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Heading back to the office doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice freshly cooked dinners. Monica Galetti’s latest recipe book is filled with easy meals you can whip up in minutes…
There was once a time in the days before Covid where weeknight dinners inevitably consisted of something defrosted and batch-cooked in a bid to stave off hunger pangs as quickly as possible. But then along came lockdown, and we grew accustomed to a higher calibre of post-work meal. Are we the only ones who spent our used-to-be-commuting hours dreaming up and cooking all-out feasts on random Wednesday evenings? It’s not surprising that we’re feeling a little hard done by now that the post-commute golden hour of cooking has returned. Feeling seen?
Happily, being pushed for time doesn’t mean you have to forgo a delicious, freshly cooked meal. In fact, according to chef, restauranteur and TV presenter Monica Galetti, weeknights are the perfect time to whip up dishes with minimal prep time and maximum flavour. Galetti’s new cookbook, At Home, is stuffed with simple, crowd-pleasing recipes that are specifically designed for home cooks. With everything from unexpectedly indulgent mid-week desserts to comforting soups, each dish is reliably flavour packed. Sound better than round 447 of penne and jarred pesto? Below are three speedy recipes you’ll want to add to your weeknight rolodex…
Life may have been too short to stuff a mushroom in 1975, but according to Monica Galetti, it’s now one of the easiest dinners around. She griddles big portobello mushrooms until they’re stripy, then fills them with earthy beetroot, sharp goat’s cheese and toasty walnuts, then slides the stacks under the grill to lightly brown.
If you’d prefer something heartier, go for Galetti’s soy and honey glazed chicken. She doesn’t spend ages marinating the chicken – just tosses things together and heats the lot until the chicken is tender. Galetti serves it with creamy coconut rice and garlicky pak choi for a speedy dinner that’s as delicious as it is filling.
Finally, our perpetual dinner-based indecisiveness usually leads us directly to puff pastry – and Galetti’s tomato tart makes excellent use of the versatile fridge staple. She lays out a ready-made sheet, then tops it with a quiche-like mixture of milk and eggs and nestles in slices of just-ripe tomatoes. Stock up on ingredients – your hungry post-commute self will thank you…
Portobello mushrooms, goat's cheese, beetroot and walnuts
Monica says: “This is a nice quick recipe we like to knock out when the barbecue is on, and we live off the barbecue in the summertime, so this recipe gets made quite often! We also find this a good way to get Anais eating mushrooms when she says she doesn’t like them. Have the beetroot mixture and goats’ cheese ready to go once the mushrooms are cooked.”
- 4 large portobello mushrooms
- olive oil
- 4 small beetroot, cooked in water for about 30 minutes until tender, then peeled and cut into small cubes (alternatively use ready-cooked beetroot, not in vinegar)
- handful of walnut halves, toasted and broken up
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
- ½ lemon, for squeezing
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 100g soft goats’ cheese, such as La Buchette
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped pickled walnuts
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan, gas mark 6, and preheat a griddle pan over a high heat, if you don’t have the barbecue going.
Drizzle the portobellos with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the hot griddle pan or barbecue and cook for 2 minutes on each side.
Transfer to a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven on the grill function.
Meanwhile, place the beetroot, toasted walnuts and parsley in a bowl. Add a few drops of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add the garlic and chives and toss everything together to coat well.
Spoon the beetroot mixture on top of the cooked mushrooms. Roughly break up the goats’ cheese and sprinkle over the top.
Place under the hot grill (or place back on the barbecue) until the cheese begins to melt. Scatter the pickled walnuts on top to serve.
Soy and honey chicken with coconut rice
Monica says: “This recipe is a take on a dish my Mum used to make. She would place all the chicken in a baking tray and cook it in the oven (there was a lot of it – we were a household of seven), then serve it with plain rice. The smell of the garlic and soy while it was cooking would draw me out of my bedroom. Pak choi is the perfect green accompaniment – we always had a lot of it because my Dad grew it in his vast and sprawling vegetable garden (he grows everything, everywhere!) – and it has been one of my favourite vegetables for as long as I can remember.”
- 100g honey
- 150ml dark soy sauce
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- handful of coriander, chopped
For the coconut rice
- 150g brown rice
- 2 pinches of salt
- 300ml water
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon chopped pumpkin seeds
For the park choi
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
- 8 baby pak choi, cut in half lengthways
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper
Mix the honey and soy sauce together in a bowl, add the chicken thighs and turn to coat all over.
Transfer the chicken to a heavy-based saucepan, scraping in all the sticky honey marinade.
Place the pan over a medium heat and cook for 10 minutes, turning halfway, until the chicken is cooked and the honey and soy coating has thickened to a glossy glaze. (It’s important to start with a cold pan so the chicken stews in the liquid as it cooks; if your pan is too hot it will seal the chicken and caramelise the honey and soy too quickly, turning it bitter before the meat is cooked.)
While the chicken is cooking, place the rice in a saucepan and add the salt and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for about 20–25 minutes until tender and fluffy.
For the pak choi, heat the sesame and rapeseed oils in a pan over a medium heat. Add the pak choi and garlic, season with a little salt and pepper and cook for 3–4 minutes until tender.
When the rice is cooked, fluff with a fork and stir in the coconut oil and sesame seeds. Sprinkle the chopped pumpkin seeds on top.
Serve the chicken with the rice and the pak choi, and with the chopped coriander sprinkled over the top.
Papy’s tomato tart
Monica says: “Papy, my husband David’s Dad, is our star tomato tart maker during holidays. He is so proud of this recipe, as it was the first thing he made that my daughter Anais demolished in one sitting when she was about five years old. He still loves making it for her when it’s just the two of them, but of course (we hope!) saving some for David and me to eat when we get home. It needs no accompaniment: Papy serves it straight up, on its own.”
- olive oil
- 2 bacon rashers, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 220ml milk
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano, if possible, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 320g sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
- 5 ripe tomatoes, sliced
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 190°C fan, gas mark 6½ .
Heat a nonstick frying pan and add a drizzle of olive oil.
Fry the bacon, then add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Leave to cool.
Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add the oregano.
Take a baking tray, about 34 x 24cm and at least 2cm deep. Unroll the pastry into the tin and press it up the sides.
Spread the bacon and onion mixture over the pastry base, and cover with a layer of the tomato slices.
Pour over the egg mixture, then bake for 15–20 minutes until golden.
At Home: My Favourite Recipes For Family and Friends by Monica Galetti (£20.00, Aster) is out now
Photography: Yuki Sugiura.