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Fabulous five-ingredient midweek meals

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Five is the magic number…

Sometimes you’re lucky to have a fridge and pantry chock-full of ingredients. Sometimes you have to make do with whatever is on hand. These are recipes for those times. Not including essentials like oil, salt, pepper and butter each has only five ingredients. From pies to salads, Italian to Asian, these recipes are super simple and very tasty…

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Goats’ cheese and herb omelet

You can’t get simpler than an omelet, but if you want to liven it up, try this… For a goats’ cheese and herb version for one person, beat two eggs with a little salt and pepper and melt a knob of butter in a small frying pan on a medium heat. Add the eggs and let them set slightly before drawing the edges into the center with a fork and letting the space refill with liquid egg. When nearly set, add a couple of slices of soft goats’ cheese and some finely chopped scallions and mint or basil. Fold over and eat immediately.

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Spicy masala omelet

For a spicier twist, try this masala omelet that can be eaten straight away or made into a sandwich the next day. For the omelet itself you’ll only need green chilies, scallions and tomatoes apart from eggs, butter and seasoning. You can also add cilantro or any other herb you’ve got to hand if you wish. Make a couple of these omelets and save one for lunch the next day to eat with white bread, generous amounts of salted butter and tomato ketchup.

a close up of a piece of bread on a cutting board

Spanish tortilla

Spanish tortilla is one of the easiest ways to a quick, egg-based dinner. It’s potatoes and onion cooked in egg in its basic form, but you can add olives and chorizo for a properly Spanish flavor. Or play around with green spring veg like zucchini, peas, scallions and broad beans later in summer, depending on what you have in your fridge or freezer.

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Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a breakfast dish that also makes a fabulous evening meal. For a super-simple, five-ingredient version put some oil in a large, deep frying pan and sweat a sliced red onion until soft. Add a tin of tomatoes and a pinch of chili flakes, season well and simmer for half an hour. Make dimples in the tomato mixture and break in two eggs. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes more until the whites are set and the yolks still runny. Before serving, scatter with fresh cilantro leaves. You could also add either fresh or jarred red peppers if you have any and serve with crusty bread.

a piece of bread on a plate

Ham and cheese pie

If you have ready-made puff pastry available there are so many ways to use it in simple slices, pies and other bakes with only a handful of other ingredients. A simple cheese and ham filling with some tomato sauce or passata is a brilliant option for any meal of the day and can be eaten hot or cold.

a piece of bread on a plate

Potato and leek slice

Another excellent recipe to make with puff pastry, this quick bake combines hearty potatoes with leeks and Cheddar cheese in an extremely satisfying bite. A take on a classic cheese and onion slice, this is best eaten in generous portions and could be served with a light side salad if you’ve got some in the fridge.

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Tomato and pesto tarts

Alternatively, go open-faced and top with a classic combination of tomatoes and pesto. These tarts are a cinch to prepare, are packed with flavor and you could save some for lunch the next day too.

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Spinach and ricotta pie

Another ready-made pastry that’s worth buying is filo. To make a five-ingredient version of this recipe, based on a Greek classic spanakopita, brush a couple of sheets with olive oil and place in a pie dish. Fill with a mixture of frozen spinach (or wilted fresh leaves with as much water squeezed out as possible), crumbled feta, finely chopped scallions and dill. Season with black pepper (the feta is salty enough) then cover with another couple of sheets and brush again with olive oil. Bake until crispy and golden.

a close up of a pizza

Naan pizza

Although this recipe suggests you make your own naan bread, you could get away with using a store-bought and it will be much tastier than a ready-made pizza base too. For a basic topping, you’ll need a selection of tomatoes, mozzarella and then dried red chili flakes, nigella seeds or cilantro seeds, depending on what you have on your spice rack. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices either.

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Roasted vegetables in tomato sauce

For a cheat’s version of ratatouille, just slice an eggplant, a couple of zucchinis and beef tomatoes in rounds. Pour some passata (or stir grated garlic and seasoning through chopped tomatoes and boil down into a sauce) in a shallow casserole dish. Then lay the vegetable slices one by one and pour the remaining sauce over and roast until tender. You could then top it with mozzarella slices for the last few minutes of roasting time or sprinkle grated Parmesan and chopped herbs over the finished dish.

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Tartines

Essentially, open toasted sandwiches, tartines are perfect for a light dinner. All you need is a couple of large slices of sourdough or country-style bread per person and you can experiment with myriad toppings, depending on what’s in your fridge. Earthy mushrooms mixed with salty Parmesan and tangy garlic is definitely a winning combo. Lemon zest and thyme will freshen it up if you’ve got some, but don’t worry if you don’t.

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Stir-fry

The good news about stir-fry is that you can use pretty much anything you have at home. You’ve got to have the basics – noodles, chili and sauce – but everything else is up to you and your fridge. Chicken, beef strips or prawns work particularly well and don’t take a lot of time to cook, nuts like cashews can add a different texture, while carrots, peppers, broccoli, mange tout, pak choy and scallions are all good vegetables to use.

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Salmon en papillote

Salmon only needs a few accompanying ingredients to make it shine and one of the best ways to cook it is en papillote – wrapped in baking paper. Make individual parcels or one big one, it doesn’t matter. Just layer a salmon fillet over a portion of vegetables (anything from asparagus to thinly sliced carrots and zucchini), add a slice of lemon and a scattering of herbs. Season and drizzle over some oil. Seal the parcel and give it 20 minutes at 392°F (200°C). Serve on its own or with boiled new potatoes.

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Teriyaki salmon

For another flavorful way with salmon, give it an Asian-inspired makeover with teriyaki sauce. Make your own with our easy recipe here, or cheat with a jar of good-quality shop bought. Simply brush the salmon fillets with the sauce and bake in the oven till the salmon is ready and the sauce is sticky. You can then serve it with rice and some steamed veg like broccoli, spinach, pak choy or even avocado.

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Italian kale and cannellini soup

There’s nothing more calming for dinner than a bowl of soup. It can still be a hearty meal though, especially if you make a recipe like this Italian-inspired creation with kale and cannellini beans. For the soup itself, you’ll only need four ingredients, however, it’s definitely better when served with the poached egg and the garlic ciabatta toast.

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One-pan chicken Parmesan

A speedy recipe and a twist on an Italian classic, this can also be eaten with pasta instead of the zucchini noodles, if you’re after a more carb-rich meal. Admittedly, our recipe below does use a couple more ingredients than five, however, you could get away without using dried oregano and thyme and fresh basil if you used a flavored passata instead.

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Stuffed peppers

A great veggie dinner alternative is stuffed peppers – red and yellow are sweetest but any color will work. Halve the peppers and remove the seeds. For each pepper mix cheese, tomatoes and olives and use the mixture to stuff the halves. You could also use diced zucchini, couscous, capers or chorizo, if you want a meaty addition. Bake for half an hour in a 356°F (180°C) oven and serve with crusty bread.

a plate of food with rice and vegetables

Fried rice

Especially good if you’ve got yesterday’s leftover rice in the fridge, fried rice takes minutes to make. Just add any leftover cooked meat or maybe a few frozen prawns from the freezer. For a vegetarian version go wild with vegetables, like carrots, peppers, peas and onion. Add diced fresh chili or some chili flakes, a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce and whisk in an egg. Always make sure your rice is evenly cooked and piping hot.

a bowl of salad on a plate

Salad with leafy greens

Salad is one of those dishes that’s very forgiving and as long as you’ve got a couple of bottles of decent salad dressing and a good vinaigrette in the fridge, you can put pretty much anything in it. Start with a base of leafy greens and top with classic combos of feta, beetroot and walnuts or tuna, olives and tomatoes. Feel free to experiment with nuts and seeds, different cheeses and even fruit, like apple and oranges.

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Lentil salad

For a more substantial yet light meal, beans and pulses are the perfect base for a salad. Combine with spiced roast carrots, lightly picked radishes, fresh cucumber, marinated beetroot or finely sliced red onion. Whatever you do, dressing is key here – any vinegar and oil-based finish will help cut through the rich texture of the lentils.

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Caesar salad

Another much-loved classic that everyone will love, Caesar salad takes almost no time to put together and is perfect for warmer evenings. All you’ll need is a crunchy lettuce like romaine or gem, a soft-boiled egg, some croutons, Caesar dressing and some Parmesan shavings. If you’d like to make it into a more substantial meal, you could add pan-fried chicken slices or bacon.

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Hot tabbouleh

If you still fancy a warm meal at the end of the day, don’t shun warm salads. You could top leafy greens with some grilled or roasted veg or try this hot tabbouleh. Bulgur wheat is an underrated grain and this easy recipe really helps it shine. Paired with red pepper and scallions, it’s both satisfying and refreshing, and can be eaten on its own or with white fish.

a plate of food with broccoli

One-pan sausage roast

There’s nothing easier than a one-pan or one-pot recipe where everything cooks at the same time and you’ve got minimal washing up to do. Sausages are great for this as they can be cooked whole or you can use the sausagemeat to make meatballs, like in this recipe. Combined with juicy vine tomatoes, new potatoes and crunchy asparagus, it’s a winning dish. Use this recipe as inspiration and don’t be afraid to experiment with whatever veg you’ve got lingering at the back of the fridge.

a white plate topped with meat and vegetables

Steak with garlic butter

While steak might seem like a daunting dish to cook, it’s actually extremely easy and only takes a few minutes. There are just a few things to remember – buy decent quality cut, take it out of the refrigerator at least half an hour before cooking and season generously. This basic recipe is perfect to get started and all you need are some potato wedges on the side. You can also make a whole batch of the garlic butter as it’ll keep in the fridge for a week.

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Fritters

Another quick way to a satisfying dinner is fritters. A sort of a pancake but made with corn, these fritters can be eaten on their own, with a chutney or served as a savory base to a variety of toppings, including bacon, poached eggs or smoked salmon. You could also substitute the corn for grated zucchini, just make sure you squeeze out all the excess liquid as much as possible.

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Gnocchi

Pasta is obviously wonderful, but you shouldn’t forget gnocchi either. An incredibly versatile ingredient, store-bought gnocchi is good quality too, so you don’t always have to make your own. Simply pan fry with butter and sage, stir through pesto or bake in a basic tomato sauce with cheese and some greens.

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Carbonara

A carbonara is a classic and for good reason. Purists will know that instead of cream the texture comes only from beaten eggs that cook in the heat of freshly boiled pasta. For two people fry 75g (3/4 cup) pancetta and one crushed garlic clove and put 200g (1 cup) spaghetti on to boil. While the pasta is cooking, beat two eggs and one yolk with 50g (1/2 cup) finely grated pecorino and a generous grinding of black pepper. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and toss vigorously with the eggs until a creamy sauce has formed. Serve immediately with more pecorino.

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Spaghetti alla norma

Pasta really is the king of easy-to-pull-together dinners. One of the simplest but best ways to eat it is with a classic tomato sauce and this recipe gives it a Sicilian twist. The eggplant adds a meaty bite to the sauce while the ricotta mellows the sharpness of the tomatoes. A touch of seasoning, olive oil and oregano and you’ve got a plate full of perfect pasta.

a bowl of food

Marmite mac ‘n’ cheese

One for when there is absolutely no food at home and you need a comforting and satisfying dish. While Marmite might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s absolutely perfect in this recipe when stirred through macaroni pasta with butter and hard cheese. (In the USA Marmite’s available from bigger supermarkets and Amazon.) Best of all, you can make this recipe in a mug in a microwave. You could also jazz it up a bit with some chives or other finely chopped herbs and toasted breadcrumbs.

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Spinach orecchiette

Pesto pasta is obviously a quick-dinner go-to, but why not give an old favorite a fresh update. This quick pasta dish uses frozen spinach instead of fresh and combines it with cream, garlic and Parmesan into a satisfying sauce spooned over the pasta. The recipe uses orecchiette pasta, but you could use any shape you’ve got at home that’s good for carrying sauce.

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