Low effort, huge reward: readers recommend 10 very easy, supremely tasty recipes

A delicious, hearty meal needn’t take much time to make. Here are some startlingly quick options for big taste sensations – from midnight spaghetti to fried green plantain.

fried plantain
Patacones, or fried plantain, a great hangover cure. Photograph: GMVozd/Getty Images

Guardian readers Fri 26 Mar 2021 746

‘Midnight spaghetti’

Any meal we eat after 10pm is frantic and addled. I often want something salty, spicy and flavorsome, preferably in a bowl, so “midnight spaghetti” is my go-to. Put enough spaghetti for two in a pot of heavily salted water and bring to the boil. Finely slice four garlic cloves, a red chilli and the stems of four leaves of rainbow chard (saving the leaves for later) and add to a frying pan with a generous glug of olive oil, then heat gently until golden. Add a couple of teaspoons of capers and a lot of ground black pepper. Roughly chop the chard leaves and a couple of handfuls of parsley. Add the chard leaves to the frying pan along with the almost-cooked spaghetti and 4 tbsp of pasta water. Turn off the heat after a minute or two, add the parsley and stir through, then serve with grated parmesan. The whole meal should take about 10 minutes. Ella Blackburn, teacher, London

miso soup
Taking stock … Japanese miso soup. Photograph: Sergii Koval/Alamy

Miso soup

Put small pieces of vegetables (such as broccoli, pea pods, thinly sliced carrots and thin strips of cabbage), tofu cubes and/or prawns, and wakame seaweed (optional) in boiling water then simmer for 3-4 minutes until slightly tender. Turn the heat off and stir in miso paste to taste (do not boil the miso), then top with scallions [spring onions] and furikake. You can serve with rice on the side or add quick-cooking noodles with the veggies if you want. This might not be a completely authentic miso soup recipe, but everyone in my house loves it, and it takes about 10 minutes to make. Maya, research scientist, Minnesota, US

Hummus and jalapeño sandwich

This is simple and delicious. Take two slices of multi-seed bread and spread hummus on both. Chop pickled jalapeños and scatter on one slice, then put lettuce on the other along with sliced cucumber (optional). It’s incredibly simple; the jalapeños add heat and acidity to the smooth creamy hummus, as well as a little crunch. I have been making this sandwich for nearly 20 years, and it takes just two minutes to put together. It’s also forgiving of supermarket hummus given the strength of the jalapeños – give it a try! Sam Virtue, scientist, Hertfordshire

Slovenly caesar salad

Combine Romaine lettuce, rocket, cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onion and parmesan slivers sliced by a potato peeler. Fry two rashers of pancetta with pumpkin and sunflower seeds until golden. Make a dressing by adding a finely chopped clove of garlic to 1 tbsp of mayonnaise, the juice and zest of half a lemon, 1 tbsp of grated parmesan and 1 large tsp of dijon mustard. Griddle chicken or prawns – or anything really – then add it all together. It is delicious: I like to eat it while watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians as they only ever seem to eat caesar salad. JJ, director of operations, Brighton

pastry tart
Tray bien … pastry tart. Photograph: Helen Ullock

Pastry tart

Top a ready-rolled sheet of puff pastry with cream cheese or soft goat’s cheese loosened with a dollop of creme fraiche (mix in some garlic, black pepper and fresh herbs if you have them), then top with tomatoes or other vegetables – roasted peppers, courgettes, aubergines, whatever you’ve got. Bake for around 30-35 minutes at 180 degrees and voilà! Five minutes of minimal effort yields a dinner-party worthy dish that works just as well as a mid-week meal. Serve with a herby salad and some new potatoes, or on its own as a starter. It’s great cold, too. Helen Ullock, London


Also known as fried green plantain. Peel the plantain and chop into slices the width of your index finger; you should get between 10 and 15 slices per plantain. Fry them in hot oil, turning once or twice. Remove from the oil and leave to stand on a plate for a minute or two. Now squash them with a cup or glass so they spread into something twice their initial diameter. Return to the hot oil for another minute or so. Drain on kitchen roll, sprinkle with salt and eat. Great served with queso fresco, chilli sauce or avocado. Also great for getting rid of hangovers or eaten the night before as a snack to soak up the booze. Tom Bolton, academy director, Ecuador

lentil and apricot soup
Spice up your life … curried lentil and apricot soup. Photograph: Fudio/Alamy

Curried lentil and apricot soup

This recipe never fails and uses all of five ingredients: 200g lentils, 100g dried apricots, 10g curry powder, 2 medium sized onions and 1,300ml of water (or less, depending on how thick you like your soup). First, soften the onion with some of the water in a pressure cooker without the lid, along with the curry powder. Then add the lentils, apricots and remaining stock/water (or chickpea water, if you have some which needs using). Cook under pressure for about 10 mins and hey presto! Season to taste before serving. Éilis McDonnell, carer, Dublin, Ireland

Egg wrap
It’s a wrap … egg tortillas. Photograph: LauriPatterson/Getty Images

Egg wraps

This is my go-to easy second dinner after a late-night workout. Beat two or three eggs, with a bit of cream or mustard if you have it. Grab any add-ins you want (onions, tomato, bacon, chicken, etc) and fry them in butter over a medium-low heat. Pour in the eggs, add any remaining toppings that can’t be fried (cheese, sour cream, etc), and press a large tortilla on to the top of the eggs, making sure that there aren’t any big air pockets. Wait until the eggs have set – they should come out of the pan when you lift the edge of the tortilla – then flip the whole thing over. Roll it up, and brown the outside of the tortilla over medium heat. Move to a plate and eat. Kate, graduate student, Canada

Veggie medley

One of my favourite lockdown discoveries has been fennel. Chop it up into chunks, along with an aubergine, red onion and a red pepper, then halve 5-6 garlic cloves and toss everything together with a good glug of olive oil. Throw it into a baking dish at 200C for 40-45 mins, adding black olives, capers and a tin of chickpeas in the final 10 minutes. Chop up any herbs you have lying around, scatter on top, and voilà! A beautiful veggie medley that’s warm and comforting and requires minimal washing up. Shreena Chavda, healthcare consultant, Hertfordshire

Simple fruit dessert

Cut up fresh fruit and place in a dish (most types of fruit work, but not citrus). Cover with Greek yoghurt mixed with double cream, in equal parts. Sprinkle dark muscovado sugar on top, cover and refrigerate. The sugar melts into little pools and it is absolutely delicious. No timings or measurements are needed as no error is really possible!  Mrs Kennett, retired, Devon