Summer is still with us and easy meals created with just five ingredients are welcome. Salads are excellent — and healthy — but many of us enjoy warmer dinner treats.

Planning the week’s menu and a one-stop supermarket shop avoids the temptation to purchase instant meals. Keep a good supply of veg in the fridge. They’re not only super salad ingredients but can be diced and combined with eggs and flour to make fritters — courgette and feta; corn and ham; carrot, cumin seeds and peas; or seeded tomato, chopped parsley and spring onion. Serve them with a dip such as plain yoghurt and chopped mint or puréed fresh peaches with chopped coriander.

Take advantage of ready-prepared sauces and dressings to jazz up grills and pan-fries. Many dressings can be also used as marinades for grills but ensure that most of the dressing is removed before cooking to prevent burning. They also make great dippers for dumplings. The latter are a popular ‘from the freezer’ item in our house served with stir-fried veg or a salad.

For me, pantry essentials include oil, vinegar, rice, pasta, herbs, spices, dried fruits, canned salmon and beans. They’re good keepers, relatively economical and can nutritionally balance many a meal.


450g spinach
pinch ground nutmeg
2 x 210g cans pink salmon, drained
1 cup cream
1/4 cup finely grated tasty cheese

Trim the ends from the spinach. Wash the leaves well, coarsely chop and place in a large microwave-proof jug or casserole. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir then continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, until very limp. Turn into a large strainer and cool.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze the water from the spinach. Finely chop. Squeeze again if required.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly butter a 20cm baking dish or four individual baking dishes.

Spread the spinach evenly over the base. Season with nutmeg. Top with chunks of the salmon. 

Heat the cream until bubbly and pour over the salmon. Cover loosely with foil. Bake for 15 minuets, remove the foil and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for another 5 minutes.

Great served with crusty bread. Serves 4.


If fresh gnocchi is unavailable use vacuum-packed and cook according to the packet instructions adding the peas during the last few minutes. Drain but reserve the cooking water. A dash of cream could be added for extra yumminess.

3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
400g fresh gnocchi
60g finely grated parmesan cheese

Cook the peas in the water until crisp-tender. Drain but reserve the cooking water.

Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. Add the gnocchi and peas and pan-fry for 2-3 minutes until the gnocchi is golden. Add the cheese and about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water. Stir well until the cheese melts and coats the gnocchi. Add a little more water if the sauce is too thick. 

Great served garnished with a little fresh thyme. Serves 3-4.


500g golden kumara
6-8 beef sausages
270g jar onion marmalade (eg Barkers)
4 cups mesclun leaves
2-3 tablespoons balsamic dressing

Peel, chop and boil the kumara until soft.

Meanwhile pan-fry the sausages in a non-stick pan until browned and cooked through.

Add the onion marmalade and a 1/2 cup of water. Stir well. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes.

Mash the kumara and served topped with the sausages. Toss the mesclun with the dressing and serve on the side. Serves 4.


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