Quick dinner recipes | The Independent

I thought this week I’d focus exclusively on dishes that you can make in less than 30 minutes – and, in one case, less than 15. These are the recipes I need most right now, in the craziness of high autumn and its many commitments .

Easy kung pao chicken

Sweet, sour and a little spicy, this meal tastes like home – specifically the home of Pearl Han, a talented Taiwanese American cook who naturally streamlined dishes while raising three kids and managing a busy career. Her younger daughter, Grace Han, shared this recipe: “quick, easy and my mum’s favourite.” Dried chillies sizzle in oil first to impart heat to the whole dish, then chicken browns in a single layer – no high-heat stir-frying necessary – to create a tasty caramelised crust before the pieces are flipped together. Coated in a dead-simple kung pao sauce that delivers the dish’s signature salty tang, the chicken begs to be spooned over steamed rice. Serve with stir-fried vegetables as well for a complete meal.

recipe from: Pearl Han and Grace Han

Adapted by: Genevieve Ko

servings: 4

Total time: 15 minutes


450g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1½cm chunks

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Salt and ground black or Sichuan pepper

1 ½ tablespoons Chinkiang (black) vinegar or balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

¼ cup (60ml) neutral oil, such as grapeseed

15g small dried red chillies (see tip)


1. Mix the chicken, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and a big pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl until evenly coated. Let sit while you prepare the sauce.

2. Stir the vinegar, sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl.

3. Combine the oil and chillies in a wok or large nonstick frying pan, and set over medium heat. When the chillies start to sizzle and brown, about 15 seconds, push them to one side of the pan. Add the chicken to the other side all at once and spread in a single, even layer. Cook, without moving the pieces, until the bottoms are dark golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. If the chillies start to blacken, put them on top of the chicken so that they don’t burn.

4. Using a large spatula, flip the chicken into portions. Cook just until the meat almost loses all of its pinkness, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir the sauce and pour it into the pan. Stir until the sauce thickens and slicks the chicken evenly. Immediately transfer to a plate and serve hot.

Tip: The small dried red chillies typically used in kung pao dishes are available in Chinese markets. Any small dried red chillies work, though they do range in heat. For a similar spice level, use chillies de árbol.

Traybake prawns with tomatoes, feta and oregano

This weeknight recipe is ready in 10 minutes


Ready in 10 minutes, this vintage Mark Bittman recipe is a perfect weeknight recipe. It relies heavily on garlic, oregano and black pepper as a coating for the prawns. Serve alongside a hearty salad or with a stack of flatbread for an easy meal. In his original piece, a roundup of prawns recipes, he suggested wild prawns or fresh local prawns from, if they’re available to you. All, he wrote, are “preferable from a sustainability perspective”.

By: Mark Bittman

servings: 4

Total time: 10 minutes


1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

black pepper

680g peeled prawns

Chopped tomatoes, for serving

Crumbled feta, for serving


1. Turn on the grill, and position the oven rack close to the heat.

2. Mash garlic clove with salt until it forms a paste. Add chopped oregano, lemon juice, olive oil and lots of black pepper. Rub paste all over 680g peeled prawns.

3. Spread prawns out on a pan and grill, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Served topped with chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta.

Korean barbecue-style meatballs

You don’t need the grill for this Korean BBQ-inspired dish


These meatballs, inspired by traditional Korean barbecue, bring the savory-sweet flavors of caramelised meat without the need for a grill. As the meatballs bake, the soy sauce marries the garlic and spring onions to create a glaze. This meatball mixture can be made ahead and left to marinate in the fridge for 3 hours or even overnight. Use beef mince that is 85 per cent lean meat, 15 per cent fat, or 80 per cent lean and 20 per cent fat for juiceer meatballs. The Ritz crackers here make for a more tender meatball, but feel free to substitute plain dry breadcrumbs. The meatballs are tasty on their own, but for a simple dipping sauce, combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar. Serve over steamed rice with kimchi, or as a sandwich with mayonnaise or marinara sauce.

By: Kay Chun

servings: 4

Total time: 20 minutes


50g chopped spring onions

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 finely crushed Ritz crackers

450g beef mince


1. Heat oven to 220C. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and use your hands to gently mix.

2. Shape the meat into 12 golf-ball-size rounds (about 5cm in diameter), and arrange on a greased rimmed baking tray.

3. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Tip: Leftover meatballs freeze well and can be reheated in the oven at 190C until warmed through (about 20 minutes). To make the Ritz crumbs, place the crackers in a resealable plastic bag and lightly crush them with the back of a wooden spoon or measuring cup.

Cheesy white bean tomato bake

For those of you who love lasagna’s edges, where sticky tomato meets crisp cheese, this whole dish is for you – even the middle. A tube of tomato paste here mimics the deep flavors of sun-dried tomato. Frying a few generous squeezes caramelises the tomato’s sugars and saturates the olive oil, making a mixture that’s ready to glom onto anything you stir through it. Here, it’s white beans, though you could add in kale, noodles, even roasted vegetables. Then, all that’s left to do is dot it with cheese and bake until it’s as molten or singed as you like. Serve with bread and a bitter green salad.

By: Ali Slagle

servings: 4

Total time: 15 minutes


¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil

3 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 (425g) tins white beans (such as cannellini) or chickpeas, drained and rinsed

120ml boiling water

Salt and black pepper

150g mozzarella, coarsely grated


1. Heat the oven to 250C. In a 25cm ovenproof frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Fry the garlic until it’s lightly golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste (be careful of splattering) and fry for 30 seconds, reducing the heat as needed to prevent the garlic from burning.

2. Add the beans, water and generous pinches of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, then bake until the cheese has melted and browned in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. If the top is not as toasted as you’d like, run the pan under the grill for a minute or 2. Serve at once.

© The New York Times

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