31 incredibly easy dishes – no recipe required

No recipe required

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

There’s a time and a place for complicated recipes, but sometimes you just want to whip up something delicious with minimal fuss. That’s where our 'no-recipe' recipes come in. These simple suggestions are designed to inspire you – without demanding that you follow instructions to the letter. If you do have a little more time and energy, you can also use these tips as a base; improvise with the ingredients, switch up the presentation and add your own spin, safe in the knowledge that the end result will be very tasty indeed.

Read on to discover the dishes that you can whip up without a recipe, from traybakes to soothing soups and delicious desserts.

Falafel burgers



These hand-held delights are packed with flavour and are healthy, too. To serve four, put a standard can of chickpeas (usually around 9oz/250g when drained) in a blender with a chopped red onion, a clove of garlic, a handful of fresh parsley and a teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Add 2 tbsp plain four, season with salt and black pepper, and blend until fairly smooth. Form the mix into eight small patties. Set a frying pan with a little sunflower oil over medium heat, add the patties and cook for three minutes on each side. Serve stuffed into warm pitta bread, with lettuce, cucumber and garlicky yoghurt.

Italian stuffed chicken

<p>AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock</p>

AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

This simple Italian-inspired dish is sure to become a firm family favourite. To serve four, beat together 2 tbsp each of chopped olives and sundried tomatoes, a crushed garlic clove, a couple of large handfuls of chopped spinach and a standard tub of cream cheese (usually around 7oz/200g). Cut a slit along the side of each chicken breast, then use a knife to open it out into a pocket. Fill with the cream cheese mix and press together to close. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in an oven preheated to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7 for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is golden and cooked through. Serve with boiled or roasted baby potatoes.

Crispy halloumi with bulgur wheat and rocket



For a lovely light meal that serves four and sings with both flavour and texture, cook 7oz (200g) bulgur wheat according to pack instructions. Cut a block of halloumi cheese into slices and sear in a hot griddle pan for two to three minutes on each side, then drizzle with honey and set aside. Whisk together the zest and juice of a lemon, 1 tsp smoked paprika and a good glug of olive oil, then stir through the bulgur wheat. Toss in a can of chickpeas (usually around 9oz/250g when drained), adding three or four handfuls of rocket leaves and a scattering of pomegranate seeds. Divide among bowls, top with the halloumi and serve.

Sticky honey and ginger chicken



This one's a winner with adults and children alike. To make enough of this moreish dish to serve four, fry six sliced, skinless and boneless chicken thighs in a little olive oil until golden all over. Add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and 1 tbsp grated ginger to the pan. Stir in 3 tbsp runny honey, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar and around 3fl oz (100ml) water. Bring to a boil and cook for two to three minutes more, until the chicken is sticky, cooked through, and coated in the sauce. Scatter with sesame seeds, and serve with noodles or rice and steamed greens.

Baked Brie

<p>Carey Jaman/Shutterstock</p>

Carey Jaman/Shutterstock

Serve baked Brie with sourdough toast, honey or chilli jam and a big bunch of grapes for dinner, and everyone will be very happy – it's utterly indulgent and extremely delicious. Remove the wrapping from a whole Brie (with rind), then return it to its box or place it in a small ovenproof pan or dish. Score the surface of the cheese in a criss-cross pattern. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas mark 6 for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle with honey or chilli jam and serve.

Mexican stuffed peppers

<p>joanna wnuk/Shutterstock</p>

joanna wnuk/Shutterstock

These Mexican-inspired stuffed peppers are brilliantly simple and easily adaptable. To make enough to serve four, hollow out four large red peppers, then cook them in an oven preheated to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/gas mark for 15 minutes, until softened. Leave to cool slightly. Combine around 14oz (400g) cooked rice with a small can each of drained sweetcorn and kidney beans, and use the mixture to stuff the peppers. Top each pepper with a handful of grated Cheddar and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Seafood poke bowls

<p>Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock</p>

Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

Make simple, seriously speedy poke bowls at home by cooking microwavable rice according to pack instructions, then drizzling with seasoned rice vinegar. Top with the seafood of your choice – smoked salmon, seared tuna, flaked smoked mackerel and cooked prawns all work well – then add an array of vegetables (think shredded carrot and cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, sliced avocado and edamame beans). Make a dressing from equal quantities of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and lemon juice, and scatter the bowl with sesame seeds and coriander leaves just before serving.

Fish finger sandwich



Show shop-bought fish fingers some love, and you’ll be rewarded with a tasty meal. First, make a quick tartare sauce by mixing mayonnaise with capers, chopped cornichons and a squeeze of lemon juice. Slice a crusty roll in half lengthways and layer crunchy lettuce leaves over the base. Add fish fingers (cooked according to packet instructions), spoon over the tartare sauce, then add the bread roll lid. Serve with lemon wedges and tomato ketchup on the side, if you like.

Butternut squash and feta pizza

<p>Catherine Murray/Shutterstock</p>

Catherine Murray/Shutterstock

A crowd-pleaser if there ever was one, this pizza is bursting with flavour. First, preheat your oven to 240°C/220°C fan/475°F/gas mark 9, then roll out ready-made pizza dough and place it on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread cream cheese over the base and arrange thinly sliced onions and butternut squash pieces on top. Drizzle with olive oil, scatter with rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the butternut squash tender. Top with crumbled feta cheese and serve immediately.


Creamy cauliflower soup



Despite being simple to prepare, this soup tastes wonderfully luxurious. To make enough to feed four, bring around 24fl oz (700ml) whole milk to a simmer in a large saucepan. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add the finely chopped florets from a large head of cauliflower. Increase the heat and cook, without allowing the milk to boil, for 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Add a small knob of butter (a drizzle of truffle oil wouldn’t go amiss either), transfer to a blender and blitz to a thick purée. Divide among bowls and top with chunky croutons to serve.

Creamy mushroom pasta

<p>Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock</p>

Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock

This pasta dish tastes indulgent but demands very little of the cook, both in terms of time and effort. To make a single portion, first coarsely grate five chestnut mushrooms. Set a wide frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat, add the mushrooms, a finely grated garlic clove, 2 tbsp double cream and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Stir well, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for six to eight minutes. Add linguine or spaghetti, cooked according to packet instructions, to the pan, then fold in a handful of spinach leaves. Mix well and serve.

Mezze platter



When you want to put together a memorable meal in minutes, a mezze platter is the answer. This sharing plate is really all about the assembly: decant dips (think hummus and baba ganoush) into bowls and place them on a large plate, then add olives, pickles, sundried tomatoes and stuffed chilli peppers. Make a quick salad with tomatoes, chopped parsley and bulgur wheat, and warm some shop-bought falafels through in the oven. Find room for some juicy quartered figs drizzled with honey, and serve the whole lot with flatbreads on the side. This picking platter would also work brilliantly as an easy dinner party starter or grazing plate.

Satay chicken lettuce wraps

<p>Marie Sonmez Photography/Shutterstock</p>

Marie Sonmez Photography/Shutterstock

These satay chicken lettuce wraps make a great light lunch or nibble, and can easily be turned into a more substantial meal when served with noodles or rice. To make yours, prepare a simple satay-style dressing by mixing peanut butter with soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice and zest, and sesame oil. Fold this mix through diced cooked chicken. Arrange iceberg or butter lettuce leaves on a platter, fill each one with a large spoonful of satay chicken and scatter with sliced spring onions. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

English muffin avocado toast



Avocado toast may be the ultimate brunch dish, but it’s worth remembering that it can easily double up as dinner, too. First, mash ripe avocados with a little salt and plenty of black pepper. Cook rashers of bacon in the oven until crisp, then cut into thin pieces (kitchen scissors are particularly handy for doing this). Spread toasted English muffins with the mashed avocado, sprinkle over the crispy bacon bits and top with a poached egg. Serve with chilli sauce on the side.

Hummus with crispy spiced beef



This Middle Eastern–inspired meal is ready in minutes. To serve two, fold a spoonful of thick Greek yoghurt, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil through a pot of hummus. Heat a large frying pan with a little sunflower oil until searing hot, add a packet of beef, lamb or turkey mince, and cook for six to eight minutes, until the mince is crisp. Sprinkle over a little za’atar and ground cinnamon, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a minute more. Divide the hummus among serving plates and spoon the crispy beef on top. Scatter with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds and serve with toasted flatbreads.

Puy lentil, cherry tomato and tuna salad

<p>Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock</p>

Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

Thrifty, wholesome, filling and almost effortless to put together, this Puy lentil and tuna salad packs a real flavour punch. To serve two, tip a pouch of pre-cooked Puy lentils into a large bowl, then mix in a small can of drained tuna, a couple of handfuls of halved cherry tomatoes, a little finely sliced red onion and a small bunch of chopped parsley. Drizzle with a dressing made by whisking together 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tsp each Dijon mustard and runny honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and 3 tbsp olive oil.

Sweet potatoes with feta and hot honey butter

<p>AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock</p>

AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Baked sweet potatoes can be stuffed with all manner of different fillings, but this is one of our favourites. Pierce your potatoes with a fork, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and roast in a really hot oven until crisp on the outside and soft in the centre. While the potatoes cook, melt a generous knob of butter in a small saucepan, then add a scattering of chilli flakes and a generous drizzle of honey. Sizzle over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Split open your baked sweet potatoes, top with crumbled feta and drizzle with the hot honey butter.

Quinoa, kale and chickpea bowls

<p>Elena Veselova/Shutterstock</p>

Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

To make a bright and healthy quinoa bowl, cook the grains according to packet instructions, dress with olive oil, salt and pepper, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add roasted vegetables – sweet potato, pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and red peppers work well – and a few fresh green leaves for contrast (think kale and spinach). For the final flourish, crisp up some canned chickpeas: drain and fry in hot oil until the chickpeas just begin to blister on the outside. Serve with a tahini dressing (tahini, lemon juice and honey) on the side.

Greek-inspired chicken gyros

<p>Nina Firsova/Shutterstock</p>

Nina Firsova/Shutterstock

One bite of this easy dish will transport you to a Greek island. To serve two, cut a large chicken breast into strips. Mix together 5 tbsp plain yoghurt, the zest and juice of half a lemon, a crushed garlic clove and a teaspoon or so of dried oregano. Pour over the chicken and leave to marinate for at least an hour, ideally overnight. Cook the chicken strips in a searingly hot griddle pan for three to four minutes until cooked through. Fill warm flatbreads or pitta bread with lettuce, tomatoes and sliced red onions. Add the chicken strips, roll up and serve with oven chips and tzatziki.

Tex Mex–style migas

<p>Marie Sonmez Photography/Shutterstock</p>

Marie Sonmez Photography/Shutterstock

While we’d never claim this is an authentic version of the popular Mexican breakfast, this simple idea certainly delivers on both flavour and texture, and is perfect for any meal. To try it, scramble eggs in a large pan until just set. Remove the pan from the heat, then add grated Cheddar and finely chopped fresh chillies to taste. Stir in crushed tortilla chips and tuck in as is, or pile the mix into warm tortilla wraps. Serve with fresh salsa and hot sauce on the side.

Speedy chicken broth



Leftover roast chicken or rotisserie chicken comes into its own in this soothing broth. To make enough for two, set a saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add five sliced spring onions and a couple of handfuls of sliced mushrooms and cook for three to four minutes. Stir in two crushed garlic cloves, cook for a minute more, then cover with 24fl oz (700ml) good-quality chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then add two handfuls each of frozen peas and leftover shredded roast chicken or rotisserie chicken. Warm through, divide between bowls and garnish with chopped parsley to serve.

Homemade pitta nachos with crispy lamb and salad

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

This dish is perfect for a Friday night in or as part of a party spread. Cut pittas (one or two per serving) into triangles, arrange on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a hot oven until golden (around five to eight minutes). Meanwhile, cook some lamb mince (a standard packet should make enough for two to three people) in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat, until crisp around the edges. Pile the pitta bread crisps onto a large platter and spoon the warm lamb mince over the top. Add sliced cucumber, red onions and tomatoes, crumble over feta cheese and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

Beef tagliata

<p>Nina Firsova/Shutterstock</p>

Nina Firsova/Shutterstock

Simple yet sensational, this is a next-level salad. To serve two, heat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat and brush two rump steaks with olive oil. Add to the hot pan and sear for three to four minutes on each side (or until done to your liking). Remove from the pan and leave to rest for five minutes. Meanwhile, toss a few handfuls of rocket leaves with the juice of half a lemon, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and plenty of black pepper. Tip onto a serving platter. Slice the steak into strips, season with sea salt and arrange on top of the rocket. Finish with a generous handful of shaved Parmesan and a trickle of balsamic syrup.

Vegan coconut dhal



This one-pan dish delivers comfort food feels in spades, and also happens to be vegan and budget-friendly. To serve four, set a shallow frying pan with a glug of sunflower oil over medium heat, add two finely sliced onions and cook for 10 minutes until golden. Add three crushed garlic cloves, 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger and 1 tsp each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds and ground turmeric. Mix well, then stir in 1 tbsp tomato purée, followed by 11oz (310g) red lentils. Add a can of coconut milk and 29fl oz (850ml) vegetable stock or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the lentils are soft and soupy. Divide among bowls and garnish with chopped coriander.

Garlic cream cheese and pea ravioli

<p>from my point of view/Shutterstock</p>

from my point of view/Shutterstock

Comfort in a bowl, and ready in less than 10 minutes – this is a brilliant weeknight dinner idea to have in your arsenal. You can use a shop-bought garlic cream cheese (such as Boursin) or make your own by mixing plain cream cheese with a little crushed garlic and finely chopped parsley. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add frozen peas and ready-made fresh ravioli or tortellini, then cook according to the instructions on the pasta packet. Drain, return the pasta to the pan, add the garlic cream cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, and mix gently to coat. Serve scattered with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.

Sticky sausage and potato traybake



Perfect for warming you up on a cold evening, or as an indulgent brunch dish, this traybake is packed full of punchy flavours. To serve four, preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7. Arrange a packet of sausages in a large baking dish along with some halved new potatoes, a few rosemary sprigs and some red onion wedges. Add a generous glug of olive oil and toss. Roast for around 40 minutes, giving it all a good stir – and turning the sausages over – halfway through. Drizzle with a little runny honey and grainy mustard, mix well and cook for five minutes more.

Refried bean quesadillas



Cheap, filling, quick, easy and seriously tasty, these quesadillas make the most of store-cupboard ingredients. To prepare yours, fry a finely chopped onion and two finely chopped garlic cloves in a little sunflower oil until softened. Add 1 tsp each of cumin seeds and smoked paprika, followed by a can of drained pinto beans. Mix well and roughly mash the beans. Spread the beans over four flour tortillas, scatter with grated Cheddar and top each with another tortilla. Set a dry frying pan over medium heat and cook each quesadilla for one to two minutes on each side, until the tortillas are golden and the cheese is melting. Cut into wedges and serve with salsa, sour cream and lime wedges.

Salade niçoise

<p>Tatjana Baibakova/Shutterstock</p>

Tatjana Baibakova/Shutterstock

This substantial French-inspired salad is packed with beautiful colours and Mediterranean flavours. Arrange lettuce leaves in a large serving bowl, then add peeled and halved boiled eggs, blanched green beans, tender boiled new potatoes, halved plum tomatoes and tuna (you can use drained, tinned tuna or slice a seared tuna fillet). Drizzle with a dressing made by whisking together olive oil, white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard. Add capers and black olives, and serve.


<p>Erhan Inga/Shutterstock</p>

Erhan Inga/Shutterstock

Effortlessly elegant affogato makes for a classy end to an evening meal. This dessert is all about contrasts – if you like, you can simply pour a shot of rich dark-roast espresso over a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream and call it a day (affogato means ‘drowned’ in Italian, so be generous with the coffee). To take things up a notch, sprinkle toasted flaked almonds or crushed amaretti biscuits over the top, or layer the ice cream with Morello cherry compote and shards of dark chocolate.

Individual strawberry cheesecakes



These no-bake cheesecakes are a treat to look at and to eat. Per portion, crush one or two digestive biscuits into crumbs and tip into a serving glass. Beat 3 tbsp cream cheese with 1.5 tbsp Greek yoghurt, 1 tbsp mascarpone, 2 tbsp icing sugar and a few seeds from a vanilla pod. Spoon half the mixture over the crushed biscuits. Hull and slice two or three strawberries and layer over the cheese mixture, reserving some for garnish. Top with the remaining cream cheese mix, then decorate with the extra strawberries.

Pear, ginger and almond tart



Whip this dessert up in minutes, then prepare for the compliments to start rolling in. Place a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry on a large baking tray. Score a border around the edge of the pastry and prod the centre all over with a fork. Scatter 4 tbsp ground almonds over the pastry, keeping within the border. Core and thinly slice three or four medium pears, then arrange them on top of the pastry with some finely chopped crystallised ginger (one or two pieces). Drizzle generously with syrup from the crystallised ginger jar. Bake in an oven preheated to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7 for 18-20 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the pears tender.

Now discover 29 delicious dinners that can be on the table in under 15 minutes