Summer calls for tasty meals that are a cinch to whip up. Here are terrific recipes for the time poor, from a pan-fried salmon to a quick curry and more
For easy summer days and midweek suppers, we all need a few fuss-free recipes up our sleeve to whip up at any given moment. I’ve chosen, for this week, a chicken tray-bake, a super-speedy salmon dish, a blink-and-you-miss-it prawn curry and a divine little pasta dish using just a few ingredients.
The chicken recipe below is perfect for busy days and people who want something delicious to eat but don’t have a huge amount of time. If you know how to joint a chicken — a great technique to master — then you can cut up the chicken yourself; otherwise, buy drumsticks, thighs or breasts and pop them into a roasting tray with some delicious extra-virgin olive oil and whatever other ingredients take your fancy.
I love the summery combo of fennel, new potatoes and lemon with chicken, but feel free to switch it up and add red onion wedges, chunks of carrot, some leeks, butternut squash, kale or even a drained tin of cannellini beans with lots of rosemary or thyme. The trick is to get everything in the roasting tray cooked at the same time.
The recipe for pan-fried salmon with capers and dill, featured below, is just delicious with some new potatoes and a little green salad on the side. The butter in the sauce emulsifies with the water and lemon juice, giving a light and delicious sauce. If capers and dill aren’t your thing then replace them with finely sliced spring onions and a little basil or marjoram for a great alternative.
If you’re craving something spicy, then this very quick Thai red prawn curry recipe is comfortingly creamy from the coconut milk and delivers so much flavour-wise. Serve with lots of rice to soak up all the sauce.
I love the Provençal flavours of sweet caramelised onions, olive and rosemary as in the fusilli recipe here. They work a treat with pasta. Use the best olives you can find, preferably with the stones still in; then, all you have to do is bash them with the base of a saucepan or the flat side of a knife and remove the stones before chopping.
You will need:
75ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 chicken, cut into pieces on the bone, or use 4 drumsticks and 4 thighs
1 large or 2 small heads of bulb fennel, trimmed and cut into wedges
10-16 new potatoes, scrubbed clean
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas 5.
2 Drizzle a roasting tray or ovenproof dish with a little of the extra-virgin olive oil, then place the chicken pieces in a single layer, skin-side up.
3 Trim the fennel bulb at the base and at the top, reserving the feathery fronds for later. Cut the fennel into thin wedges from the top of the bulb to the base. Arrange these in the tray between the chicken pieces.
4 Cut the new potatoes in halves, or quarters if they’re large, and place them between the chicken pieces and fennel wedges.
5 Cut the lemon into wedges and squeeze the wedges slightly over the ingredients in the tray, drizzling a little lemon juice as you do so, then place them on the tray also.
6 Drizzle the remainder of the extra-virgin olive oil over the top, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and place the tray in the preheated oven. Cook for about 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked and golden on top , and the fennel and potatoes are softened.
7 Scatter a few of the reserved fennel fronds over the top to decorate. Arrange on warm plates or serve straight from the ovenproof dish onto plates at the table.
Lots of roasted garlic is also a delicious addition to the chicken recipe, above. Break up about 8-10 garlic cloves and scatter them, unpeeled, into the roasting tray with the fennel. When cooked, squeeze the garlic out of the skins to enjoy.
You will need:
50g butter, diced
4 x 125-150g portions of filleted salmon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice mixed with 75ml water
2 teaspoons chopped dill
1 Place a frying pan on a medium–high heat. When it is just hot, add a couple of knobs of the butter, very quickly followed by the salmon fillets. Fry the salmon for 3–4 minutes or until golden brown underneath. Then, turn over, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and fry for another couple of minutes or until the fish is just cooked through — the timing will depend on the thickness of the salmon fillets and the heat of the pan. Be careful not to burn the butter in the pan. If it does burn, wipe it out with some kitchen paper.
2 Add the rinsed capers, along with the remaining diced butter and the lemon juice and water mixture, and cook for 1 minute.
3 Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, adding more lemon juice or water if necessary.
4 Lift the salmon out of the sauce onto warmed plates, then stir the chopped dill into the sauce in the pan and pour over the fish to serve.
You will need:
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
350g dried fusilli (or other pasta, such as farfalle or conchiglie
50g pitted and chopped black olives
8 tinned anchovies, chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 Pour the extra-virgin olive oil into a large frying pan on a medium heat. If possible, the frying pan should be large enough to hold all the pasta once it is cooked. If it is not large enough, don’t worry, you can mix it all in the pasta saucepan.
2 When the oil is hot, add the thinly sliced onions and stir together, then season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper — don’t overdo the salt, bear in mind that the olives and anchovies will be salty. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 15–20 minutes or until the onions are completely soft and golden brown.
3 After the onions have been cooking for 10 minutes, fill a large saucepan with water, add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes, or according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
4 When the onions are golden brown stir in the pitted, chopped olives, the chopped anchovies, if you are using them, and the finely chopped rosemary leaves.
5 When the pasta has finished cooking, lift out a cupful of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta and stir it into the onion mixture in the pan. Add some freshly ground black pepper, taste and serve.
6 If the pasta has to wait for any amount of time to be served, then you might need to add a good splash of the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen it out and prevent it from sticking together.
You will need:
2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk — not low fat, see Rachel Recommends, below
2–4 teaspoons red curry paste
36-40 raw, peeled prawns
1 small handful of Thai basil, or regular Italian basil, torn or chopped
2-4 tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce)
Rice or noodles, to serve
1 Open the tins of coconut milk, without shaking them. If the thicker part of the coconut milk has solidified at the top of the tin, spoon this out into a bowl, then pour the thinner coconut milk into a jug or another bowl. If the coconut milk has not separated into solid and liquid, don’t worry.
2 Put the red curry paste in a wok or a saucepan on a medium-to-high heat and cook for about 40-50 seconds until it cooks and becomes fragrant.
3 If your coconut milk has divided in two, add the thick, solidified part, and cook it until it’s bubbling and the fat is starting to escape from it, then pour in the thinner coconut milk and bring to the boil. If your coconut milk hasn’t separated, just pour it all in at once.
4 Tip in the raw prawns and simmer for 3–5 minutes or until they become opaque and are cooked through. Add the torn or freshly chopped Thai basil or Italian basil, whichever you’re using, and season with the fish sauce to taste. You can add a little red extra curry paste if you would like the curry hotter. Serve immediately with rice or noodles.
I love to use good, additive-free, full-fat coconut milk where the milk separates in two, meaning you can cook the thicker part first for a curry and then add in the thinner milk, as often done in Asia. Thai Gold, Chaokoh and Bunalun brands are all really good.