April 23, 2024


Food never sleeps.

Easy family dinner ideas: 5 recipes to reboot your love of cooking

9 min read

I was inspired by something I saw on Twitter this week (I know, strange): podcast host and author Linda Holmes wrote that, after a pandemic stretch of ordering in and PB&Js, she wanted to reset her relationship with her kitchen. She issued herself a cooking challenge, choosing eight recipes and making them over the course of one week. This made me realise that I, too, need a reboot.

Baking tray prawn boil

Baking rather than boiling brings out seafood’s sweetness


There is absolutely nothing like a prawn boil, but this flavourful recipe captures its essence by roasting the ingredients on a baking tray instead of simmering them in a pot of broth. Serve it on its own or tossed with pasta. The slight char brings out seafood’s sweetness, so serve with tart lemons or a tangy cocktail sauce for contrast.

By: Millie Peartree

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 50 minutes


For the roasted potatoes

450g baby red or yellow potatoes, halved (or quartered, if large)

2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and black pepper

For the grilled corn

4 ears fresh corn, husked, cut into 4 segments

2tbsp unsalted butter, softened

For the grilled prawns

2tbsp olive oil

1tbsp lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1tsp seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay or Cajun

1tsp ground paprika

½tsp ground cayenne, or to taste

½tsp black pepper

900g peeled and deveined tail-on jumbo prawns, fresh or frozen and thawed, patted dry

1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

1tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)


1 Heat oven to 220C. Place a rack in the centre of the oven.

2 Prepare the potatoes: in a large bowl, toss potatoes with oil and garlic until coated. Season with salt and pepper, then pour onto a large baking tray and set aside.

3 Prepare the corn: spread each piece of corn with some of the butter and set aside.

4 Prepare the prawns: in the same big bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, seafood or Cajun seasoning, paprika, cayenne and pepper. Add the prawns and stir to coat evenly. Set aside.

5 Bake the potatoes until golden brown and fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven, set the rack in the middle of the oven and switch oven to grill. Scatter the corn over the potatoes and grill for 3-4 minutes, or until kernels begin to brown slightly.

6 Remove the pan from the oven and flip the corn. Scatter prawns all over the pan and grill for 2 minutes, or until the prawns have curled and turned pink.

7 Turn the prawns, scatter the lemon wedges on top and grill for 2 more minutes. Squeeze the lemon juice over everything and sprinkle with parsley, if using. Serve immediately, on its own or tossed with pasta.

Grilled za’atar chicken with garlic yoghurt and coriander

A full-flavoured, tender chicken dish


This garlicky, herby chicken is full-flavoured and tender, thanks to its piquant yoghurt marinade. It’s flexible, too – marinate the meat for as little as a couple of hours, or as long as overnight. And the chicken is just as good cooked under the grill as it is on the barbecue. You can serve this dish with almost anything, but it’s especially nice with pita or other flatbread and a big cucumber and tomato salad. And if you’re looking to substitute chicken breasts for the thighs, you can. Just watch them carefully; they’re likely to cook faster than the dark meat.

By: Melissa Clark

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time


6 garlic cloves, finely grated, pressed, or minced

2 lemons, zested

1 cup plain whole-milk yoghurt

¼ cup chopped fresh coriander, plus more sprigs for garnish

3tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

1½tbsp za’atar, plus more for serving

1tbsp chopped fresh oregano or marjoram, plus more sprigs for garnish

1¾tsp salt

¼tsp freshly ground black pepper

1kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs


1 In a large bowl or container, stir together 5 of the grated garlic cloves, half the lemon zest, ⅓ cup yoghurt, the coriander, oil, za’atar, oregano or marjoram, salt and black pepper. Add chicken and toss until well coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2 When ready to cook, light the barbecue to medium or heat your grill with the rack 7.5cm from the heat source. Remove the chicken from the bowl, shaking off any excess marinade, and grill or barbecue on one side until charred in spots, 5 to 8 minutes. Flip the chicken and grill or barbecue for another 5 to 8 minutes, until just cooked through.

3. While the chicken is cooking, place remaining ⅔ cup yoghurt in a small bowl. Stir in the reserve grated garlic clove and lemon zest, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut one zested lemon in half and set aside for serving (save the other zested lemon for another use).

4. To serve, place chicken on a serving platter and drizzle with olive oil and a large squeeze of the zested lemon. Top with coriander and oregano or marjoram sprigs and serve with yoghurt sauce.

Tip: If you’re barbecuing instead of grilling, you can line your baking tray with foil for easier cleanup. Don’t use parchment paper, it may burn.

Cumin tofu stir-fry

The seasoning in this Chinese dish might surprise you


Many people may not think of cumin as a traditional seasoning for Chinese food, but the earthy spice is found regularly in the cuisine of Xi’an, a city in northwest China that is the eastern origin of the ancient trade route known as the Silk Road. Cumin, chilli and sichuan peppercorns are used generously, resulting in bold, not-for-the-faint-of-heart dishes that combine Chinese and Middle Eastern flavours. This recipe, which is adapted from To Asia, With Love by Hetty McKinnon, is a vegan riff on the signature lamb dish at Xi’an Famous Foods, a restaurant chain in New York, that is made with chunks of meat dry-fried in a heavy cumin spice mix. This version features tofu and cauliflower.

By: Hetty McKinnon Adapted by: Margaux Laskey

Makes: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes, plus 20-30 minutes’ marinating time


For the marinated tofu

1tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1tbsp shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry, mirin or white wine)

½tsp salt

1 (400g) package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 2cm cubes

3tbsp potato starch or cornstarch

For the spice mix

2tbsp ground cumin

2tsp gochugaru (Korean red chilli flakes), red pepper flakes or sichuan chilli flakes

½tsp granulated sugar

½tsp salt

For the stir-fry

Vegetable or other neutral oil

1 onion, finely sliced

1 (1.5-2.5cm) red chilli, such as serrano (or jalapeno), sliced diagonally (seeds removed if you like less heat)

1 (2.5cm) piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

300g cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

Big handful of coriander leaves

1tbsp toasted white sesame seeds


Rice, for serving


1 Prepare the marinated tofu: combine the tamari or soy sauce, shaoxing rice wine and salt in a bowl. Add the tofu cubes and toss to coat. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

2 Meanwhile, make the spice mix: combine cumin, gochugaru, sugar and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

3 Drain the tofu. Place the potato starch or cornstarch in an even layer on a plate, add the marinated tofu cubes and turn gently to coat.

4 Heat a large frying pan over a high heat for 3 minutes. Drizzle with 2tbsp oil and add a tofu cube. If the oil sizzles, it’s hot enough. Add all the tofu cubes, being careful of spattering, arranging them in one layer and separating them from one another. Reduce the heat to medium and allow the tofu to cook, undisturbed, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the bottom is golden. Flip the tofu and cook until golden on all sides. Transfer the tofu to a plate lined with paper towels. Wipe out the pan.

5 Add a little more oil to the pan, toss in the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the cauliflower, season with salt and stir-fry for 4 to 6 minutes, until the cauliflower is just tender (add 1-2tbsp of water, if needed, to help move it along, while still keeping the dish dry). Add the tofu, along with the spice mix, and stir to combine. Take the pan off the heat.

6 Taste and season with a touch of salt, if needed. Top with the coriander and sesame seeds, then toss everything together, and serve with rice.

Skirt steak bulgogi

This Korean dish dates back over 600 years


Neobiani, a dish of broad, thin slices of beef tenderised with shallow slits from a knife, was a feature of royal court cuisine during the Joseon dynasty in Korea (1392 to 1910) and a predecessor to today’s beloved bulgogi of very thinly sliced marinated grilled meat. This variation borrows from neobiani, but doesn’t require knife skills: well-marbled skirt steak is pounded thin and marinated in a tenderising sweet puree of Asian pear, onion, soy sauce and maple syrup. Bulgogi, which means “fire meat”, is best with the flame-licked char from a barbecue, but a hot frying or griddle pan on the stovetop would work in a pinch.

By: Eric Kim

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 30 minutes, plus marinating


900g skirt steak, cut into 10cm-long pieces

1 medium Asian pear or Fuji apple (about 225g), peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup chopped yellow onion, plus 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1.5cm-thick rounds

10 large garlic cloves, peeled

1 (5cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

30ml soy sauce

80g maple syrup

2tbsp sugar

Salt and black pepper

2 bunches spring onions

Neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola, for grilling

Steamed white rice, for serving


1 On a large cutting board, pound the steak until it is ⅓cm thick using a meat mallet or heavy frying pan. Transfer to a large bowl.

2 In a food processor or blender, blitz the pear, chopped onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, maple syrup, sugar, ½tsp salt and 1tsp pepper until smooth. Pour the wet mixture over the steak, cover tightly and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

3 When ready to cook, prepare a charcoal barbecue for direct high-heat cooking, or heat a gas grill to high. On a baking tray, coat the sliced onions and spring onions with 1tbsp oil and season with salt and pepper.

4 Carefully grease the barbecue grate: use tongs to grip a wadded paper towel dipped in oil and then rub the grates with the oiled towel. Wipe off any marinade clinging to the steaks and place the steaks on the hot, greased grate, along with the onion rounds and spring onions. Grill the steak until charred and caramelised at the edges, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Grill the onions and spring onions until charred but still crisp, 1 to 2 minutes per side. If using a gas barbecue, close the lid between flips. Discard any remaining marinade (see tip for stovetop method).

5 Arrange the steaks on a large platter and top with the grilled onions and spring onions. Serve family-style with steamed rice.

Tip: Alternatively, you can cook the steaks and onions on the stovetop in batches in a lightly oiled large frying pan or grill pan over medium-high heat. Sear the steaks until charred and caramelised at the edges, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Cook the onions and spring onions next, until charred but still crunchy, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Discard any remaining marinade.

Orecchiette with corn, jalapeno, feta and basil

Sweetcorn season is the best time for this simple summer pasta


Sweet, peak season corn is at the heart of this flavourful and simple-to-make summer pasta. The jalapeno offers a pleasant kick, and the feta cheese tossed in at the end melts slightly, giving the sauce a silky texture. It’s worth seeking out orecchiette here, as it nicely catches the corn kernels, creating perfect bites. If you can’t find it, fusilli or farfalle would work in its place. Serve with a bright, simple salad alongside and fresh fruit for dessert.

By: Colu Henry

Makes: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


450g orecchiette

4tbsp unsalted butter

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

5 ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (about 600-700g kernels)


225g crumbled feta cheese

½ cup torn basil leaves, plus more for serving

Flaky salt, for serving (optional)


1 Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until it is just short of al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

2 While the pasta cooks, make the sauce: in a 30cm frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the jalapeno, and cook until softened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the corn, and cook until it begins to brown in spots, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt. Add ¼ cup of pasta water and bring to simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 1 to 2 minutes.

3 Add pasta to the frying pan, tossing to coat with sauce. Add feta cheese and an additional ¼ cup of pasta water, tossing until pasta is slick and glossy with sauce. If needed, add in another ¼ cup pasta water. Stir in basil. Transfer to a large bowl and scatter with remaining basil. Season with flaky salt, if desired.

© The New York Times