What to cook when you don’t feel like cooking

I love cooking.

I love turning a pile of ingredients into something tasty, comforting.

I love tweaking recipes, replacing ingredients I don’t have or don’t like with things I prefer or need to use up.

I also love eating! Sitting down to dinner is one of my favourite parts of every day. Taking a moment to enjoy a meal and fuel your body with something delicious is a real joy.

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

But in these weird, virus-riddled times, we’re all staying in a lot more. You’ve probably been eating at home for weeks and might have run out of ideas.

Sometimes, cooking is just too much effort.

So, if you’re ever out of ideas for what to have for dinner or you’re feeling too tired to cook, here’s a short list of lazy dinners to make.

1. Roasted vegetables with a fried egg

This is one of my favourite low-effort meals. It’s great because your hands-on time is so low.

Just roughly chop whatever vegetables you have in the fridge — onions, peppers, courgettes, garlic (lots of garlic) — drizzle with olive oil, season, and roast until cooked through.

A few minutes before you take them out of the oven, fry an egg and serve it plonked on top of your veg. Delicious.

If you want to bulk it out, add a few chopped potatoes to the vegetables (don’t bother peeling), or serve with some crusty bread to mop up any juices.

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

2. Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino

This is a real Italian classic and is so simple to make — minimal prep and maximum enjoyment.

Get a pot of water on to boil. While it’s coming up to the heat, peel and slice a few cloves of garlic. Add a very generous splash of oil to a frying pan and add the garlic. Fry on a very low heat with a good pinch of chilli flakes (or sliced fresh chilli) while you cook the spaghetti.

Add a ladleful of pasta water to the pan with the garlic, then drain the spaghetti and toss it all together.

Serve with grated cheese (obviously) and enjoy.

3. Caprese salad

Another Italian classic, this is a great one to make when you don’t want to do any actual cooking at all.

Slice up a couple of big, ripe tomatoes and a ball of mozzarella, then arrange the slices on a plate. Season with salt, pepper, dried oregano and good extra virgin olive oil.

That’s it. That’s the whole recipe.

If you have some fresh basil in the house, a few leaves will be a tasty extra, but really this is just a plate of tomatoes and some cheese, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

4. Omelette

Omelettes are so comforting, and they’re a fantastic thing to cook when you just can’t bear the thought of making of anything more complicated.

Fry whatever you want as a filling in a non-stick pan — I like to go for an onion, some bell pepper, and a few frozen peas. Cook it through, then tip onto a plate.

Beat a couple of eggs together, then pour into the pan on a low heat and swirl it around so it covers the edges. Once the bottom looks like it’s just starting to set, tip your filling back in, trying to keep it all on one side.

Grate over some cheese, if you like, then use a rubber spatula to fold the omelette in half (it helps to tilt the pan). Don’t worry too much about the fold; omelettes aren’t meant to be beautiful, just tasty.

Serve with some black pepper and a slice of toast.

5. Pesto on toast with vegetables

This is a delicious lunch option and a great way to use up the dregs of a jar of pesto.

Toast some bread. Ideally, use a nice crusty bread or a sourdough, but whatever you have will work just fine.

While it’s toasting, prep the veg you want to eat with this. I like a ripe tomato, cut into slices and sprinkled with salt, or a few roasted red peppers from a jar.

Spread a spoonful of pesto onto your toast and top with the veg.

If you want something a bit more comforting, swap the veg out for mozzarella or cheese, then pop it under the grill for a couple of minutes. It’s a bit more effort, but I often can’t resist the ease of it with jarred veg.

6. Ravioli with butter, cheese and chilli

Shop-bought ravioli (or other filled pasta) is a godsend for lazy dinners. It’s ready after just a few minutes of boiling and you really don’t have to add much to make a satisfying meal.

Cook the ravioli in salted boiling water, then drain (saving a splash of cooking water). Add a knob of butter, a generous grating of Parmesan or similar, a pinch of chilli flakes and a little splash of the cooking water, then toss and bring it all together.

Serve with black pepper and an extra grating of cheese. So simple, but so tasty. Try it with a few different ravioli or tortellini flavours and see what you like best.

7. Fried rice

This one is only a good option if you have leftover rice in the fridge or a sachet of pre-cooked rice. If you’re feeling lazy, boiling rice from scratch is definitely not the way to go, so give this one a miss.

Peel and roughly chop and onion, then fry in a little oil for a few minutes. Add any other veg you have to hand — this is a great way to use any leftovers or ingredients that are past their best. You can also use frozen vegetables (I like peas and carrots for this, but really anything can work).

Cook it all down for a few minutes, then tip in your rice and add whatever flavourings you like. I like to add soy sauce, chilli sauce and a squeeze of lime, but powdered spices are also great.

Stir-fry until hot through. Add an egg at the end if you want egg-fried rice, but this works just as well without.

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

8. Jacket potato with…

Jacket potatoes are criminally underrated! If you’re feeling lazy, these are such a fantastic option as you can just leave them in the oven for as long as needed while you get on with something else, like watching TV.

Take a normal potato or a sweet potato, cut a little cross into the top, then drizzle over and rub in a little oil, sprinkle over some salt and pepper, and wrap in foil. Put it in the oven for an hour or so, taking the foil off for the last 20 minutes to get the skin nice and crispy.

Serve it with a knob of butter and whatever else you have in the house — baked beans are a classic, but really anything goes here so fill your boots.

Freelance writer, copy editor and proofreader.

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