Fast food fit for the table: three tasty recipes that are quick to prepare
These comforting dishes won’t require you to spend hours in the kitchen
Filo fish pie
Some foods just scream comfort; they’re the ones we turn to when we need the culinary equivalent of that big, warm cashmere jumper.
Fish pie is one of these cosseting classics, but the time it takes to make a traditional one means that was very rarely an option in our house, until I discovered this method.
Using hot-smoked fish, a yoghurt and milk mix instead of white sauce, and store-bought filo pastry rather than the traditional mashed potato results in something different but still essentially the same. A cardigan instead of a jumper, perhaps, but no less warm or snuggly.
I like the subtle flavour of fennel here, but if you’re not keen, you can always use other veg instead. Courgette or baby spinach leaves, or a combination of the two, will also work.
Ingredients, serves four
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves or dill, roughly chopped
130g Greek-style yoghurt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
20 large raw prawns, peeled and deveined
1 whole hot-smoked rainbow trout, or two 150g smoked trout or salmon fillets, flaked
140g frozen peas, thawed
1 small fennel bulb, very finely chopped
8 sheets filo pastry
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Lemon wedges, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Combine the milk, eggs, parsley or dill, yoghurt, mustard and paprika, if using, in a bowl and mix well.
3. In a separate large bowl, combine the prawns, trout or salmon, peas and fennel, then spoon into a two litre baking dish. Pour the milk mixture over the top.
4. Brush one side of each filo sheet all over with the melted butter and place them in a pile. Gently scrunch up the pastry and lay it on top of the pie, filling to cover it completely.
5. Bake for 25–30 minutes in the middle of the oven until the pastry is golden and crisp. Leave to cool slightly, then serve with the lemon wedges. A nice green salad would go well with this.
Sausage, mustard and basil rigatoni
Legendary English food writer Nigel Slater dreamed up this ingenious combination a good while back, and it has been delighting time-poor but flavour-loving non-Italians ever since.
When I’m stuck in a pasta rut, I’ll turn to this dish time and time again. It’s creamy and comforting but packs a serious flavour punch, thanks to the herbs and spices in the sausages and the basil leaves stirred through just before serving.
If the flavours here appeal but everything is sounding a bit too rich for your tastes, this can be made a lot lighter surprisingly easily, without sacrificing flavour. Just replace the cream with three tablespoons of low-fat cream cheese and 80ml semi-skimmed milk, and the wine with 60ml vegetable or chicken stock.
Ingredients, serves four
400g rigatoni or penne
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6–8 Italian sausages
185ml dry white wine
185ml double cream
3 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
1 large handful of basil leaves, roughly torn
Grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the rigatoni and cook according to the packet directions until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat.
3. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings into the pan and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon into roughly walnut-size pieces as you go, for five minutes or until browned all over.
4. Add the wine and simmer for five minutes, scraping all the delicious browned bits from the bottom of the pan with the spoon, until reduced by about half, then add the cream, mustard and paprika, if using, and simmer for a further two minutes, until thickened and reduced slightly.
5. Remove from the heat, add the drained pasta and basil, and stir or toss together (until everything is coated in the rich, creamy sauce. Pile into bowls and serve with grated parmesan.
Gluten-free chocolate pancakes
To make the starter meringue you’ll need an electric mixer, but you can completely bypass the whipping stage and the pancakes will still work out okay, just less fluffy.
If you don’t require a gluten-free recipe, this one works just fine with regular self-raising flour. Having tried all the milks, I’d recommend any of soy, lactose-free, regular or oat milk. All work.
Ingredients, serves four
2 eggs, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
Half tsp salt
80ml grapeseed oil
375ml dairy-free milk of your choice
300g gluten-free self-raising flour
30g good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
170g dairy-free chocolate chips
Cooking oil spray
Maple syrup, sliced banana, whipped cream (optional) and blueberries, to serve
1. Separate the eggs, putting the whites directly into the bowl of your electric mixer.
2. Using the whisk attachment, beat the whites to soft peaks at medium speed, then gradually add the sugar to make a fluffy, glossy meringue mixture. This should take about five minutes from beginning to end.
3. Add the vanilla, salt and oil, mixing at low speed until combined. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the milk, then finally sift in the flour and cocoa powder and fold in until just combined, aiming to keep the mixture as airy as possible.
4. Sprinkle the choc chips over the mix once the flour is in and give the batter only a perfunctory stir. If you don’t want to beat the egg whites first, it still works if you mix together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and oil, then add the milk, mix again, and finally sift in the flour and cocoa powder and stir gently until just combined. Sprinkle over the choc chips once the flour is in and give the batter a quick stir.
5. Pre-heat a medium to large frying pan over medium–high heat, spray it well with cooking oil spray then reduce the heat to medium. Pour in 125ml batter for each pancake. (The average frying pan will comfortably fit three pancakes. Don’t go for more, or they will be overcrowded and difficult to handle.)
6. Immediately cover the pan with a lid and set a timer for three minutes. When the time is up, remove the lid. The uncooked tops of the pancakes should be bubbled and looking ready to flip. (If not, replace the lid and give them another minute.)
7. Flip each pancake and cook for another two minutes with the lid off. Serve with fat dollops of whipped cream, blueberries, sliced banana and a drizzle of maple syrup.
The Food Fix: Real World Dinner Solutions for The Exhausted by Yumi Stynes and Simon Davis is published by Murdoch Books, price £20