8 Staples for Easy Meals ...

I must admit to being a pretty lazy cook, and one who never plans my meals. So I like to keep a stock of items that I can use to throw together a quick and easy meal. If you’re like me – or if you sometimes can’t be bothered to spend a long time cooking after working all day, then try keeping some of the following ingredients in your kitchen.

1. Chickpeas (Garbanzos)

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As a vegetarian, I use a lot of chickpeas, but you don’t have to be veggie to make use of them. Keep a few jars of ready-cooked chickpeas, and you have the basis of lots of easy meals. I like to use them for stews, or making falafel, but you can also whizz up hummus in no time for a quick snack.

2. Eggs

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Eggs are known as the original fast food, and for good reason. How long does it take to boil an egg or make an omelette? Plus they’re useful for binding the mixture in home-made burgers.

3. Tomatoes

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What can’t you do with tomatoes (aside from make desserts, and there are probably posh restaurants that do just that)? Canned tomatoes can be used to top a pizza base, make a pasta sauce or flavour a stew. I also use them to make a sauce for soya ‘meatballs’.

4. Couscous

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Most supermarkets now sell pre-cooked couscous. All you need to do is steam for a few minutes. Add whatever you like – for example, nuts, dried fruit or cooked chicken, and you have a quick and easy meal or accompaniment.

5. Herbs

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Okay, so herbs on their own don’t make much of a meal, but since fast cooking can sometimes be a bit bland, herbs are a great way of adding some flavour. They’ll add that bit extra to an omelette, and are essential for a pasta sauce.

6. Soya Mince

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I’m never without this in my cupboard (a bag lasts for ages and costs little). It can be used to make the ‘meatballs’ I mentioned above, a bolognese-style sauce, burgers and all kinds of other dishes. Plus it doesn’t take long to cook.

7. Red Lentils

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These take only 20 minutes to cook (not as fast as some ingredients, but still pretty easy). With very little preparation, you can make a warming winter stew (I just throw them in to water with some veggies and tomatoes). Being cheap, they can also be used t make meat go further.

8. Noodles

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Noodles cook in just a few minutes – how easy is that? They’re great for a quick lunch with some lightly stir-fried vegetables, cooked meat, eggs or tofu. They can also be cooked ahead of time and cooled for lunch on a hot summer day.

There are lots of great ingredients that can be kept in the cupboard to make quick and easy meals, not just those I’ve suggested here. What essentials do you always have in stock for those times when you don’t want to spend ages cooking?

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