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20 minute meals

AsianNoodleSoupTired after a long day at work? You can have these delicious dinners on the table in 20 minutes or under…

Asian noodle and prawn soup
One of the easiest recipes to cook after a long day. Once you’ve got your cupboard stocked with the right Asian ingredients, shopping for this dish will be nothing more than fresh herbs and chillies. It’s very versatile and can be made with any vegetables, fish or meat.

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes
Serves 2

You will need:

For the stock:

  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1tsp ready-chopped garlic
  • 1tsp chilli flakes
  • 1tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1tbsp oyster sauce
  • ½tsp sesame seed oil
  • Salt (optional)

For the soup:

  • 200g dried noodles
  • 10-12 whole prawns, peeled
  • 2 heads of pak choi, cut into quarters
  • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • ½ bunch of coriander, chopped
  • 3 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  1. Pour the chicken stock into a pan over a high heat. Add the rest of the stock ingredients and bring to the boil. Taste to check for spicy/salty balance. Add more sweet chilli sauce or salt if required.
  2. Add the noodles and prawns and cook for 4-5 minutes until the noodles are cooked. Fold the pak choi into the soup and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the leaves are tender but the stalk still has crunch.
  3. Serve in deep soup bowls, sprinkled with the sliced chilli, coriander and spring onions, with a wedge of lime on the side.

LambChopsLamb chops with smashed white bean champ  
This meal should become part of your weekly menu – it’s cheap, uses store cupboard staples, involves hardly any preparation and tastes great. You can usually get lamb chops for a reasonable price, and a tin of butter beans is an important store cupboard ingredient. This style of cooking tends to draw on a few main ingredients – in this case, the lamb and the beans – and then you can jazz things up a bit by adding fresh herbs or a few spices to make an ordinary meal come to life. This dish is no exception.

Preparation: 10 minutes  
Cooking: 10 minutes  
Serves 4  

You will need:

  • 12 lamb chops or cutlets (with or without the bone)  
  • 5tbsp extra virgin olive oil  
  • 2tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper  
  • 75g butter  
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and grated  
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped  
  • Juice of 1 lemon  
  • 2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained  
  • 6 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced  
  1. Pre-heat the grill to the highest setting. Place the lamb chops or cutlets in a bowl with 2tbsp olive oil, the vinegar and a big pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Rub in the marinade well before placing the lamb chops under the grill and cooking for 5 minutes on each side.
  2. While the lamb is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic and rosemary. When the butter starts to bubble and go slightly brown in colour, squeeze in the lemon juice and add the butter beans and spring onions. Stir well until heated through.
  3. Turn off the heat and mash the butter beans with a potato masher. It doesn’t need to be a fine paste – lumps are good. Pour in the remaining olive oil, or enough to get the consistency you like. It will be quite firm.
  4. Once the lamb chops are cooked, allow them to rest for a couple of minutes and pour any juices into the bean mash. Taste the mash for seasoning and serve with the lamb.

GnocchiBakeGnocchi bake with hot-smoked salmon and spinach
Gnocchi is usually a wonderful dish in a restaurant but tends not to be cooked often at home. Making your own gnocchi is time consuming, but shop-bought fresh gnocchi is just as good as shop-bought fresh pasta (they’re available in the same section in the supermarket), and we all buy that. This dish has a sharp tang to it, and makes a delicious change from pasta.

Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes
Serves 4-6

You will need:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 400g bag young spinach leaves
  • 200g mascarpone
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 75g packet dill, chopped
  • 300g hot-smoked salmon
  • 500g fresh gnocchi
  • 75g Parmesan, grated
  1. Pre-heat the grill to high and bring a pan of water with a large pinch of salt added to the boil.
  2. Make 2-3 holes in the bag of spinach leaves and put it in the microwave at 800W for 2 minutes to wilt. If you don’t have a microwave, you can steam the spinach leaves until
  3. slightly wilted.
  4. Put the mascarpone in a separate saucepan and add the lemon zest and juice and the chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper. Stir over a low heat until the mascarpone has melted. Then stir in the wilted spinach and flake in the hot-smoked salmon. Try to keep the salmon pieces quite big.
  5. Put the fresh gnocchi into the saucepan of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepan, then stir in the salmon sauce.
  6. Place the whole lot in a baking dish and cover with the grated Parmesan. Grill for 3-5 minutes until the top is bubbling and golden brown.

SeaBreamSteamed sea bream with ginger, chilli and spring onion  
This is a really healthy fish dish, packed full of flavour and freshness. It helps to have a bamboo steamer to cook this recipe, but don’t worry if you don’t have one – an upturned saucer in the bottom of a shallow pan will do the trick as long as your pan has a lid.

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 6 minutes
Serves 2 as a light dinner

You will need:

  • 2 fillets of sea bream, pin-boned
  • 2tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1tsp toasted sesame seed oil
  • ½tsp caster sugar
  • 1tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into very thin strips
  • 1 large green chilli, sliced on the angle
  • 6 spring onions, trimmed and cut into thin strips (as you would see with Peking duck in a Chinese restaurant)

To serve:

  • A large handful of coriander
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Steamed rice or a selection of green vegetables
  1. Put a wok or saucepan with a steamer on the stove and half fill with boiling water. Cover with the lid.
  2. Lay the fillets of fish, skin-side down, on a plate that fits in the steamer. Combine the soy sauce, sesame seed oil, caster sugar and rice vinegar in a bowl. Sprinkle the ginger, chilli and half the spring onion strips over the fish fillets, and pour over all the sauce.
  3. Put the plate in the steamer and put the lid on tight. Leave to steam for about 6 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
  4. Serve the fish with the vegetables on top. Tear the coriander leaves and place on top with the remaining spring onions.
  5. Pour any juices left on the plate over the fish. Serve with a wedge of lime to garnish and steamed rice or a selection of green vegetables.

MinuteSteakSandwichMinute steak sandwich with fried onions and sweet mustard
A very thin frying steak is the cheapest quick-cook steak you’ll find, and it’s most definitely the best for a big hearty sandwich. This is such a naughty dinner, but it’s perfect for a night in on your own.  

Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes
Serves 1 as a light dinner or 2 as a side dish

You will need:

  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 very thin frying steaks, weighing 100g each
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ciabatta or baguette, toasted 
  • 20g butter, softened 
  • 2tbsp sweet American mustard
  1. Place a frying pan on the stove and add half the oil, along with the onions. Fry on a high heat for 10 minutes until golden brown and a little crispy around the edges.
  2. Move the cooked onions to the edge of the pan and increase the heat. Add the rest of the oil. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper and put them in the pan. Cook for 45 seconds on each side. Turn off the heat and take the steaks out of the pan to rest.
  3. Cut your bread in half and toast on both sides, either on the griddle or under the grill. Spread with butter and mustard. Pile on the onions and slice the steak before loading onto the sandwich. Put on the top half of the toasted bread and dip into more mustard as you eat.

All these express recipes can be found in Home at 7, Dinner at 8: 100 Satisfying Suppers On The Table In An Hour Or Less by Sophie Wright (£14.99, Kyle Cathie).

This article was first published in at home with Marco Pierre White in October 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

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