Ready made food is so accessible these days, it's easy to think we don't have time to cook, or even worse, that we can't cook.
However, ready-made food is often full of evil preservatives and chemicals that we can't pronounce the name of, to keep it looking nice and tasting good.
The good news is, it's actually really easy to make foods that we're used to buying every day from scratch. They're way more likely to taste better as well!
We've compiled a list of recipes - from fresh bread to fancy hummus - that are actually really easy to make.
All you need are some supermarket staples - no culinary expertise, precise measurements or fancy equipment required.
Bread is really fun to make and you can get really creative with it!
Sliced bread is often packed with sugars and preservatives to make it last. If you make it at home, you're automatically cutting out all these extras and leaving yourself with just the good bits!
Keep it in the bread bin or wrapped in cling film, so it won't go stale like fresh baguettes do.
How to make basic bread
This recipe is a really good basis for pizza dough, pitta breads and rolls.
- White or wholemeal bread flour
- Dried yeast sachets
- A tiny bit of sugar (to activate the yeast)
- A tiny bit of salt
- Olive oil (optional)
Seeds, pesto, pastes, herbs, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, lardons, cheese... The list is endless
1. Fill a glass or bowl with about 1/4 of a pint of warm water, then add a sachet of yeast, sugar and olive oil (optional). Mix it together and leave it for a few minutes until the yeast starts to look a bit foamy.
2. Pour about half of the bag of flour into a bowl and add a little bit of salt.
3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast and water mixture. Mix together with a fork (you might need to add a bit more water) and once the dough starts to come together, knead it with your hands until it's smooth and stretchy.
4. Cover the dough and leave it for about half an hour to rise, preferably somewhere warm. Preheat your oven to about 180 degrees.
5. Once it's risen, knead the dough again to get rid of all the air inside it. This is called knocking back the dough and will help it rise better in the oven.
6. Now it's time to put the dough in the oven; put it in a baking tin, or if you don't have one, just put it on a baking tray with some greaseproof paper or foil underneath it and leave it in the oven for about 30 minutes.
7. When it's cooked remove the bread from the baking tray immediately or else it will condense and get damp. Leave it to cool for a little while and then enjoy it warm with some butter.
Cereals are one of the top offenders on the marketed-as-healthy-but-actually-aren't list.
The majority of cereals, even muesli and granola, list sugar as one of their top ingredients. This is why it's one of the most processed and unhealthy products we can eat.
Making cereal from scratch is super easy and you have way more control over what goes into it. You don't need any specific measurements because you can add all the ingredients to your specific tastes and measurements.
How to make muesli
- Honey (or maple syrup)
- Olive oil
- Nuts, seeds and dried fruits to make your muesli taste good.
Try these too...
Grated coconut, grated apple, cashew nuts, almonds (flaked or whole) sultanas, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, dark chocolate, dried mango, banana chips and the list goes on...
1. Mix together the seeds, nuts, oats, olive oil and honey in a bowl. Add as much or as little honey as you like.
2. Put the mixture into a shallow tray or something similar lined with baking paper (to stop it sticking). Set the oven to about 165 degrees and leave for about 20 minutes.
Don't add any dried fruit or flaked almonds yet, they will burn if you leave them in the oven for this long! It's always good to check regularly and give the mixture a stir so it toasts evenly.
3. After 20 minutes, your muesli should be starting to look a nice golden brown colour (it might need an extra five minutes depending on your oven). Mix in your dried fruit and leave for another five to ten minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool.
Enjoy your muesli with natural yoghurt and fresh fruit!
Salad dressing is super easy to make.
It's way nicer than the stuff you can buy in bottles, which often contains olive oil substitutes, thickeners, sugars and preservatives.
The base of all salad dressings is olive oil and vinager, normally any of the balsamic or white wine kinds.
While you don't need specific measurements to make dressings, a rough guideline is to add about half as much vinegar as you do olive oil, and half as much again in other ingredients. Then you can always add more to suit your tastes.
Once you have the base ingredients, there's no end to the experimenting you can do! Here are some of our favourite basic dressings...
Wholegrain Mustard Vinaigrette
Simply mix together olive oil, wholegrain mustard, white wine vinegar and lemon juice.
You will have to stir quite a lot for the ingredients to bind together. Use a whisk if you have one handy.
Then you can play around with the quantities to see what works best. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Tahini Balsamic Dressing
Make a tangy tahini dressing by mixing tahini pasta with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can even add a little bit of honey to sweeten it up a bit if you like.
Honey Mustard Balsamic Dressing
Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and dijon mustard to make a yummy honey mustard dressing with a bit of a kick. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
You can also experiment with lemon juice, ginger, herbs, cheeses and fruits in the quest to make salad taste good!
Ever find that when you buy a dip you never get enough...?
Solve that problem by being able to make them in as larger quantities as you like...
How to make Raita
Raita is the Indian version of tzatziki, a yoghurt based cucumber and mint dip. Shop-bought raita can contain ingredients such as 'yoghurt solids' and 'modified maize starch', whatever that is.
Keep it simple and make it at home. Your stomach will thank you!
- Natural yoghurt
- Fresh mint
- Lemon Juice
- Paprika (optional)
- Salt and pepper
1. Chop the cucumber into quarters, you probably only need about a third of it to make a bowlfull. You can scoop out the seeds in the middle if you like, as they are more bitter than the flesh, but it's a personal choice.
2. Chop the mint roughly, using as much as you like, and add it to a bowl along with the cucumber. Then add the yoghurt and stir in the lemon juice to taste, and some salt and pepper.
3. You can add some paprika to the mix as well, if you have some, or use it as as a garnish.
Enjoy your raita with falafel, curry or pitta breads.
How to make hummus
Blender alert! You will need a blender for this one (stab blenders work just as well), but it's worth it if you love hummus, otherwise known as the snack to end all snacks.
They key is to get it nice and wet, so you don't end up with a thick chickpea paste.
Once you've got the hang of it, you can add all kinds of extras, like rocket, red pepper, caramelised onions, chillies...
This recipe is adapted from JamieOliver.com.
- 2 cans of chickpeas (save some of the water from the can to ass to the mix)
- 2 lemons
- Lots of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Garlic (optional depending on how much you want to taste it afterwards!)
1. Put the chickpeas in a sieve and give them a good rinse, then transfer them to a bowl or blender.
2. Add a little bit of the chickpea water, the juice of a whole lemon, the garlic (if you're using it) salt and 4 teaspoons of tahini to the chickpeas. There should be quite a lot of liquid in the mixture, but not enough to cover the chickpeas.
3. Start blending, and add the olive oil while while you're doing so. You'll need to add quite a lot to give the hummus it's unique hummusy texture.
You'll know when you've got around the right amount because that's when it will start looking like shop bought hummus and less like a thick paste.
Enjoy your hummus in sandwiches, with baked potatoes or as a healthy dip.
Soup is one of the best things to make at home because you have complete control over how thin or thick or chunky or smooth it is!
If you don't have a blender, who cares? The majority of simple soups are potato based, so you can use a potato masher to blend it a bit, or just leave it chunky.
Soups are also a great way to use up your leftover vegetables. You can just put it in a jar and take it to work with you. Win-win!
How to make Leek and Potato Soup
Serves around 4 people
- 4 large potatoes
- 1 large onion (or two small ones)
- 2 leeks
- 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
- White wine (optional)
- Cream (optional)
1. Chop the onion and a few cloves of garlic and put in a large pan with some oil to fry.
2. Then chop the potatoes roughly into cubes, cut the leeks down the middle and wash them, chop and add them too, along with any other leftover vegetables you want to add.
Leave them to fry and soften in the pan for a few minutes. Add the white wine here as well (if you're using it) so it can reduce a little.
3. Add the stock, just enough to cover the contents of the pan. You can always add a bit more later if your soup's a bit thick.
4. Leave the stock and vegetable s to simmer until the potato is soft, then you can blend, mash or just leave your soup chunky.
Once it's been blended, you can assess whether you want to add in any more stock.
Enjoy your soup with some home-made bread and butter.
How to make Carrot and Lentil Soup
Serves around 4 people
This is a really quick soup to make if you're in a hurry - but a blender or hand blender is a must! This recipe has been adapted from BBC Good Food.
- 1 onion
- Split red lentils
- 3-4 large carrots
- 2 pints of vegetable or chicken stock
- Cumin seeds (or curry powder, chilli flakes or powder, paprika or garam masala to add a bit of spice)
- Natural yoghurt (optional)
1. Dry fry the cumin seeds in a saucepan. Once you can smell them (this means they'vestarted to release their aromas), scoop some out to use as garnish later.
2. Roughly chop the onion and add it to the pan with some oil, and while it's frying, grate the carrots.
3. Once the onion has softened, add about 2/3rds of a pint glass of lentils, along with the grated carrots, salt, pepper and stock. Use just enough stock to cover the ingredients in the pan, you can always add more later.
4. Leave to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and swollen. Then blend to your liking.
Garnish your soup with the extra cumin seeds and natural yoghurt and enjoy with pitta breads.