAE Editor Huda Tabrez said spending quality time with her toddler is her priority when she gets home from work. So, khichdi, a rice and lentils dish, is her go-to meal because of its nutritional value, speed of preparation, and simplicity.
She said: “Khichdi has both carbohydrates and proteins and is filling. Also, because the combination of rice and lentil is so simple, it also makes it a very versatile dish. In our family, we usually eat it with a green chutney, some ghee, yoghurt and pickle. This was one of the first dishes I made on my own. Even though I don’t remember exactly how old I was, could be anywhere between 9 to 11 years old, I still remember how good it felt to be able to cook something without any assistance from my mum.”
- 1 cup pink lentil/masoor dal
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- Salt to taste
- Take the rice and lentils in a bowl and wash them well. Then soak for at least five minutes, up to half an hour, depending on the time you have.
- In a pressure cooker, heat the cooking oil and then add the sliced onion. Fry until the onion just turns a light golden brown.
- Add the cumin seeds and give them a few seconds to crackle.
- Drain the soaked rice and lentils, and add it into the pressure cooker.
- Add one cup of water. The quantity of the water will determine the consistency of the khichdi. If you like your khichdi to have a more porridge-like consistency, you can add one and a half cups of water.
- Add salt to taste and give the rice and lentils a good stir.
- Cover the pressure cooker and cook on high heat for 10 minutes, or for two whistles.
- Wait for the pressure to subside, before you open it to check the khichdi.
- Serve with green salad, ghee, pickle, chutney or poppadum.
Tabitha Barda, Parenting Editor, is a pescatarian so most of the dishes she eats are vegetarian, with the occasional seafood. Her recipe for vegetarian omelette was born out of necessity. She said: “It’s often my fallback when we don’t have much in the fridge and I want to use up things that are starting to lose their lustre. As long as we still have some eggs, the other ingredients can be chopped and changed depending on what needs to be used up. It’s also a good mixture of protein and vegetables, and very delicious.”
- ½ onion, very finely diced
- ½ green bell pepper, cored and very finely diced
- ½ stick celery, very finely diced
- ½ carrot, peeled and very finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, very finely diced
- 1 red bird’s eye chilli, de-seeded and very finely diced
- 4 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 thin slices of hard cheese, such as cheddar or Gouda
- Herbs such as dill, coriander or parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil for frying
- Place onion, celery and carrot in a large, flat frying pan with a splash of olive or sunflower oil over a medium heat.
- Cook until the vegetables soften nicely, but before they start to brown.
- Note: If the mixture gets dry while cooking, I like to add brine from a jar of olives, but you could use stock or just plain water. Just use as little as you need to stop the veggies from sticking to the pan. Using oil will make this too greasy.
- When the vegetables have softened and the onion has turned translucent, add the garlic and chilli (to taste). Fry for a couple of minutes until the garlic has been lightly cooked but be sure not to let it burn.
- Distribute the vegetables evenly across the bottom of the frying pan. There should only be a very thin layer of veggies - if there are too many the egg-vegetable ratio won’t work and it will not stick together properly.
- Pour over the beaten eggs and swish around the pan so they are evenly distributed. Quickly use a flat spoon or spatula to lightly mix the egg in with the vegetables before the egg starts to harden.
- Allow the egg and vegetables to cook until the mixture starts to harden at the bottom and edges, but is still wet in places at the top (if this is taking a long time you can use a pan lid to speed it up and help the mixture cook).
- Now, add the cheeses slices to one side of the omelette. Allow the cheese to start melting, and then quickly take the pan off the heat (it will continue to cook using the residual heat in the pan). Season and add herbs according to your taste.
- Use a spatula to fold the omelette over so that the melted cheese is encased in the omelette.
- Sprinkle with herbs (plus more chilli if you want) and serve with spinach leaves and sliced avocado. Enjoy!
Semiya (vermicelli) upma
Surabhi Vasundharadevi, Social Media Reporter, enjoys this South Indian dish any time she fancies a snack. She said: “With a hot cup of tea, it’s bliss! Upma was a regular breakfast or evening snack in my parents’ home, while growing up. It always reminds me of my mum, and how she taught me to learn the nuances of cooking. Traditionally, upma is made from rava (granulated wheat), but you can also make it with semiya (vermicelli). The ingredients used to flavour the semiya give it a deliciously satisfying taste.”
- 1 cup (200g) broken semiya or whole wheat vermicelli
- 2 tbsp oil or ghee (clarified butter)
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp urad dal (split black gram)
- 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
- ½ tsp ginger, finely chopped
- 1 green chilli, chopped
- Few curry leaves
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
- ½ cup grated coconut
- 2 cups water or add as required
- ½ tsp sugar (optional)
- 1 dry red chilli (optional)
- 2 lemon wedges (for garnish)
- Salt to taste
- Place a heavy karahi (cast-iron pan, similar to a wok) on low heat. Add the semiya strands to the pan.
- On a low flame, begin to roast the semiya. Stir often when roasting and until the strands become golden. Remove the roasted semiya in a separate bowl or plate. Keep aside.
- In the same pan, add oil or ghee. I prefer ghee as it brings out an earthy flavour. Keep the flame on low or medium-low.
- Add the mustard seeds and let it begin to crackle.
- Immediately, add urad dal. Stir and fry till the urad dal starts turning light golden.
- Add cashews, then the chopped onions, ginger, green chilli, and curry leaves.
- On a low flame, sauté till the onions turn translucent. Add salt as required.
- Next, add 2 cups of water. You can add water as per the quantity of vermicelli. Stir well. On a high flame, bring the water mixture to a boil.
- Add half a cup of grated coconut to the boiling water and simmer it for one minute.
- Next, reduce the flame to low or medium-low, and add the roasted semiya. Let the semiya cook. Simmer till all the water is absorbed and the semiya has become soft and is cooked well.
- Switch off the stove. Place the semiya in a serving dish. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top, and place lemon wedges on the side. Serve hot.
Chinese-style prawn stir fry with vegetables
Jingjing Cheng, a Chinese expatriate residing in Dubai, is known among his family members for the delicious meals he cooks up in the kitchen. His wife Huie Cheng said: “He’s a better cook than me and cooks more often than I do! This dish is delicious and healthy. It’s also quick and goes well with rice and even noodles.”
- 300g prawns (shell-on, deveined and cleaned)
- 100g red capsicum, cut into strips
- 100g celery, cut into strips
- 25g ginger, diced (add more if you prefer)
- 25g garlic, diced (add more if you prefer)
- 3 tbsp oil
- ½ tsp soy sauce
- Fresh lemon juice to taste
- Add cooking oil into the pan. Once hot, add the prawns and sauté for approximately three minutes.
- Add ginger, garlic, and several drops of lemon juice. Sauté for two more minutes.
- Add celery and red capsicum. Sauté for two minutes.
- Finish by adding soy sauce and mix it well.
- Serve with rice or noodles. Enjoy!
Apple pie oatmeal
Falah Gulzar, Assistant Social Media Editor, received this recipe from a friend when she was in high school. She has been enjoying it for years and eats it as a snack in between meals or sometimes, even as a meal. “It keeps me full for hours! It’s also a great meal after a workout. It’s quick, requires minimal cooking and the ingredients are generally available in my kitchen or very easily accessible. Some of the ingredients can also be swapped with other things, so it makes it even more convenient to make.”
- 1 red apple, diced
- 1 cup instant oats
- ½ cup milk (cow’s or any plant-based substitute)
- 1 tsp honey
- A few pinches of cinnamon, depending on your taste
- 7 to 8 walnut halves (or any other nut of your liking)
- Add milk, honey and cinnamon to the oats and cook for about five minutes in a saucepan over medium heat. This can also be done in the microwave – heat for around two minutes.
- Dice the apple and place the pieces over the cooked oatmeal.
- Roughly chop the walnuts and add on top.
- More cinnamon can be sprinkled on top for a spicier flavour. Serve hot and enjoy!