Quick, nutritious meals

Getting back into the swing of a new year can be hectic for many, Alison Lambert writes.

I find fitting in a home-cooked meal throughout the week a stressful job and one that you don’t want to spend too much time on but still get great results. 

I have come up with a few time-saving, economical meals that will help you get back into the swing of things.

Photos: Simon Lambert
Photos: Simon Lambert

Taco mince and brown rice bowl
Serves 4  

This is a crowd pleaser as you are combining the flavoursome mince with wholesome brown rice and topping it with a few classics to finish it off.  It is quick to prepare and easy on the pocket as well.


2 Tbsp oil
500g minced beef
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
pinch chilli 
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 cup beef stock
1 tsp miso paste (optional)
salt and cracked black pepper
200g  short grain brown rice
½ iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
100g grated cheddar cheese
sour cream for serving


Begin by soaking the rice in cold water for 30 minutes.

Drain and cook as per directions on packet. While the rice is cooking, start cooking the beef.

Heat the oil in a large fry pan or large pot over a medium-high heat, add the beef and brown well, stirring to break  it up (five minutes).

Add the onion, garlic and spices and stir through the beef, add the stock, sauce and miso, cook for a further 10 minutes or until the beef has absorbed most of the liquid. Taste and season with salt and cracked pepper as needed.

Slice the lettuce and place in a bowl, grate the cheese and place in another bowl. Place these on the table.

To assemble, spoon rice into warmed bowls, top with minced beef.  Let the guests finish off with the lettuce, cheese and sour cream to their own bowls.


Sausage and potato frittata

Serves 4

I always like to have a recipe like this up my sleeve as this can be made very quickly and you can add left over veges or meat and you have a very quick dinner! 


4 Tbsp oil
4 sausages
2-3 potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
6 eggs
50g cheese, feta, cheddar or your favourite
1 Tbsp parsley, roughly chopped


Preheat the grill to high.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy-based fry pan. Remove the sausage meat from the sausages so you get little balls. Add to the pan and cook for to 2-3 minutes so they brown. Remove and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat up to medium-high, add the potatoes and cook  for 3-4 minutes, add the onions and garlic and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes on a medium heat.

Beat the eggs with a little salt and cracked pepper, add the parsley, sausages and potato mixture.  Stir to combine.

Wipe the pan clean and add 2 more tablespoons of oil, heat over medium-high heat and pour in egg mixture.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, carefully move the mixture from the outside of the pan to the inside to get the mixture cooking evenly.  Once you have the eggs starting to cook, do not move any more.  Allow the base to set for a couple minutes.

Sprinkle over the cheese and place under the hot grill to brown.  This will only take a minute or two.

Remove and cut into desired slices and serve alongside a crunchy salad.


Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil
Serves 4 

Pasta is another great meal I always turn to when running short on time. This fresh tomato sauce is so easy to make and so delicious it will soon become your summer time favourite. 



500g fresh sweet tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
15 basil leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground parmesan
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
320g packet dried spaghetti


Place a large deep-sided pot of salted water on to boil.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce by simply placing the tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and blend until  pulpy and pourable.  Add the cheese and blend once more to combine. Transfer to a bowl and set aside until required.

Once the pot of water is boiling, cook the pasta until it is just al dente (tender).  I would recommend following the instructions on the packet as all pastas vary in cooking times.

Drain, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the water, then tip the pasta into the sauce. Toss well to coat, adding a little of the cooking water to loosen it, if need be. Serve the pasta in bowls, with plenty more parmesan to grate on as needed.


Vegetable and bean soup
Serves 4-6 

A soup like this almost passes for a stew as it is so laden with delicious seasonal vegetables and creamy beans.  I like to load it with fresh fragrant herbs.  It is also great  reheated the next night, as the flavours get better.


310g can borlotti beans (pinto)
310g can cannellini (haricot) beans
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled, small dice
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tomatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
1 zucchini, sliced into 4mm rounds
6 leaves kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
6 basil and mint leaves, torn
handful flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp fennel fronds, roughly chopped


In a small pot, add the onions, celery, carrot, fennel and crushed garlic and the oil, reserving 2 Tbsp for serving.  Cook over low heat, turning occasionally, until the vegetables have softened (5 minutes). Stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until darkened slightly (4 minutes). Add the chopped tomatoes, zucchini and greens.

Pour over 1 ½ litres vegetable stock, season lightly with salt and cracked pepper, bring gently to the boil.

Drain the beans and mash lightly. Add to the vegetables and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the herbs and turn off the heat. Serve with more extra virgin olive oil and crusty bread.


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