I’m going to let you in on a little secret, as long as you promise not to tell anyone. So here it is: even though I love food and creating tasty dishes, sometimes I really can’t be bothered cooking.
Yes, it’s true! I run workshops and events that encourage people to taste and cook. I think about food pretty much all the time. And write about it. And make lots of it. And love to cook.
But even with all of that, sometimes I get to the end of the day and the thought of cooking dinner seems a giant mountain to scale.
My husband does cook (phew!), so I’m very happy to hand over the kitchen reigns on occasion. The slight hitch is that we aren’t great at co-ordinating times that we’re both at home. During the week we seem to have an uncanny knack of organising night’s out on different days and I’m often working on the weekend. When we get the chance to eat together it’s a real treat.
Fortunately, I have a stash of quick healthy meals (that also taste good) which are my fallback when I’m having a ‘lazy cook’ day. They require very little prep and minimal cooking. I wanted to share these dishes with you in case you also get these days from time to time, but you still want something simple, quick and tasty to eat.
My 3 favourite quick healthy meals (aka ‘lazy cook’ meals) are:
- Roasted Vegetable Tray
- Pea & Mint Soup
- Eggs on Green Stuff
The roasted vegetables and soup have the added bonus that I can batch cook and have leftovers for future meals. These can also be made completely vegan if you prefer and all three dishes are naturally gluten free.
Play around with flavours and little spicy additions depending on the mood you’re in. One thing I would add is that I highly recommend using in-season vegetables and, even better, organic if you can. Eating vegetables in the right season means they taste better and cost less.
Lazy Cook Option 1: Roasted Vegetable Tray
This is my go-to easy dinner as you can pretty much throw in whatever vegetables you have in your fridge or cupboard. It’s also a great way to use up any slightly droopy or not quite fresh vegetables. Most veg stands up to roasting: carrots, onions, beetroot, sweet potatoes, aubergines celery, tomatoes, fennel, butternut squash, celeriac… The list is pretty endless.
Roughly chop up whatever you’re using into roughly bite-sized pieces so they cook fairly quickly. I don’t even peel things. Got carrots and potatoes with skins on? Just chop them up and chuck them in a big roasting dish. Give them a scrub to get any dirt off, and you probably don’t want the knobbly carrot ends, but there’s lots of good stuff in skins so you may as well eat rather than throw them.
Try not to overcrowd your tray too much as things won’t get quite as crispy. Add a big glug of olive oil, maybe a few chopped cloves of garlic, some salt and pepper to season and then a couple of fun flavours of your choice. Get your hands in and give the veggies a good tumble so that the oil coats everything.
Some of my flavours things to add are:
– a sprinkle of sumac
– a good shake of zaatar
– smoked paprika
– chopped fresh red chilli or chilli flakes
– fresh rosemary
– dried oregano
– seaweed flakes
– pink peppercorns
If you want to beef things up, maybe throw in half a can of chickpeas (not literally the can, just the contents) and a good handful of pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Pop in the oven heated to a temperature of 160°C (140°C fan oven) and cook for 30-45 minutes. If you have lots vegetables or potatoes the cooking time will be closer to 45 minutes for everything to cook properly. Open the oven and give the tray a shake a couple of times to make sure everything’s roasting evenly.
I like to serve my roasted veggies on a bed of rocket or spinach with a handful of chopped up goat’s cheese. They are also nice on top of some quinoa or couscous if you want some carbs. Or if that’s too much cooking, a slice of toast will do. I cook up lots of vegetables so I can use them over the next day or two in salads or to mix with stir-fried kale.
Lazy Cook Option 2: Frozen Pea & Mint Soup
Soup is another great option for slightly sad vegetables and there are again many possibilities for interesting combinations. However, if I’m going for a super (soup-er?) lazy option, it’s got to be pea and mint soup. This takes about 15 – 20 minutes from beginning to end and you don’t really need to keep to close an eye on things as you’re cooking.
I always have a bag of peas in my freezer as peas and tend to add a handful here and there to a range of savoury dishes. But they really come into their own when I can’t face a long cook.
My speedy pea soup consists of:
– 1 roughly chopped onion (you don’t need to be too precise as it’s going to get blitzed)
– A generous mound of peas (I never measure these, but it’s probably 2-3 cup’s worth)
– Fresh chopped mint or a big scoop of mint sauce
– Vegetable stock cube (or liquid if that’s what you have – but I very rarely do!)
– Pepper for seasoning (you shouldn’t need salt if you’re using stock cube)
If you have any other droopy green leaves hanging around the fridge, feel free to drop them in too.
Fry the onion in a little olive oil or butter for 5 minutes in a medium saucepan, pour in the peas and cover with boiling water so that the water is a few centimetres above the peas. Crumble in the stock cube and stir so that it dissolves. Bring everything to a simmer, and add the mint or mint sauce and pepper. Leave for about 10 minutes and then either put in a blender to blitz up or use a stick blender in the saucepan.
If you want to jazz things up, you could add a little Dijon mustard, some chilli flakes or a squeeze of lemon when you add the mint, but this is one dish I tend to keep fairly simple as I love the taste of peas. That said, a little splash of fish sauce is a nice addition. I’ve also made this without the onion a few times as I didn’t have any in the cupboard and it was still tasty.
You could serve it with a scoop of Greek yoghurt or a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. Or not! It’s up to you. This is another dish that you can make a bigger batch. Let it cool and then put in the fridge or freezer for future meals.
Lazy Cook Option 3: Eggs on Green Stuff
Ah, eggs! Eggs are often my saviour when I’ve been busy working away and then realised that I should probably eat some lunch. Or dinner.
I always use free-range organic eggs. It really is worth paying the extra; not just for the taste, but for the difference in lifestyle for the lovely hens who have gone to the trouble of laying these for us to eat.
You can either quickly fry an egg or maybe beat a couple of eggs with a little milk for a scramble (non-dairy milk also works here). I normally cook eggs in olive oil or a little butter – or sometimes when I’m pushing the boat out, a little ghee. Either way, eggs will take 2-5 minutes to cook at the most. If you’re making scrambled eggs do keep an eye on them as they’ll go from perfectly sloppy to bone dry very quickly (also keep the heat on the hob down).
Serve your eggs on a mound of spinach, lightly stir-fried kale or cavolo nero, strips or spirals of courgette or maybe even rocket. I like to mix a few seeds through and, if I have one to hand, will slice up a quarter of an avocado to go with my eggs. You could also add a handful of cherry tomato segments or strips of red pepper to your greens when they’re in season.
Toasted cumin seeds are a nice flavour addition, as are chilli flakes, seaweed flakes or some ground turmeric mixed into scrambled eggs. If you want to make the dish more substantial, serve a slice of toasted buttery rye bread or good quality gluten free bread (I like Biona Millet or Rice & Sunflower) alongside.
You can again have this dish in front of you and ready to eat in about 15 minutes. If you’re making the dish for more than one person you can also easily double portions. So go and get your eggs on!
These are my favourite ‘lazy cook’ meals:
what do you turn to when you want quick healthy meals that also taste good?