The Quick and Easy Kitchen

In the not too distant future (ideally it was supposed to be yesterday but we are having some, ahem, issues with the structural engineer,) our kitchen is being ripped out. Because of the nature of the building work that needs to go on in the kitchen – we’re not just putting a lot of glass in to the external walls but taking a chimney breast out too that the current kitchen is in front of, the kitchen isn’t a simple in-out job and we will be kitchen-less for probably 6 weeks. To say I’m dreading it is an understatement.

Baked Ziti by Damn Delicious

In fact we won’t be fully kitchen-less and we are very lucky, because we are going to try and essentially rig up a lot of the appliances downstairs in the cellar. There is plumbing down there so fingers crossed we will have a sink, and the fridge, freezer and oven will all just plug in. We have a camping gas stove we can use but it won’t be ideal so I don’t want to cook much on it and we won’t have much in the way of worktop prep space at all. As a result meals will be makeshift. Of course I’m sure there will be a few takeaways and meals out locally but because I’m pregnant I don’t ideally want to be eating processed food every night, I do enough of that as it is! Given that this is all emptying the coffers, keeping costs down will be better too.

BLT bowl by The Londoner

So I need your help readers. I have already been cooking ahead to put meals in the freezer and we have portions of chilli, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and fish pie stacked up. What I now need are ideas for quick simple fresh food that I can make with the minimum of washing up (the dishwasher won’t be re-installed downstairs,) fuss or prep space. Healthy recipes would be a bonus too to balance out anything we eat out. I was thinking of things like a chicken salad with a pre-cooked supermarket chicken and I’m really hoping you guys can suggest some recipes or meals that will help me out over the next couple of months.

Any ideas?


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20 thoughts on “The Quick and Easy Kitchen

  1. Do you have a slow cooker? Invest in one if not. ( supermarket. 15 quid job works for us!) as it will change your life re cooking with a baby!Low cost healthy spring summer appropriate recipes are:
    Beans, tomato, chicken legs paprika and chorizo bunged in and served with microwave rice/crusty bread
    Whole joints of meat…eg a marinated pork joint served with bread and salad (meat is really tender and yummy when done this way, whole chickens with garlic and lemon good too!)
    Chick pea and spinach curry ( I use pataks paste and yoghurt and lots of veg and stick fresh spinach in at last minute)
    Your plans sound amazing and am really excited to hear to write more about becoming a parent!

  2. I was going to say the same thing, slow cooker! Also things like M&S Caesar salad, you just add chicken too. Jacket potatoes are quite straightforward to do. Also, if workspace is an issue you might find precut veg useful, just makes it that much easier for an ad hoc kitchen!
    Excited to see how the kitchen turns out!

  3. A third vote for the slow cooker – there are lots of recipes online if you google them.

    I’d also recommend couscous as an easy carb as it will just need a kettle, not a gas ring. You can make nice salads or serve it instead of pasta/rice for lots of dishes.

    When cooking when camping I do a lot of one-pot dishes like chicken in tomatoes with a little chilli powder and peppers, courgettes, mushrooms, or fajitas (stir fry chicken and veg in some spices and serve with wraps) or Thai curry (chicken, green curry paste and coconut milk). Have cooked all of those successfully in a field on a one ring stove so very manageable!

    Also look out for things like Tilda’s packets of microwaveable basmati rice. They’re very good!

  4. I slow cooked a load of chilli, curry, steak & kidney, liver and onions and all types of casseroles for after I’d given birth. J is 4 months now and we’ve only just finished them. (I think I batch-cooked instead of nesting!)

  5. Fourth vote for a slow cooker. Chicken breasts and cherry tomatoes with garlic and salad (it’s a Jamie Oliver recipe but I just bung it in a slow cooker) or spag Bol. I also cook in bulk and then just bag, freeze and reheat (also in the slow cooker). I know we’ll use ours a lot when the baby is here too because it’s just so fuss free.

    My other recipes are a pork and apple cider thing. I’m a bit funny about slow cooking either red wine or cider because I don’t feel that I’m burning off the alcohol like I would on a hob though. Mumsnet have a great low fuss, easy, one pot recipe collection which I have been using for YEARS.

    I have a slightly more expensive slow cooker but it also has a whip out cooker to table look which I adore (saves on the washing up!).

  6. Omelette or frittata probably the easiest quickest things you can cook. I went through a tough period with a sleep resistant baby and I found it was the carb element that added time to meal prep so I used microwave rice for a while to speed things up. Jacket potato with cheese/beans/tuna & salad is always a low effort standby. Jambalaya/paella/risotto is a good one-pot dish and doesn’t take hours. If you have a nice local butcher you could see if they do nice quiches or pies, not the healthiest I know but if you add some salad it’s a really easy meal.
    That pasta dish looks delicious by the way!

  7. I am inspired to get my slow cooker back out the cupboard after reading this! I am currently on a mission to try making lots of different types of pesto as it is just so easy and keeps well. Basically use 75g of parmesan, 75g of either of the following (or a mix of all) walnuts, pinenuts and almonds, zest and juice or a lemon, big bunch of herbs (basil but tarragon also works amazingly) a clove of garlic and about 7 tbsp of olive oil. All you need to do is cook the pasta, add the chicken and hey pesto! Sorry.

      • I was given a crock pot slow cooker for Christmas and can really recommend it. The ceramic pot lifts out and ca be used direct on the hob to brown your meat first, then it looks nice enough to go straight on the table when cooked. I use it with a plug in timer to cook when I have long days at work.

        Other than that, how about planting some salad leaves now the weather is warming up? We have a veg patch right outside the kitchen door and end up using rocket, spinach etc nearly every single day in summer. Super quick, cheap and healthy meals too!!

  8. Definately a slow cooker Rebecca! Other than that try things like Chicken with cous cous, all the supermarkets do a large size one? It’s filling and tasty and a great subsitute for rice or pasta. Our local butcher does packets of chicken that have already been flavoured and cooked and they are lovely. Things like risotto or paella are also great as they only need one pot, everything cooks together and it’s super easy!

  9. My Mum makes my Dad cook steaks on a throwaway bbq outside because she hates the smell of meat cooking in the house. If the weather stays as sunny and bright as this, stock up on a few of those and do a bit of al fresco grilling to go with salads and couscous and tabouleh etc!

  10. I am currently loving a really simple and nutritious salad: lentils (from a can/pot, or cooked in a pressure cooker) + tomato + chopped basil + feta + olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

    It is super delicious. If you add rice the combination makes for a balanced meal that includes all aminoacids, and I think Feta is one of the few cheeses that are allowed during pregnancy if it is the kind that comes from pasteurized milk (which is most of the supermarket variety… you would only risk it if you buy the fancy , local stuff from a gourmet).

    Also hummus on bread / tomato / cucumbers .

    Shredded chicken from the slow cooker, on tortillas = taco night.

    Or get a pressure cooker if you don’t have one, you basically throw stuff in and it macerates the flavours together to make all kinds of soups / stews.

  11. Some great ideas on here already – I’ll def be buying a slow cooker!! I’m trying to drop a few pounds right now and every night is fish/chicken and salad for tea. For the salad I’ve loved stocking up in jars of antipasti to make it more tasty – I’ve got jars of olives, sun dried tomatoes, sweet pepper, capers etc. with avocado they all help make a bit if lettuce more filling and more interesting.

    Cannot wait to see your finished kitchen!

  12. Looks like everyone has the same idea – a slow cooker will change your life! My favourite things to make are Thai curry (usually beef), pulled pork and chilli con carne – all fairly healthy! I’m also a massive convert to the one-pot pasta phenomenon – super quick to make, relatively healthy (esp. with a side salad) and almost no washing up! Total winner.

  13. Couscous (pref whole wheat for preggo regularity;) or even bulgur) and noodles can both be done using a hot kettle. And since having 2 kids frozen chopped onion, garlic, ginger, peppers and waitrose Thai herbs have saved my life! Already loads of good freezer ideas but a tagine (try Nigel’s) takes up less space if you freeze small portions and add a tin of chickpeas, couscous and fresh coriander at the last minute. Ditto spag bol that can be turned into chilli with a tin of pulses, coriander, a squeeze of lime and some tortillas from the freezer. Making risotto with pearl barley needs less stirring and has more fibre – we love it made with ready-diced smoked pancetta, spinach (both frozen) and mushroom. Daal is another one pot wonder. And eggs are the best. Quesedillas can be whipped up in a frying pan assembled from tortillas, a tin of pulses (loghtly squished), grated cheese, and chopped or grated veg (i love grated courgette and carrot with spring onipn) and a tin of sardines stirred through the mix is lovely. Can also recommend bean purées in place of time-consuming mash – my current favourite is a tin of butter beans, a tin of anchovies, a handful of whatever fresh herbs are on the windowsill/in the garden and the juice of 1/2 lemon. The hand blender is your friend and on the days when you really can’t be arsed you can knock up a killer hummus and salad in 2 minutes! Can you tell I’ve reduced our meat intake? Good luck I’m not looking forward to the day when we seal off our 25 year old dingy kitchen and start demolition!

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