Recipe: One step up from takeaway

Today is the first day of my holidays, which means that I am exhausted to the point that I spent about ten minutes wandering around the kitchen at lunchtime today dithering about how to make a salad and continually opening the drawer to look for the little frying pan I use for omelettes, and then forgetting what I was looking for as soon as the drawer opened and shutting it again.

So not a good cooking day.  But what with the insanity of trying to get things to a point at work where I could take time off and not spend the whole week feeling compelled to check my work email to make sure everything was under control, this has been a pretty bad week in the kitchen all round.  I can’t even remember what I’ve been making for dinner, but I’ve bought lunch three days running, which means takeaway is off the menu tonight.

(and here is where I should apologise if this post is full of repetition and typos – I have read through it twice, but I’m quite tired and my proof reading is apparently very bad just now)

Hence this recipe, which is something I make when I need to be marginally healthier than takeaway, but really can’t get the energy or brains together to make proper dinner.  It’s basically a combination of things from tins and the freezer section at the supermarket, with a bit of garlic, some herbs, and occasionally a capsicum thrown in to add an illusion of nutritional value to the equation.  But it’s also tasty, covers the main food groups, and even contains that low-GI classic, legumes.  (Unless you’re too tired even for that, and serve it with pasta instead)

Your Shopping list (for 2 people)

olive oil
6 cloves of garlic (it’s a vegetable, deal with it)
dried oregano
salt, pepper
1 capsicum, chopped (optional)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tins of cannelini beans, drained
dried rosemary
zest and juice of one lemon
extra virgin olive oil
2 single-person serves of your frozen protein of choice.  We like the giant chicken nugget things (Duets) stuffed with broccoli and cheese, but cutlets or cordon bleu or chicken kievs would work well, too.  I wouldn’t do this with frozen fish, but turkey, veal or beef would work, as would a good veggie loaf or similar – though not anything too beany or you might spontaneously transform into a giant legume after eating it, which would be bad.  Actually, I suppose you could go with something beany and have pasta instead of cannelini bean mash, but it’s a wonderful mash, so I don’t think you should forgo it.

Now what will you do with it?

Bake your chicken duets, or whatever, according to the package instructions.

While they are baking, put a little olive oil in the bottom of two small saucepans, crush your garlic and divide it between them.  Switch on the heat under one saucepan, add the oregano, and cook for a minute, until you can smell the garlic.  Add the chopped capsicum, if using, and stir for a minute longer, before adding the tinned tomatoes.  Season, bring to the boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until everything else is ready.  You can pretty this up with fresh basil at the end, or with chopped cherry tomatoes at the beginning, and if you want to add a little brown sugar or tomato paste to mellow it, I won’t stop you.  But this is the brainless version.

You can now wander around the kitchen aimlessly, or sit on the floor reading, or just stare vacantly at the cat for a while, while everything cooks.  But it’s not a bad idea to zest and juice the lemon before you zone out completely.  You can then put the zest and the rosemary into the other pot with the garlic and oil, and then you won’t have to think at all when it comes to doing the mash at the end.

When your random frozen protein of choice has about five minutes left on the clock, heat the garlic in the other saucepan with the rosemary and lemon zest, and stir it around a bit until you can smell it, then add the beans.  Stir around to coat in the oil and flavours, and so that the beans get heated through.  Add the juice of half a lemon, a little olive oil, and seasonings, and mash.

Serve, with the turkey (or whatever) on top of the mash, and the tomato over the whole lot.


Obviously, this works with a very wide range of frozen thingies, and is basically as vegetarian or dairy-free or egg-free as you choose to make it.  It’s also gluten-free, provided you don’t use something that is covered in breadcrumbs for your protein and fairly low-GI, thanks to the bean mash (again, assuming you don’t pick something outrageously fatty for your protein).

You can also just serve the sauce with ravioli (I’d start with a chopped red onion as well in that case, and another capsicum, to add body, or something).  If you can’t face messing about with mashing beans (though I promise you, this bean mash takes five minutes and is the best thing ever if you like mash and don’t want to wait for potatoes to cook or aren’t supposed to eat potatoes – you can serve it with any Mediterranean main course, from steak to vegetable kebabs, and it’s very good for you, too, which is a bonus), serve the whole lot with pasta.  You can also conscript your husband, flatmate or partner to make the pasta and, ideally, do the shopping.  And maybe also the cooking.

Or you can count up how many times you’ve cooked recently and decide you’re allowed to have takeaway after all.  I won’t tell.

If it’s really been that sort of day, buy a ready made apple pie or strudel or crumble at the same time.  Yes, it’s full of sugar and fat, but at least you get a serving of fruit out of it… and on days like this, the sugar might be just what you need…

I’m going to sleep now.

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