How to make a 3 course meal in minutes

DSCN0871As I may have mentioned once or twice, I spend quite a lot of time thinking about food – either what I am going to eat next, what I am going to cook for dinner that evening, or what I am going to make next week … essentially it boils down to always thinking about food.

I find that my brain generally switches to ‘next meal mode’ when I am walking to the tube station from the office … with nothing between me and my next meal but the commute home and the time it will take me to cook something. I work close to St Paul’s DSCN0857cathedral but usually walk to Holborn station as it’s a little bit of exercise at the end of the day to take my mind off of work, and saves me having to change from the central line to Piccadilly line (not fun). It takes me past a Waitrose mini-shop where I can pick up any last-minute ingredients I need, and that’s why I often find myself thinking about my dinner. Do I need a crusty loaf to have with the pasta? Should I pick up a fresh bag of spinach? Shall I be a devil and buy an apple pie and cream for pudding? The answer to the last question is invariably yes … along with some chocolates and anything else which takes my fancy.

DSCN0861As you know, I like to plan my meals in advance, so a few weeks ago when I had this internal shopping debate I already knew I’d be having prawn and chilli pasta for dinner – I had defrosted the prawns that morning, and a punnet of cherry tomatoes were waiting to be eaten, but for some reason I fancied making a bit more of a meal of things, and in the 15 minutes walk from the office to Waitrose, I’d decided on a few additional bits and bobs to buy to create a quick and easy three course meal:

  • Parma ham, mozzarella, basil, bread, oil and vinegar
  • Prawn and chilli pasta
  • Cheesecake with raspberries

DSCN0864I had most of the components at home already, so just needed to buy a pack of parma ham, a mozzarella ball, some fresh bread and fresh raspberries. And here’s what I did once I got home.

First things first, the starter: I artfully (!) laid the slices of parma ham on a plate, added bits of mozzarella torn off the ball and some torn basil leaves. In a bowl I poured some rapeseed oil and balsamic vinegar, added a sprinkle of sea salt flakes and pepper, and sliced some crusty bread = starter done!

DSCN0868Then I made the pudding: I crushed up some homemade oat shortbread and put a little on a plate, topping with a spoon of creamy marscapone cheese which I had mixed with some vanilla bean paste and heather honey. Topped with some fresh raspberries, this looked beautiful and I knew it would taste fantastic. Pudding done!

Finally I made the main course, firstly putting some water on to boil for the spaghetti. When the pasta went into the water I made the sauce: a splash of rapeseed oil into the pan, to which I added a teaspoon of lazy garlic and some chopped chilli (it’s fine to use dried chilli for this recipe). Allow that to soften and then add several whole cherry tomatoes to the hot oil – as they heat the tomatoes pop and release their juices into the DSCN0881garlicky oil. At this point, when you have a saucepan of fragrant tomatoes, you can add your fat tiger prawns to the sauce and allow them to cook – it should take no more than a couple of minutes for them to turn pink and firm. Just before stirring in the cooked pasta add a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper and some torn basil and you are ready to serve. Main course done!

From start to finish the preparation and cooking of this three course meal was a maximum of 30 minutes, and it was delicious. In that half hour I also had time to pour myself a gin and tonic while I laid the table and opened a bottle of wine.

What’s your favourite meal in minutes?


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