Ten-minute dinners

If you’re short on time, try these tasty recipes from Michele Guinness

One of the consequences of working full-time seemed to be the decline of my culinary skills.  I don’t know whether it was the extra pressure, the lack of concentration or simply a kind of divine justice that won’t let us be good at everything, but nine hours a day at a desk seems guaranteed to result in a poor kind of offering at the dining table.
Rushing home without a menu in my head, grabbing something from the freezer and shoving it on the table so that Peter can eat before dashing out to his next meeting did nothing for our tastebuds or our digestive systems.  Satisfying hunger is not the same as savouring fellowship.  Really good food requires time and dedication and love. It needs checking and stirring and tasting, adding to and adjusting - even if it is made in the microwave.  And that can be one act of commitment too far at the end of a busy day.
So here are two recipes that are thrown together quickly with ingredients I always have at hand. And that means no thinking ahead, no need to stop at the shops on the way home from work (eating up an invaluable half-hour), no digging in the freezer and defrosting at the last minute. 
They are also lifelines when those long lost friends turn up unexpectedly.  Or when, as I’ve done, you actually invite folk round, then forget to put it in the diary.  When you find them on the doorstep, take a deep breath, smile sweetly, give them a drink and rush for these fast, no-fuss, no-fail recipes.  They still look impressive, if served creatively.

Sausage Pasta

Serves 2-3 (To make it go further and serve upto 4-6 people, simply double the quantity, adding other preferred ingredients such as a can of sweet corn and subtracting those that you don’t like quite so much).
Cooking time - around 10 minutes.

1 (227g) Mattesson’s sausage, sliced (either smoked or non-smoked, as you prefer.  They keep in the larder for 2-3 months)
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 small courgettes, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp pesto (or 1tsp dried basil if you have none)
Garlic (either a squirt from a tube or a good sprinkling of the powdered variety)
Salt, pepper
1 tsp olive oil

60g (2-3 oz)  dried pasta
Freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve

* Put the pasta in salted, boiling water (my son tells me it should taste like the Mediterranean) and bring to the boil.  Simmer according to the instructions on the packet. 
* Meanwhile, fry the chopped onion and the carrots in a teaspoon of olive oil in a wok or large frying pan, and when the onion is golden, add the red pepper, and the courgettes. 
* When the vegetables appear just cooked, but still crisp, (around 5 minutes), add the sliced sausage, and the tinned tomatoes, then stir in all the other ingredients.
* Serve the sausage sauce on a bed of pasta, sprinkled with freshly or ready grated parmesan cheese and a sprig of basil if you have any sitting in a pot on a kitchen shelf.

Boston Bean Bake

My children’s favourite, cheap to make and a real heart warmer in the winter.  Beware the after effects - all those beans!  But they are nourishing.  Once again, you can use any variety of canned beans you have available at the time.
Leave out the sausage or the bacon for a vegetarian option.
Cooking time - around 10 minutes

Serves 4

2 Mattesson’s (227g/8oz) sausages, sliced, or approx 200g (7oz) of bacon (at least 2 slices per person), chopped into pieces, or a tin of hot dog sausages
I onion, chopped
1 tin red kidney beans, drained
1 tin borlotti (or other) beans, drained
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp French mustard
2 tsp tomato puree
1 tbsp black treacle
2 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 tsp ground bay leaves
salt, pepper

* Simply fry the onion (and the bacon pieces, if using) until golden in a favourite saucepan, then add all the other ingredients. 
* Stir well and serve with a baked or mashed potato, and some green vegetables.