Working mothers, take heart: leading Australian food editor and best-selling cookbook author Donna Hay has come up with easy recipes that take minutes to make – and even less time to wash up after.
Hay, a young mother of two boys, has been writing about food since she was 19, crafting 16 cookbooks along the way. She said her latest book, No Time to Cook, was aimed at everybody who thinks they are too busy to go into the kitchen every day, let alone cook for company.
She spoke recently about cooking and children:
What inspired you to make a career out of cooking?
When I was really young, my mother let me cook in the kitchen whatever I wanted. She was a brave and clever mum who didn’t really want to cook, and was happy for me to do it.
Why did you write a book about quick and easy recipes?
I wrote this book primarily for myself. It’s the first book that came out of my home kitchen, not the work kitchen. Having two young boys and wanting to make food for them, as well as food for entertaining, is always a challenge, so I tried to make it as easy as possible.
Also, one of my really good girlfriends, who also has two small children, was complaining about how hard it was to entertain and not have a mountain of cleaning up to do, and she asked me how she could do it without the mess, so that’s where the book came from.
Do you think people are cooking more or less these days?
I think people are cooking more at home, but they also buy a lot of prepared meals. What I tried to do with this book is to give them a solution so that they don’t have to buy takeaway, and all they have to do to get a good meal is to use one frying pan and a few fresh ingredients.
So what’s your advice for quick and mess-free cooking?
Keep it simple and fresh, and you can’t go wrong. A lot of people also fall into the trap of cooking from scratch every single day. So I revamped the “make and freeze” section in the book, which when I was growing up meant chilli con carne and lasagne, to include food that is less stodgy and that tastes just as good when reheated.
There are also dinners that are easy to put together in five minutes and which require no cooking at all. I’ve also included lots of cheats and tips. There are lots of Monday to Friday recipes that don’t take time.
What about cooking for company? Can that be done quickly?
Yes. Whenever I am entertaining, I rarely do three or four courses. I do two courses at a stretch, and usually just one, and then offer fruit or good quality ice cream to finish. I just can’t do any more with a job and two boys.
What ingredient can you not do without in the kitchen?
It changes a lot, but I’d say lemons. They’re very versatile. You can use the zest or the juice in so many ways – in dressings, in marinades, in desserts and even in pasta.
What’s your favourite kitchen utensil?
My grater or zester for the lemons.
Zucchini & Mint Pasta
2 zucchini (courgette), grated
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch chilli flakes
sea salt and cracked black pepper
finely grated parmesan, to serve
Cook pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. Drain and return to the pan to keep warm. Toss spaghetti with zucchini, mint, lemon juice, chilli, salt and pepper. Divide spaghetti mixture between the serving plates, sprinkle with finely grated parmesan and serve immediately. Serves 2.
Ricotta-Basil Chicken & Wilted Tomatoes
100g fresh ricotta
1 tablespoon shredded basil
1 tablespoon finely grated parmesan
2 x 200g chicken breast fillets, skin on
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
extra basil leaves, to serve
Preheat oven to 160C (320F). Combine ricotta, shredded basil and parmesan. Carefully loosen the skin from the chicken breast, leaving ends intact and carefully spoon in ricotta mixture. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat a medium non-stick frying pan with an ovenproof handle over medium-high heat. Add oil and chicken to the pan and cook chicken for 2 minutes each side or until well browned. Add tomatoes, place the pan in the oven and cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Divide between plates and top with extra basil. Serves 2.