The most common reasons for people reaching for convenience food are through either a lack of confidence in the kitchen, or a busy lifestyle. I feel that I'm qualified to say that; I speak to busy parents of little ones who lack inspiration in the kitchen every single day in my job.
It gives me enormous pleasure to say to people that all is not lost - just follow a few simple no fuss ideas using store cupboard ingredients and you will be cooking fast and healthy food in no time. It is often met with pessimism, but once the demonstrations are finished, the transformation is often complete. Simple and cost effective is the way forward.
Cous cous is a fantastic product to keep in the store cupboard as an alternative to pasta and rice. It cooks in no time, it soaks up any flavours that you put in there and it makes for a lovely carbohydrate bed to balance up a plate of protein and vegetables. It may surprise readers to know that a lot of the people I teach still walk past cous cous in the supermarket as they assume it is a difficult product to make, or simply don't know what it is.
A squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil is often all you need to put flavour into cous cous. But it is great to experiment, so get out the sauces, vinegars and oils and have a play. This recipe is one that we turn to quite often as it uses two staple store cupboard ingredients that never run out - soya sauce and tomato ketchup. Before you retch or write this off as utter madness, all I can say is that it works and it is a hell of a lot better than reaching for the pot noodle. Stir in a few pan roasted vegetables and an oily fish, in this instance a Craster kipper, and you have a delicious balanced plate of healthy food in the space of 10 minutes. Fast food of the highest order.
Kipper Cous Cous
A couple of handfuls of mushrooms of choice, sliced
1 red and green pepper, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
200g cous cous
400ml hot stock or water
2 kipper or smoked mackerel fillets, chopped
A handful of sun dried tomatoes, sliced
A couple of handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tomato ketchup or tomato purée
2 tbsp soya sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh mint of parsley, roughly chopped
1 - Heat up the oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the mushrooms and peppers and cook for 5 minutes on a high heat until beginning to soften and turn golden. Add the kipper and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
2 - Put the cous cous into a large bowl then pour on the hot stock or water. Cover and leave for 5 minutes.
3 - Fluff up the cous cous with a fork then mix in the ketchup/purée, soya sauce and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly.
4 - Finally, stir in the cooked vegetables, sun dried tomatoes, spinach and herbs.