10th July 2018

The recipes that make you feel like a culinary genius (when you are really tired and uninspired)

We all know the drill. Somehow, it’s time to cook a-freaking-gain. Day after day of turning out amazing dishes (only to have 50 per cent of each one chucked on the floor if you have a toddler) has left you feeling more drained than a can of tuna. All you want – and is this so unreasonable – is for Nigella, Jamie and Mary B to appear in a magical puff of self-raising and whip you up a soul-saving supper.

When you’re staggering in after completing the playground-work-daycare-home duathlon or nursing a sore brain after a day with squawking dribble monster, here are a few easy ideas for minimum effort home-cooked tucker guaranteed to hit the spot.

Cous cous salad

It doesn’t get much easier than rehydrating cous cous – just pop it in a bowl, pour on boiling water or stock and cover for six minutes or so. If you get the measurements spot on, you won’t even have to bother draining it (high fives all round). Dress with olive oil, season and toss in things from jars and tins (we’re thinking olives and sweetcorn rather than jam and custard), raid the salad drawer – cucumber and tomatoes are good – and add some protein: chicken, chick peas, feta… if you’ve got a citrus fruit to squeeze in and some fresh herbs to chop, even better.

Home-made cheese sauce

Anyone can make cheese sauce using Delia Smith’s roux for idiots recipe (disclaimer: Delia does not call it ‘roux for idiots’ and please don’t tell her that I did because she might get cross). Lob 400ml cold milk, 40g of butter and 20g of plain flour into a pan. Turn the hob on to mediumish. Stir – preferably with a whisk but an old weaning spoon will probably do the trick – until it turns into white sauce.

Chuck in a handful of grated cheese and season; freshly grated nutmeg is tasty. Add to pasta, fish or steamed veggies and your family will think you are a legit domestic goddess. Kids love it. Boom.

Thai curry

Take a few hearty teaspoons of Thai curry paste (red or green depending on how spicy you are) and one can of coconut milk. Chuck it into a big pan, small pan, or that hairy wok at the back of the cupboard, along with pretty much anything in the fridge that isn’t mouldy. Simmer til the things from the fridge are rendered edible, adding water if needed.

While you’re doing that, cook up some carbs (noodles, rice, toast, whatevs). Most of the Thai curry paste brands are vegan (check the label) so this is a fabulous, delicious, versatile dinner option for anyone who likes Thai vibes and Fridge Things – that’s everyone, right?

Posh cheese on toast

Tired? In need of comfort food? It’s time to resurrect that old student gastronomic fave and Pimp My Toast (I wish this was a real programme presented by Tim Westwood but sadly, I made it up).

The possibilities are endless: spread a thick layer of cream cheese under the cheddar (or ooh, a bit of Boursin, nice), pop a poached egg on top or grate the cheese and mix in some sundried tomatoes and herbs before grilling. Keep returning to the grill for more in a cheese-fuelled frenzy until you feel completely sick.

All day breakfast

Take one big frying pan. Chuck in eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, sausages, bacon, tofu, whatever floats your breakfast boat. Nuke some baked beans and serve with doorsteps of buttered bread and pints of tea.

Once a naughty and necessary indulgence after a big night, all day breakfast is also helpful after ‘big night’ that involved getting 20 minutes sleep in on the floor of a screaming baby’s bedroom. It’s especially good eaten with greedy, finger-licking abandon and lashings of sauce at 7pm.

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