After 4 years of university when (fairly infrequent) classes and lectures were no more than 5 minutes away by bike, followed by a long summer break free of any commitments, you could say I’m used to having plenty of time for cooking and being able to do so when I want.
Now, however, things are a little different. I still do work a lot from home, but I have to travel to get to my classes and sometimes spend all day on campus and then have to face bus queues and the ride home. I certainly have a new found appreciation of what the real world is like! After a long day of work and arriving home hungry, the last thing I want to do is think about putting together an elaborate meal.
If, even I, the self-proclaimed cooking lover, feels like this, then what must the majority of the world’s population working 9-5 jobs feel like?!
Ruling out the easy option of packaged ready meals from the outset, which are typically unhealthy, expensive and, most importantly to me, just don’t taste good (!), I’ve been trying to come up with some quick meals which don’t require much effort, ideal for the aforementioned evenings.
This Thai Tempeh & Vegetable Red Curry ticked all the boxes- easy, speedy and nourishing! In fact, if it weren’t for the rice I served with it, this could be on the table in 15 minutes.
I even made sure there was minimal chopping involved!
Feel free to use whatever vegetables on hand- bell peppers, courgettes and aubergine would also be nice. Of course you’ve got more chopping involved with those choices though…
- 1 Tbsp Coconut oil (divided)
- 1/2 8oz Pkg Tempeh, cut into triangles or cubes (I used a variety with sea vegetables, hence the black bits…)
- 1 1/2-2 Tbsp Red curry paste (check the label for shellfish!)
- 3/4 C/1/2 Can Coconut milk
- 1/2 Tbsp Tamari
- 1/2 Tbsp Coconut sugar
- 1 Tbsp Lime juice
- 100g/3.5oz/1 1/2 C Halved mushrooms
- 100g/3.5oz Sugar snap peas
- 100g/3.5oz Baby corn, halved lengthwise
- Handful of Thai basil (you could also use fresh coriander but Thai basil is really really good!)
- If you’re cooking rice, make sure to get that going before you do anything else.
- Sauté the tempeh in 1/2 Tbsp Coconut oil over medium-high heat, flipping to get it brown on all sides.
- Heat the remaining 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil in a pot over medium heat and add the red curry paste. Stir for a minute just to toast the spices and bring the flavours out.
- Stir through the coconut milk, tamari, coconut sugar and lime.
- Add vegetables, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes, just until vegetables are tender. Stir through the Thai basil leaves and the tempeh and simmer for another minute just to warm through the tempeh.
- Serve with brown rice, rice noodles or another grain.
Preparation tends to be a big help in getting meals on the table speedily. Here are a few of my top tips:
-Cook a big batch of grains and beans at the weekend to use throughout the week.
-Make a dressing, and/or sauce, and a dip. Again, these will last you all week and mean you can jazz up a side salad to go with your meal or a simple bowl of grains, veggies and beans. If I’m starving when I get in I also like to munch on some carrot sticks and hummus (or other homemade dip) while I prep dinner.
-Have a well-stocked pantry. Although my preference is for cooking beans from scratch, sometimes I forget to soak them and it’s useful to have a few cans on hand. Along with dried beans, lentils, grains, pasta and noodles, dried fruit and nuts, other ingredients I stock are canned tomatoes, coconut milk and silken tofu (for noodle soups, sauces and desserts).
-Don’t forget the spices. Having a wide range of spices might seem unnecessary but it’s the way to go to add a lot of flavour to your dishes, without long simmering or roasting.
-Wash and chop your vegetables in advance. Supermarkets these days are doing a roaring trade in prepared vegetables, unsurprisingly as this is another time-zapper. These are always more expensive than the whole vegetables though and if you dedicate half an hour of time to chopping up vegetables in advance you’ll be amazed at how much quicker your meals come together. Most vegetables can be chopped in advance and stored in a covered container in the fridge. For vegetables I won’t be cooking and which I want to stay crunchy, I cover them in cold water and store them like that.
-Use your freezer. For when I really don’t want to cook I make use of my own freezer meals! Sometimes I cook enough for a few meals, and even if I don’t want to eat the same thing 3 days in a row, I store the leftovers in the freezer. Just get out whatever it is in the morning and let it defrost ready for you to simply re-heat and eat in the evening.
And of course….
-Meal-Plan. This makes life SO much easier. Knowing what you want to eat the week ahead means you’ll have all the ingredients you need on hand and not be left with a growling tummy staring blankly into an empty fridge come dinner time! Set aside an hour a week to go through those recipes you’ve saved online and/or your cookbooks, and pick a few you want to try that week. Write them down along with a list of anything you need to buy.
That’s all I can think of right now but please do share your own tips in the comments.
Do you have any super speedy, healthy meals to share?