Fresh new life for the quick fix

Yummy, Easy, Quick, by Matt Preston, Macmillan, $40
Yummy, Easy, Quick, by Matt Preston, Macmillan, $40
Most people will recognise Matt Preston from his quirky and eccentric suits on MasterChef Australia, but he also has a surprisingly down-to-earth side to him.

A side that sympathises with the treadmill home cooks can find themselves on when it comes to dinnertime quick fixes.

So from one home cook to another, he has come up with his selection of modern classics - even ''bowl'' food, ''banging'' with flavour, using everyday fresh ingredients alongside pantry and freezer staples in his book Yummy, easy, quick.

As well as the recipes, there are plenty of tips to adapt them to fit the ingredients people have to hand, all within about half an hour.

He also provides handy indexes so people can easily find the recipes needed to prepare a dish in advance or find cheap midweek feeds or meat-free dishes for the vegetarian in the family.

It is broken up into chapters based on protein - chicken, mince, red meat, fish, eggs and then vegetables according to the seasons - and one on "frozen stuff'' and another on pantry staples.

 

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied
Zucchini and eggplant fries

For too long, potato has dominated the world of fries, like the bully in the playground who won't let you get to the water fountain.

Over the years we've tried to undermine the potato fry at every turn with everything from polenta chips to parsnip, sweet potato and kale chips, but for these ''loaded fries'', the combination of the two ultimate Mediterranean vegetables, eggplant and zucchini, makes perfect sense.

Especially when paired with the fragrance of basil, the rather bosomy baroque sweet/sourness of this chutney and the salty tang of Parmesan.

Serves 4-6

Prep 20 minutes (plus 5 minutes standing)

Cooking 30 minutes

Ingredients
50g (⅓cup) plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
95g (½ cup) panko breadcrumbs
70g (1 cup) shredded Parmesan
⅓cup finely chopped basil leaves
3 small zucchini, quartered lengthways, then sliced crossways into 7cm-long batons
1 eggplant, cut into 7cm-long, 2cm-thick batons

Agrodolce chutney
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 long red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
3 (about 525g) large yellow or white peaches, cut into 2cm chunks
70g (⅓ cup) brown sugar
2 Tbsp currants
2 whole star anise
80ml (⅓ cup) red wine vinegar

Method
Heat the oven to 220degC/200degC fan-forced. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Start by making the agrodolce. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and chilli and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the peach, sugar, currants, star anise and vinegar.

Bring to a gentle simmer, then cook for 25-30 minutes, until the mixture thickens to a dolloping consistency.

While the agrodolce cooks, make your fries. Place the flour in a self-sealing bag. Season.

Lightly whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and basil in another self-sealing bag. You have now set up a mini chip-crumbing production line.

Add some zucchini and eggplant batons to the bag of flour and shake to coat. Shake off any excess.

Working with one chip at a time, dip the batons into the egg to coat. Let any egg-cess egg drip off and then throw the batons into the breadcrumb bag and toss to coat.

Press the seasoned crumbs firmly all over the chips to make sure they stick well. Place the crumbed fries on the lined trays. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and crisp. Serve with the agrodolce and a flick of salt flakes.

Tips: If you are making the chutney with white peaches, add half the peach pieces directly after the onion and the rest after 15 minutes.

This will ensure they keep their shape and some of their texture. You don't need to do this with most yellow peaches, as their flesh is more robust.

In winter, replace the fresh peaches with 1 peeled and diced fresh pear with the sugar mixture and then add 1 x 480g can drained canned peaches in the last 12 minutes.

You could blanch and peel the peaches; we did, but it's not essential.


Zucchini ribbon salad

Fresh, clean and super-versatile, this salad sings with everything from steak and chicken from the barbecue to pulled pork and anything that needs some contrasting freshness and acidity.

Serves 4

Prep 5 minutes

Cooking 5 minutes

Ingredients
230g (1½ cups) frozen baby peas
1 lemon, zest peeled into strips
2 zucchini, peeled into ribbons
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
90g (⅔ cup) walnut pieces, toasted
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt flakes

Method
Cook the peas in a small saucepan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, adding the lemon zest in the last minute of cooking, until just warmed through.

Drain and transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until well combined.

Tip: This salad is great with any milky cheese, such as feta, ricotta or goat's curd.

Swap the walnuts for a different nut or another crunchy element to match the cheese.

 

Instant flatbreads

Quick, easy, brilliant! These flatbreads also rewarm well in the toaster if they are still soft and not overcooked.

Makes 8

Prep 15 minutes

Cooking 4 minutes per batch

Ingredients
250g (1 cup) plain yoghurt
225g (1½cups) self-raising flour, plus an extra
½cup for flouring the work surface

Method
In a bowl, stir the yoghurt into the flour until well combined.

Dump the mixture on a clean and heavily-floured work surface. It is a wet dough, which means it's hard to knead traditionally. Instead, lift it up and slap it down to develop the gluten, flipping the dough occasionally. Add more flour until the dough is kneadable. It needs to be a little springy, which shows that the gluten has developed.

Now knead for about 5 , or until the dough is smooth. A mixer with a dough hook will make this much quicker, so if you've got one, use it!

Keep the dough in a bowl covered with plastic wrap until needed. (It's good to rest the dough for a bit, but it's not essential.)

Cut the dough into eight equal-sized pieces. Roll out each piece into a thin disc. The thinner the disc, the crisper the bread.

Preheat a barbecue grill, frying pan or chargrill pan over medium-high heat. Cook the breads for 2 minutes on each side, or until charred and cooked through.

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