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*Note that this is in no way a promotion of any particular brand (though I do really love the local Pialligo bacon!), just a picture of the types of products I keep around that can be used to make quick meals

The ‘quick’ category on this site has 31 recipes, many of which are dinners.  So it won’t surprise you to know that quickly getting a meal on the table, especially on weeknights, is something I spend a bit of time thinking about – and any internet search will tell you I’m not the only one!

Having said that, these things are always relative, and many of these recipes, while ‘quicker’ than others on the site, are not always going to make the grade if you’re currently eyeing off the drive-through!

For me, quicker than takeaway means more than just time actually standing at the stove, it means a meal that:

  1. has minimal preparation time
  2. doesn’t need a lot of ingredients
  3. can be made with mostly pantry and common fridge ingredients
  4. can be ready to eat less than 30 minutes after you drag yourself through the door

While I make them quite often, so called ‘quick’ stir fry and salad recipes are one of my real bugbears, as while the cooking time is usually only a couple of minutes, or even non-existent in the case of salads, the preparation time can be huge, as can the list of (usually fresh) ingredients.  If pizza is calling my name, then washing and shredding six different vegetables is not going to be on my list of priorities!

I’ll add to this list, but at the moment these are my top seven super quick dinners (if you have a few more minutes, or the chance to do a bit of shopping, then check some of the other recipes tagged ‘quick’):

The noodles and burger I’ve posted previously, and while they are quick recipes, to get the ‘faster than takeaway’ seal, you could buy pre-chopped (bagged) greens for the noodles to avoid extra washing and chopping, and briefly marinate the tofu just while prepping other ingredients for the burgers. For the rice bowls, you could buy already shredded veg and fried tofu cubes, and/or already cooked cha siu or smoked salmon, and top with hoisin rather than make the teriyaki.

You will notice some themes through these ideas…tinned tomatoes are essential, as are tinned beans; and pasta, shelf-stable noodles and tortillas are all very useful.   Here’s a full list of my key ingredients to keep on hand for ‘faster than takeaway dinners’:

  • tinned tomatoes
  • tinned beans
  • artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes/capsicum etc
  • olives
  • pasta
  • various shelf-stable noodles
  • tortillas
  • stock powder
  • dried herbs
  • soy sauce
  • sweet chilli sauce
  • vacuum sealed bacon/proscuitto etc
  • onions
  • various cheeses
  • firm tofu
  • eggs
  • frozen vegetables

Other quick ideas based on these ingredients could be black bean and goats cheese quesadillas, pasta with artichoke and sun-dried tomato, sweet chilli tofu with noodles, or spaghetti carbonara.

Italian chickpea and tomato soup

Ingredients – olive oil, 4 spring onions, 1 clove garlic, 400g tin of crushed or diced tomatoes, 400g tin chickpeas, 1 tsp stock powder (preferably beef), a large sprig of rosemary

Method – Sauté thinly sliced spring onions, finely chopped rosemary, and crushed garlic in olive oil in a medium saucepan for a couple of minutes.  Add tomatoes, drained chickpeas, stock powder, and 2 cups water and simmer for 10-20 minutes (depending how much time you have).  Serve with crusty bread or garlic bread.

Baked bean soup

Ingredients – 100g bacon (optional), 1 small onion, 400g tin baked beans (yes, actual baked beans), 400g tin of crushed or diced tomatoes, parsley (optional).

Method – Chop the bacon and onion, and sauté the bacon in a medium saucepan for a couple of minutes – you shouldn’t need oil.  Add the onion, and cook for another couple of minutes, then add the baked beans and tomatoes plus a tin of water.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then season with pepper and possibly salt, depending on the salt content of the beans and tomatoes and if you use bacon.  Add a handful of leftover cooked pasta if you have it. Top with chopped parsley and serve with bread or toast – grilled cheese is especially nice with this as you’d imagine!

Spaghetti puttanesca

Ingredients – olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 8 anchovies, large handful of olives (say 12), 400g tin of crushed or diced tomatoes, basil and/or parsley if you have them, 300-500g spaghetti depending how many you’re feeding.

Method – Saute crushed garlic and anchovies in oil over low heat for a few minutes.  Add sliced olives (you can use either black or green), tomatoes and chopped herbs.  Simmer for 10 minutes (longer if you have time) while boiling the pasta.  Toss sauce through the pasta to serve.

Quesadillas with prosciutto and sweet chilli

This is a ridiculously multi-continent fusion dish adapted from a recipe in ’The Best’ cookbook, but delicious nonetheless!

Ingredients: Per quesadilla – 2 tortillas, 2 slices prosciutto, few slices hard cheese (Jarlsberg, Cheddar etc) or a handful of shredded, sweet chilli sauce, small handful basil leaves.

Method: Put one tortilla in a heavy pan over medium heat.  Sprinkle with cheese, prosciutto, a drizzle of sweet chilli and a few basil leaves.  Top with the other tortilla and cook until golden brown in patches, then flip carefully and cook the other side.  Reduce the heat a bit if the cheese isn’t melted before the tortilla browns.  You’ll probably want a couple of these per person 🙂

So, I’m always keen on new ideas, what are your ‘faster than takeaway’ dishes?