I have a confession to make: I don’t always want to cook. Sure, I’m that person who Instagrams every meal and yes, I actually dream in food. I love thinking of new ways to eat but sometimes I get a bit… tired.
You know those times when the day drags on and pretty much everything seem dark and dank? It’s not just the fact that Trump has triumphed or that it’s November (easily the bleakest of all the months, after January and February), because we can feel like this come rain or shine. Sometimes, the last thing you want to do is to get home and slave over a hot stove. Don’t get me wrong; cooking can be wonderfully therapeutic and it’s a great way to let off steam – literally.
Sometimes though, I don’t want to chop or stir or fry or bake or roast. Sometimes, I don’t want to wash up afterwards. Sometimes, the microwave is my mate. And this is where little shortcuts (call them hacks if you will) step in. The Hemsleys of this world may have their superfoods but I have my superheroes and I’m sharing them with you. These are convenience (not junk) foods, and all are pretty healthy and contain mainly natural ingredients. Serve with salad or vegetables and you’ll have a balanced meal – if that’s what you want. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat Marmite on toast in bed if the mood takes you.
Here are just some of my favourite superhero foods:
Well, obvs. Baked beans are cheap, relatively nutritious and my comfort food of choice. Stick ’em on toast (with Marmite for extra salt and B vitamins) or on top of a big ol’ baked potato and you’ll instantly feel happier. Heinz also does its famous ‘57 Varieties’ with a twist, and flavours include barbeque and piri piri. These chilli ‘beanz’ are the best though as it’s almost like eating a bowl of the real deal. You can buy supermarket own brand versions but they’re not quite as nice. Serve with microwave rice or a baked potato, a bit of salad and some mashed avocado. I’ve been known to add a dollop of houmous and if I’ve had a particularly trying day, I’ll pour a glass of red, too…
I’m not sure how to pronounce it but Ashoka does curry for those in a hurry. You can pick up these pouches in the international aisle at the supermarket and boy, are they handy. Choose from Punjabi choley, dal, Kohinoor rajma masala and more. Simply heat in the microwave for two minutes (or on the stove) and serve with microwave rice and greens. Don’t be fooled by the packet instructions though: it serves one, not two.
On the subject of quick and easy, I’ve probably raved about microwave rice before. It’s a game changer, it really is. I don’t care if it’s lazy; if I can have rice in two minutes, I’ll have it. Everyone’s onto this now and Uncle Ben, Tilda and Merchant Gourmet do some tasty versions with spices, coconut milk, beans – you name it. Oh, and you can get varieties with quinoa and lentils too, if you’re trying to up your protein game. These are often on offer, depending on where you shop, but you can also buy the supermarket versions for as little as 60p. Great with canned lentils or chickpeas and some salad or vegetables.
You know what I’m talking about here: those little pots of beetroot or couscous in the ‘deli’ aisle. Great for a picnic, be it in the park (although at this time of year you’d be brave to try it), on the sofa or – my favourite – in bed. Not all supermarket salads are born equal though, and Marks and Spencer do the freshest flavours out there; these include cauliflower and harissa chickpea, orzo pasta and tomato, and Mexican rice, quinoa and avocado, plus a lovely one with edamame beans, apple and sugar snap peas. These are not just salads…
Linda McCartney sausages
Actually, everything in this range is great but these are my favourite. Lovely Linda does the best veggie sausages out there if you ask me (why, oh why, Cauldron, aren’t your sausages vegan already?) and these are marvellous with mash, in a casserole or pasta bake, or in a breakfast bap at the weekend.
Oh houmous, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I’ll spread you on toast and in sandwiches, spoon you onto baked potatoes, salads and stews, or eat you straight from the tub. The plain Jane version is perfectly fine but most supermarkets offer variations such as sweet chilli, lemon and coriander, caramelised onion (stop me drooling) and Tesco even does one with broad bean, asparagus and mint version – hello…
The prices for these vary, depending on where you shop and whether they’re on offer, but they are generally cheap and cheerful. Have you got any superhero foods? Let me know!