3 fresh, simple recipes that prove Donna Hay is the queen of weeknight dinners

Posted by for Food and Drink

Searching for simple, tasty meals to freshen up your cooking repertoire? Find inspiration with these quick-as-you-like recipes from Donna Hay’s new cookbook Everyday Fresh: Meals in Minutes

When it comes to cooking, there’s a reason why we return to certain meals time and time again. Whether it’s spaghetti bolognese, macaroni and cheese or one-pot dishes, making a straightforward, reassuring classic will always win out over our grand ambitions to attempt something adventurous when we’ve finally clocked off from another endless Zoom meeting. 

As much as we love those go-to favourites, there’s no reason why they can’t be given an update every now and again by getting creative with ingredients and finding clever ways to make our weekly repertoire more nutritious – without feeling like we’ve sacrificed the DNA of our favourite dishes.

One woman who nails this philosophy is Donna Hay. The famed Australian food writer is renowned for meals that feel both accessible and appealing, no matter your culinary ability. If you’ve ever fallen victim to a recipe that promises to be simple, healthy and delicious, only to discover that it requires a cupboard full of speciality ingredients and three hours in the kitchen, Hay’s ideas will restore your faith in cooking.

Hay’s new cookbook, Everyday Fresh: Meals in Minutes, brings plenty more of that invigorating energy to the table. Taking everyday classics and elevating them with better-for-you ingredients, the book is filled with flavourful, heart-healthy recipes that can be created with very little hands-on time – and no hard-to-track-down ingredients. What’s more, they can all be turned into freezer-ready dishes, ready to be heated up at the end of a long day.

So, if you’re in search of mealtime inspiration, we’ve three delicious recipes from Everyday Fresh below. 

Risotto is the ultimate autumnal comfort food, and Hay’s “super green” baked adaptation is no exception. With leek, kale and broccoli, it’s a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your day – plus, there’s no stirring required.

Fans of a simple traybake, meanwhile, will love the lemon, olive and butter bean chicken. If you’re dreaming of warmer climes, this will transport you to the Mediterranean via your kitchen.

And if cooking with cauliflower tests the limits of your imagination, allow us to point you in the direction of Hay’s cauliflower rice bowls with crispy chilli eggs. By grating the cauliflower, it’s not only a fuss-free way to prepare seasonal veg, but a quick solution for Sunday brunch, too. Or every day of the week…

  • Super green baked risotto

    “I love this no-fuss, no-stir risotto. It’s the perfect base to get creative with – try swapping out the kale for finely chopped broccoli or go super simple by scattering in some frozen peas. The choice is yours!”

    Serves 4

    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    1 leek, sliced

    2 tablespoons lemon thyme leaves

    sea salt and cracked black pepper

    1½ cups (300g/10½ oz) arborio rice

    4½ cups (1.25 litres/42 fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock

    100g (3½ oz) baby spinach leaves

    4 cups (120g/4¼ oz) shredded kale leaves (stems removed)

    2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    ¼ cup (5g/⅛ oz) roughly chopped basil leaves

    ½ cup (40g/1½ oz) finely grated parmesan

    Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

    Heat a large deep ovenproof frying pan or flameproof roasting pan over medium heat. Add the oil, leek, lemon thyme, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until leek is golden and soft.

    Add the rice and stock and stir to combine. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or sheets of aluminium foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Allow to stand covered for 5 minutes.

    Remove the lid and stir the spinach, kale, lemon rind and juice into the risotto. Continue stirring until risotto is creamy and the greens are tender. Stir through the basil and parmesan and serve. 

  • Lemon, olive and butter bean chicken

    “For a dish that is filled with punchy flavours and textures, this chicken dish takes surprisingly little effort to make. The lemon, garlic, salty olives, creamy beans and crispy cavolo nero do all the heavy lifting. It’s what I call one-pan perfect!”

    Serves 4

    ¼ cup (60ml/2 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

    2 lemons, thickly sliced

    8 cloves garlic, skin on, crushed

    ¾ cup (45g/1½ oz) green Sicilian olives

    12 sprigs oregano or marjoram

    sea salt and cracked black pepper

    4 x 150g (5¼ oz) chicken breast fillets (4 small), trimmed

    1 x 400g (14 oz) can butter beans (lima beans), drained, rinsed

    12 small stalks cavolo nero (Tuscan kale), stems removed

    Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).

    Place the oil, lemon, garlic, olives, oregano, salt and pepper in a large roasting pan lined with non-stick baking paper. Toss to combine. Bake for 10 minutes then add the chicken and butter beans. Coat the chicken in the pan juices and bake for 10 minutes. Add the cavolo nero to the pan and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the cavolo nero is crisp and the chicken is cooked through.

    To serve, slice the chicken into thick slices and place onto serving plates with the crispy cavolo nero, beans, olives and pan juices. 

  • Cauliflower rice bowls with crispy chilli eggs

    “My favourite new way to make cauliflower rice is to simply grate it on a trusty box grater. No need to drag out the food processor every time. It’s one of those things I wish I’d discovered sooner. So easy that I now make it much more often.”

    Serves 4

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    2 cloves garlic, sliced

    2 tablespoons oregano leaves

    1kg (2 lb 3 oz) cauliflower, grated

    sea salt and cracked black pepper

    200g (7 oz) baby spinach leaves

    crispy chilli eggs

    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    2 large red chillies, chopped

    1 green onion (scallion), chopped

    4 eggs

    To make the cauliflower rice bowls, heat a large frying pan over high heat. Add the oil, garlic and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Add the cauliflower, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until cauliflower is soft. Stir through baby spinach.

    To make the crispy chilli eggs, heat a medium frying pan over high heat. Add the oil, chilli and onion and cook for 1 minute. Break the eggs into the pan and cook for 1 minute. Reduce temperature to low and cover pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

    To serve, place the cauliflower rice mixture into bowls and top with a chilli egg. 

    Everyday Fresh: Meals in Minutes by Donna Hay (£20, Fourth Estate) is out now

Photography: Con Poulos. Recipes and styling: Donna Hay 

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.