The Need for Speed

Kids. Job. Life. When you’re pulled in a million different directions, how can you possibly please the whole family with food that is tasty, wholesome and speedy? Bestselling author Jo Pratt has the secrets to make it possible…

Jo Pratt is the acclaimed food stylist, cook and bestselling author of six cookbooks. Jo has written for numerous food and lifestyle magazines including Waitrose Food, Olive, BBC Good Food and is former food editor for Glamour magazine. She can regularly be seen presenting her recipes both on TV and online, and works as an ambassador and consultant for numerous global brands.

Chicken, Potato and Spinach Curry in a Hurry

I love to make this recipe on a Friday night. It’s great for using up leftover potatoes and can be made quicker than it takes to organise a take-out. I always keep a bag of frozen spinach in the freezer – it’s really convenient for all sorts of dishes. If I have some fresh spinach in the refrigerator, though, I just roughly chop a couple of big handfuls and add them when the curry is almost ready.

MAKES 2 adult or 4 kid-sized portions
20 minutes

Ingredients 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil | 1 onion, thinly sliced | 2 skinless chicken breasts, diced | 2 garlic cloves, crushed | 3–4cm piece of root ginger, peeled and grated | 1 tbsp garam masala | ½ tsp chilli powder | 400g/14oz/1. cups canned chopped tomatoes | 200g/7oz cooked new or salad potatoes, halved if large (canned potatoes are also fine) | 150g/5.oz/1 cup frozen spinach, defrosted | sea salt and freshly ground black pepper | to serve: Naan bread, raita & mango chutney

Method 1. Heat the oil in a large pan over a low heat, add the onion and cook for a few minutes until soft. Increase the heat to medium, add the chicken, garlic and ginger and fry for 3–4 minutes until the chicken turns opaque. Stir in the garam masala and chilli powder and continue to cook for about 1 minute. | 2. Add the tomatoes, potatoes and 150ml/5fl oz/scant ⅔ cup water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover loosely with a lid and leave to simmer gently for about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. | 3. Stir in the spinach, season lightly with salt and pepper, then cook for a further 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally. | 4. Serve the curry on its own or with naan bread, raita and mango chutney if you like.

Jo says: “Gone are the days of spending a day or two preparing for elaborate dinner parties. That was pre-children – now things are very different. My Monday to Friday survival recipes are, quite literally, to help you get through the week of racing about and constantly chasing your tail. I’ll often find that I have a 10 minute window to get my kids something to eat before they start rummaging through cupboards for snacks or have a meltdown due to hunger.”

Leftovers for the freezer Frozen ginger If you have a large piece of root ginger left over, don’t leave it lurking in the corner of your refrigerator to deteriorate gradually. Put all or some of it in a sandwich bag, seal, label and store in the freezer – it will keep for several months. When a recipe calls for grated ginger, it will grate really easily straight from frozen – no need to defrost or peel.

Very Special Fried Rice

This is one of my kids’ favourites and a great way to use up leftover rice. You can use ham or other favourites instead of the chicken, if you prefer, so you can be sure they’ll love it.

MAKES 2 adult or 4 kid-sized portions
COOKING TIME 7 minutes

Ingredients 2 skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced | 2 tbsp soy sauce | 2 tbsp clear honey | 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil | 4 spring onions/scallions, finely chopped | 150g/5.oz green beans, cut into pieces | 1 carrot or courgette/zucchini, peeled and coarsely grated | 250g/9oz/1⅔ cups cooked basmati rice (either shop-bought pre-cooked or using leftovers) | 75g/2oz/scant cup sweetcorn | 100g/3oz canned diced pineapple, drained | 1 egg, beaten

Method 1. Put the chicken breasts in a bowl and stir in the soy sauce and honey. | Leave to one side to marinate for a few minutes. | 2. Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat, add the chopped and grated vegetables and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the chicken and the marinade and stir-fry for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the rice, sweetcorn and pineapple and stir-fry for about 2 minutes until the rice is hot right through. | 3. Pour in the egg, stirring to mix the egg through the rice, and fry for about 30 seconds. | 4. Serve with chopsticks for an authentic touch (and the entertainment value in most cases).

How to cook Perfect basmati rice Start with a good-quality basmati rice and measure out the amount you need. As a general rule, 1 part rice to 2 parts water is the ratio, so to make life easy, measure the quantity of rice in a cup and use the same one to measure the water. Unless a recipe states otherwise, 65g/2.oz/⅓ cup is usually sufficient per adult portion. Pop the rice in a sieve/fine-mesh strainer and rinse under the cold tap for about 1 minute to remove excess starch. Shake off as much water as you can, then tip the rice into a pan. Now measure in twice as much cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil over a high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave untouched for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and, with the lid still on, leave for a further 5 minutes. Run a fork through the rice and you will have delicious, fluffy basmati rice.

Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara

We love carbonara in our house, but the rich, creamy version is sometimes a bit too much for midweek. Try this lighter option if you’re a fan – it even contributes to one of your five a day.

MAKES 2 adult or 4 kid-sized portions
COOKING TIME 12 minutes

Ingredients 250g/9oz spaghetti | 1 tbsp olive oil | 125g/4.oz/scant 1 cup finely diced | smoked streaky bacon | 1 courgette/zucchini, grated | 1 garlic clove, crushed | 2 eggs, lightly beaten | 100g/3.oz mascarpone | 25g/1oz/. cup freshly grated Parmesan | Cheese | sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method 1. Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil, add the spaghetti and return to the boil. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes until it is just tender. | 2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the bacon and fry for 5–8 minutes until golden. Add the courgette/zucchini and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes to take away the initial rawness. | 3. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, mascarpone and Parmesan and season lightly with salt and pepper. | 4. As soon as the spaghetti is cooked, remove it from the water with a pair of tongs and put it straight into the pan with the bacon and courgette/zucchini and toss around. Finally, add the egg mixture. | 5. Remove from the heat and toss together to coat the spaghetti in the sauce. The heat from the spaghetti will cook the egg just enough without it scrambling. Serve immediately.

‘Home-cooked food that’s tasty and stress-free – this is Jo’s guide for busy parents’ – Jamie Oliver

Leftovers transformed Spaghetti fritters Any leftover spaghetti carbonara can be transformed into really tasty fritters that are perfect for lunch or even cold in school lunchboxes. Simply take the leftovers and snip the spaghetti a couple of times with a pair of scissors into smaller pieces. Mix with enough beaten egg to bind. You can also add some peas, sweetcorn or more grated courgette/zucchini here too. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan. Add spoonfuls of the spaghetti mixture and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot or cold.

Recipes from In the Mood for Quick Family Food by Jo Pratt © Nourish Books 2016, commissioned photography by Gareth Morgans. RRP £14.99.

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