I never imagined I'd be writing about doing anything in a pandemic, let alone how to navigate cooking in a new world; a world in which our freedoms are (rightly) suppressed and where there are restrictions on where we go, who we see, what we do, and of course what and how we eat. This is now our new normal, and, however scary it is, it is ours. We have to try to find a way through, by holding onto and enjoying the things that keep us happy. For me that is cooking and I know for many others it’s a new-found love of cooking and baking that has kept them going too.
I wrote my latest cookbook, Time to Eat, based on how I have always cooked but it feels particularly relevant now. I have always tried to avoid wasting anything, to see everything as an ingredient, and to cook with canned, frozen and dried foods as much as possible. My freezer is also my friend, and so is my microwave. With summer here and people feeling more comfortable in their kitchens, it's the perfect time to re-think how we all cook and eat. Here are five recipes I've chosen from Time to Eat to get you started and help you find more confidence for the months ahead.
One quick and easy meal – Instant Noodles
If you like instant noodles as much I do, and I really do, you are going to love making your own. When you make this recipe, you'll end up with a whole jar of paste ready to go, so you can then make and customise your noodles on the go. The paste is spicy, sweet and packed with flavour. I can guarantee it will end up on everything.
One slow cooked bowl of comfort food – Slow Cooker Mushroom Lasagne
You can cook all sorts of things in a slow cooker, even a lasagne. My version combines earthy mushrooms and a simple creamy sauce and is the perfect recipe solution if you are off out and need something ready for when you get in. It's slow-cooked but low-effort and completely yummy. Most of all it's really simple to make and there will be very few, if any, dishes to wash up afterwards.
One Store Cupboard Superstar – Baked Bean Falafels
Baked beans are something we all have in the cupboard (they are a total staple in our house) and they aren't only good for topping some toast or serving on the side of a fish finger dinner, we can also use them as an ingredient to make lots of other dishes too! Tinned baked beans are already cooked and crammed with flavour, so to turn them into home-made falafels all we need to do is add a little more flavour into the mix. This recipe also uses the baked bean sauce to make an even more delicious sauce to go with our falafels.
One dish to teach a new skill – Jackfruit Curry with No-Yeast Naan
Jackfruit is all the rage but it’s something I have eaten since I was a child. Cooked beautifully here to make a curry, it goes really well with the naan in this recipe. The lack of yeast in the naan means it's an easy way to learn how to make it and there will be no waiting around - it will be baked and ready to eat as soon as the curry is done.
One easy bake – Peanut Butter and Jelly Tray Bake
If, like me, you love peanut butter and jam as a combo and you also love your Saturday mornings to be relaxed, this is the perfect recipe for you. Make your pancake a traybake, swirled with peanut butter and jam, and there will be no flipping all morning. Just mix, swirl, bake and slice!
Five more reasons to add Time to Eat to your cookbook collection this summer, from The Happy Foodie team
1. Feel like you're spending more time than ever in the kitchen? For many of us, the strain of cooking multiple meals a day, and the creative and physical energy this asks of us, is starting to take its toll. That's where Nadiya's think-ahead philosophy can make a big difference. The recipes in Time to Eat are full of ways to make each cooking session go further, from giving you extra portions to pop in the freezer to making more of certain components in a dish that you can incorporate into another recipe later on, saving you plenty of time in the long run. Look out for the key on each recipe that'll let you know if it can be made ahead, frozen and / or double batched.
2. Thanks to the lockdown, many of us have a new-found appreciation of store cupboard ingredients and may be looking for fresh ideas for what to make with them. Even prior to the pandemic, Nadiya has always championed canned, frozen and dry ingredients, so you'll find plenty of new and exciting ways to use these staples in Time to Eat, from corned beef pies and fish finger enchiladas, to spaghetti hoop bakes.
3. Cooking for a family can be challenging at the best of times, and for some the lockdown may have made the seemingly endless search for meals everyone will enjoy all the more exhausting. Time to Eat is brimming with family-style recipes that the kids and grown-ups will love in equal measure, just when we need them most.
4. As you'd expect from a Bake Off champ and the creator of some of our all-time favourite baking recipes, Time to Eat is full of cakes and baked treats to try, only this time with an emphasis on ease and time-saving. So, now you've perfected that banana loaf, why not move on to a quick and easy Biscoff traybake or a one-pan giant choc chip cookie?
5. Missing your favourite takeaways and want to recreate some of those flavours at home? We love Nadiya's fakeaway recipes in Time to Eat, from chicken shawarma and tandoori chicken, to bao buns and poutine.
See more in our A Home-Cooked Summer Series here: