Whilst I am not a fan of ready meals, there is a place in my kitchen for some ready-made items which sit in my list of store cupboard staples to help me out when I’m short of time or don’t want to make a last-minute dash to the shops. i recently had a few friends over for supper on a Friday evening – i shopped on my way home and picked up a beautiful piece of salmon fillet, a tub of good quality fresh pesto and fresh breadcrumbs, along with new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli. Salmon with a pesto crust is one of my fail-safe simple dishes which not only tastes good but looks good, especially if you use a large fillet as opposed to individual portions. It also saves it from getting dry as you cook it.
For 6 people I used a whole tub of pesto, mixed into half a bag of fresh breadcrumbs. Put the fish (approx 1.5kg piece which i cut into two) onto a foil lined baking tray and season. Pile the breadcrumb mixture on top of it and press down lightly. Chill until you are ready to cook… then bake in a hot oven for approx 20 minutes so that the top is slightly browned and the fish is just cooked. I served this with new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli – very simple, but tasty! (so good that I don’t have a ‘cooked’ photo!)
The same weekend I also had a craving for a Tom Yum style soup – i had a terrible cough and cold, so self medication with lots of chilli, ginger, lime and turmeric was necessary. Luckily, not only do I have bags of frozen Thai aromatics, but also a jar of Tom Yum soup paste which I always keep to hand. Combined with noodles and a few frozen dumplings, this was the perfect Asian alternative to chicken soup!
In a pan I put a chicken stockpot cube (Knorr) along with a stick of lemongrass, 6 kaffir lime leaves, a green chilli, some fresh turmeric and a big tablespoon of grated ginger. I brought these to the boil and then added a teaspoon of Tom Yum paste, a tablespoon of fish sauce and a pinch of sugar. Simmer this for 5 – 10 minutes to let the flavours infuse. I then added some dried egg noodles and a few frozen dumplings (from Wing Yip foods) and brought it all back to the boil and simmer until they were cooked through. I threw in a handful of coriander and chopped spring onion before serving, along with a big squeeze of lime. Fast and tasty – no more than 20 minutes in total, yet it packed a flavourful punch and helped clear my head cold.
Don’t just save the Tom Yum paste for soups… sometimes I put a small teaspoonful into a fried rice for a little hint of chilli and fragrant aromatics!