Meals out of packets and jars

Hello! I'm trying to get back into cooking after a long period of builder- and illness-related disruption, so I thought I'd start using this comm again to try to motivate myself and have a record of things I try. In the meantime, everyone in the household has been diagnosed with new physical and/or mental health conditions, and I've taken up triathlon training, so my time is even more at a premium than before. There are definitely going to be times when all I want to do is throw things together out of packets and jars, so I'm making a running list of options (that I know I like) for ease of reference and shopping:

*Pasta with quorn meatballs, Seeds of Change Bolognese Sauce and parmesan
*Waitrose Makhani sauce with quorn chicken pieces and frozen chopped spinach (in the Waitrose bags, 2 "medallions" of spinach per person is about right), with rice
*Pizza bases/dough mix with pizza sauce, mozzarella, other toppings
*Soup with brown ciabatta
*Quorn chicken and green beans in Seeds of Change Tikka Masala Sauce with rice
*Quorn chicken and veg in Blue Dragon Satay Sauce
*Chilli made with Cooks Ingredients mole sauce, onion, Quorn mince or Quorn steak pieces, 1 can tomatoes, 1 can kidney beans, sour cream, rice
*Schwartz Chilli Con Carne mix with rice (needs 1 can tomatoes, 1 pack quorn mince, 1 tin kidney beans, sour cream)
*Quorn chicken and veg in Chicken Tonight Honey & Mustard sauce with rice or pasta
*Linda McCartney pies with mash and peas
*Quorn steak or Tivali vegetarian schnitzel with potato wedges and peas
*Schwartz Sausage Casserole mix with mash and frozen parsnips (needs 1 onion, 1 pack quorn sausages, and 1 tin peppers & sweetcorn)
*Schwartz Somerset Pork Casserole mix with mash (needs an onion, 1 pack quorn sausages, 1 cooking apple and apple juice)
*Hairy Dieters cassoulet mix with tofu grill sausages
*Hairy Dieters paprika sauce with quorn chicken and peas

Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Glazed squash with tofu

This is essentially a recipe that came with my organic veg box, but I vegetarianised it and added rice and tofu to turn it into a meal. It made good comfort food.

8 oz brown rice
600 ml water
1 winter squash
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp soy sauce
150 ml vegetable stock
1 tsp sesame oil
1 pack sesame and almond tofu
Black pepper

Put rice in a saucepan with water and salt to taste. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 mins without stirring or removing the lid (both of these are important.) While it's cooking, cut squash into quarters, remove seeds and peel, and cut into fork-sized chunks. Peel and chop the garlic. Put squash and garlic in a saucepan with the olive oil, soy sauce, stock and sesame oil. Stir well, bring to the boil, cover and simmer on a low heat for 8 mins or until softened. Once the rice is done, turn off the heat and leave it to sit with the lid still on (don't peek). Meanwhile, once the squash is soft, remove the lid from the squash pan, stir in the tofu, turn the heat up and boil with the lid off until the liquid is gone and the squash looks glazed. Serve the squash mixture over the rice with a grinding of black pepper. Serves 4, takes about 35 mins from start to finish.

Tofu sausage pasta

This was just a quick improvised thing, not much different from many others I've made, but apparently I hit just the right combination of flavours for aegidian, so I thought I'd better write it up.

8 oz wholewheat fusilli
4 tofu sausages
1/2 red and 1/2 green pepper (one whole one of any colour would be fine, I'm sure - these just happened to be left over from R's Food Technology class)
1 large celery stick
8 cloves garlic
100g smoky garlic cheddar (from these lovely people, bought on holiday - again, substitutes should work okay)
Enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your frying pan
black pepper

Cook pasta according to pack instructions. Meanwhile, slice sausages, chop peppers, celery and garlic and cube cheese. Fry the veg and sausages together in the olive oil for 4-5 mins. Combine everything and serve with freshly ground black pepper. Serves 4, takes 25 mins from start to finish.

Shuri Pentu's Orzoree version 1.0

This recipe is still being developed, but after weeks of testing it is out of beta and ready to face the public!

Serves ~5


1 red onion
4 cloves garlic
some olive oil
200g pearl barley
1L chicken stock
2 fillets smoked haddock
1 bay leaf
1 heaped teaspoon garam masala
250g frozen peas
250g frozen sliced green beans
4 eggs
1 sous-chef
salt and possibly pepper to taste


Chop the onion and garlic as finely as you can be bothered. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and gently fry until the onion begins to soften. Add the pearl barley and continue to fry until the onion turns translucent or you become bored.

Add the stock and bring to the boil, then add the bay leaf and haddock – the fillets should sit in the stock but do not need to be completely submerged in it. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then lift out the haddock and set aside. Get your sous-chef to flake the haddock.

Continue simmering the barley and stock, covered, on a low heat for about 40 minutes. By then, the barley should have absorbed most but not all of the liquid, and the mixture in the pot should have a thick soupy consistency. Add the garam masala, stir through, and continue to simmer, covered, on a low heat.

Put the eggs in a small pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then get your sous-chef to cool, peel, and chop the eggs into smallish chunks.

Meanwhile, add the frozen vegetables to the barley, stir, and leave until the vegetables have heated through. Return the flaked haddock to the pan and stir gently until it has also heated through. Season to taste, then add the chopped eggs.



This is essentially an orzotto with kedgeree ingredients, hence the (terrible) name. >.>

Barley is quite a forgiving grain, and unlike a risotto, an orzotto doesn't need much monitoring or stirring until very close to the end when it's absorbed almost all the liquid and starts to develop a potentially unhealthy fondness for the bottom of the pan. In total, it takes about an hour to cook.

I use frozen vegetables because they're easy, and am utterly unapologetic about this. ^_^

I tried smoked mackerel but found it far too strong for this dish. Other smoked fish may also work, but I find smoked haddock about right.

Spicing has been the most difficult thing for me to get right. I started off trying literally everything in the kitchen cupboard, then after weeks of iterations finally concluded that less is better. When seasoning at the end, I don't even add pepper anymore.

Brussels sprout and tofu stirfry

No, really, trust me on this. Inspired by a recipe in Ottolenghi's Plenty, but considerably simplified.

Rice to serve
1 pack Taifun basil tofu
1 lb brussels sprouts
1 bunch spring onions
1 punnet mushrooms (I used shiitake, but I think any kind would do)
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce

Cook the rice by your usual method. Meanwhile, trim the bases off the sprouts and cut each one horizontally into three slices. Chop the spring onions and slice the mushrooms. Cut the tofu into small cubes. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Saute all the veg together until the sprouts start to brown. Stir in the chilli flakes and saute for another 1-2 mins. Add the tofu pieces and heat through. Stir in soy sauce. Serve with the rice. Serves 4, takes about 35 mins from start to finish.

Split pea soup

Adapted from The Yoga Cookbook, published by the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres. Easy, simple, and very tasty.

8 oz split peas
1.5l vegetable stock
4 sweet potatoes
2 stalks celery
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice

Wash the split peas and put them in a large saucepan with the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer until the split peas are soft (about 45 mins). Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and chop them and the celery into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in another large saucepan with the basil, ginger paste and cumin. Add the sweet potatoes and celery and saute for about 5 mins, then transfer them to the other pan with the split peas for the rest of their cooking time. Season to taste and check that both the split peas and the vegetables are soft - if not, simmer a little longer. Mash lightly with a potato masher, then add the honey and lemon juice and stir well. Heat through if necessary, then serve. Good with fresh wholemeal bread. Serves 4-6, takes about an hour from start to finish.

Lazy lentil soup

Lazy because, as you'll see, I took some shortcuts :-) It was absolutely delicious, too. I served it with homemade rye bread.

1 small sweet potato
1 small carrot
1 stalk celery
2 cups vegetable stock
1 pack Merchant Gourmet pre-cooked puy lentils
Large pinch hing
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp squeezy garlic

Peel the sweet potato and scrub the carrot. Chop all the vegetables into small pieces. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 mins. Serve. Makes 2 portions, takes about 40 mins from start to finish.

Cauliflower and spinach dal

I made this the other night for aegidian, sfred and djm4, and it seemed to meet with general approval, so here it is. You could replace the squeezy ginger and coriander with fresh - I just happened to have some free samples.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp hing
8 cloves garlic
2 tsp squeezy ginger
1 tsp curry powder
150g red lentils
500 ml water
1 cauliflower
1 small pack baby spinach
1/2 a lime
2 tsp squeezy coriander
Brown basmati rice to serve

Cook rice by your usual method. Heat oil over a medium heat. Add the hing, ginger, garlic and curry powder and cook for 1-2 mins. Add the lentils and water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 mins. Meanwhile, cut cauliflower into florets. When the 10 mins is up, add it to the pot and stir well. Replace the lid and cook for another 10 mins. Meanwhile, juice the lime. Add the spinach and stir till wilted. Stir in the lime juice and coriander. Serve over rice. Serves 4, takes about 45 mins from start to finish.

Two-ingredient cookies

I had some over-ripe bananas to use up, so I made these tonight. I'm not sure the texture is "cookie" exactly - more "banana bread", really - but none the worse for that. Quite moreish, actually!

(Just in case the link goes away at some point in the future, the proportions are 2 bananas to one cup of quick oats, plus whatever extras you want to add; walnuts, in my case, because that's what I had to hand.)

Spaghetti with cabbage and lentils

Adapted from here. I was actually surprised by how good it was.

1/2 cup dried green lentils
3 cups vegetable stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
6 oz wholewheat spaghetti
1/2 savoy cabbage
3 oz parmesan
2 oz butter
1 tsp hing (asafetida)
Black pepper to taste

Rinse the lentils and put them a medium saucepan with the vegetable stock, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until lentils are soft but not falling apart, 20 to 25 minutes. Check from time to time - if it looks like they're going to dry out, add water. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, shred cabbage and grate parmesan. Melt butter in a large frying-pan over medium heat. Add hing and stir in well. Add cabbage and stir-fry till cabbage has wilted a little. When the pasta is ready, drain it and return it to the pan. Remove thyme and bay leaf from the lentils, drain off any remaining water and add to the pasta. Add the cabbage mixture and parmesan. Stir well. Add black pepper to taste. Serves 3, takes about 30 mins from start to finish.