[Updated 14 October 2020]
With the current CMCO (Conditional Movement Control Order) put back into place for those living in Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya, it's safe to say that many will return to preparing food at home, including stocking up on shelf-stable food like instant noodles, canned and frozen foods, or ready-to-eat meals.
Needless to say, eating instant foods may be convenient but some of you might also be craving home-cooked meals, food that you'd normally eat out at restaurants, or healthier options, especially if you're feeding a whole family. So to help you out, here's a list of easy recipes that don't need a complicated list of ingredients and are simple to pull together - perfect for your meals at home.
Breakfast / Brunch
1. Baked Oatmeal
I'm guessing we've probably all had oatmeal by now and have our own individualised ways of preparing it. But if you're looking for something a little different, why not try baked oatmeal? I stumbled across the concept of baked oatmeal a while back, and as someone who had gotten sick of the regular ways of making oats (be it on the stove, in the microwave or doing overnight oats), I was all for it! Using regular ingredients you'd use for your oatmeal anyway (like milk, cinnamon, some form of sweetener be it honey, sugar, or maple syrup, and of course, oats), you end up with a warm, firmer, almost bar-like version of oatmeal that's really bolstering to tuck into in the mornings.
You can find a variety of baked oatmeal recipes online, but one of my favourites is this recipe by Gina Homolka on Skinnytaste. It uses instant oatmeal, bananas, cinnamon, baking powder, milk, an egg, vanilla extract and her add-ins here are blueberries and walnuts, but it's a very versatile recipe that you can tweak (she goes through all the different swaps you can consider too!). I usually use frozen blueberries and even with only one banana, the recipe works fine! Another nice thing about the recipe is that you can make it ahead and store it in the refrigerator too - all it takes is a quick reheat in the microwave.
2. Pancakes (2 ways)
Pancakes are usually a weekend breakfast item for me, but if you're staying at home for the time being (meaning extra time available because you don't have to commute to work), they'll make for great weekday breakfast to have at home with your family too. The great thing about pancakes is that they usually just need flour, sugar, eggs, butter, milk and baking powder. For a classic recipe, try out this one over at All Recipes.
If however, you're looking for a healthier option to get you through the week, can I suggest banana oatmeal pancakes? Made with rolled oats, bananas (as the only sweetener!), a bit of baking powder and some salt, they're a pretty decent alternative. I also like that you can whip it up in the blender, then pour straight into the pan when frying them up. Check out this recipe from Ambitious Kitchen.
3. Eggs in a basket
Ahhh, eggs in a basket. For some reason, even though it's a really simple recipe (bread + butter + eggs, fried in a pan), I don't usually make it as often as say, an omelette or scrambled eggs. But it's a really nice and comforting breakfast to have, and so easy to do! If you're not familiar with what eggs in a basket are, it's essentially just a piece of bread in which a hole is cut out (you can use a cookie cutter or just the top of a glass or anything round-shaped in a pinch). The bread is pan-fried, and an egg is cracked into the hole, where it'll cook in the pan. Fry up the piece of bread you cut out int the pan too, and use that to dip in the cooked egg!
Bon Appetite has a nice step-by-step recipe for eggs in a basket (while the fancy artisanal bread is nice to have to make it, I've had it plenty of times with regular sliced bread from the supermarket).
Sometimes, you just want a baked good. Something hot, buttery, carby, and delicious. Cue scones. Scones are probably one of the easiest baked goods to pull together in the kitchen, needing only flour, butter baking powder, milk, some sugar, salt, and an egg. While traditionally served with clotted cream and jam, I usually have it just with butter and jam which is just as delicious (and I highly doubt many people have this as a usual ingredient at home in Malaysia or Singapore), or even sometimes just on their own when they're hot out of the oven. Scone recipes are easy to find online, though sometimes the ingredients list may vary - some include things like cream or cream of tartar. For a basic recipe, try this one from Allrecipes.
If you've never made scones before, the main thing that might be a bit daunting to some is the part when your cut in the butter into the flour (i.e. combine chopped pieces of butter with the flour so it becomes integrated). Some people use their food processor or a dough blender (a special tool meant for this purpose), but you can do it by hand too, which is what I usually do! Check out this video from Preppy Kitchen that includes a demonstration of how to do it by hand.
#HHWT Tip: Don't have circle-shaped cutters to cut out your scones? get creative and use things like glasses or anything round-shaped, or even easier, just flatten your dough out into a rough circle and cut into triangles.
5. Fried macaroni
Looking for something a little heartier? How about some fried macaroni (or better known as makaroni goreng)? A combination of pasta and local flavours, it's a great dish that's a nice substitute for things like fried bee hoon or mee goreng. I first learned of this dish from my mom, who would fry it up with mixed veggie (which I did not appreciate as a kid, but fully do now as an adult) and whatever protein on-hand.
Everyone has their own version of fried macaroni, from those who like to make it super spicy, add other ingredients like eggs and tomatoes, and son. But this video recipe by Buat Orang Lapo is a nice and straightforward version of makaroni Goreng - even if I don't have chilli paste on hand I usually have the rest of the ingredients. Minced beef or chicken works well here too!
Lunch & dinner
6. ABC Soup
I learned about ABC soup from my roommate while I was studying at university abroad and trying to survive cooking on my own. The beauty of ABC soup is how simple it is - you literally dump all your ingredients (I usually used chicken pieces (bone-in), chopped tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and onion) into a pot, bring it to a boil, let it simmer for about an hour, season with salt and pepper to taste, and you have a hearty chicken soup ready to go! Perfect for something comforting. I sometimes even ate it with rice to bulk up the meal even further.
You can pretty much all sorts of things to ABC soup (e.g. corn, veggies, mushrooms, etc.) but for a basic recipe, you can check out this one over at Meatmen.
#HHWT Tip: Have some ingredients in your kitchen but not sure what you can make with them? Use websites like Supercook and MyFridgeFood to find recipes based on what ingredients you have!
I LOVE quesadillas. What's not to love? Warm gooey cheese and fillings in a crispy tortilla shell can never go wrong. It's super easy to make too - as long as you have tortillas and cheese, you're pretty much good to go and can throw whatever you have on-hand as extra filling. Sometimes I buy a whole roast chicken from the deli counter at the supermarket, shred the flesh and keep it in my fridge so I can have chicken on hand for a quesadilla anytime the situation calls for it! But it's the perfect vehicle for pretty much any cooked leftovers you may have (so long as it's not liquid!).
You'll find countless quesadilla recipes online, but I would just like to stress that again, it doesn't really matter and you can put whatever you like. Just put your fillings on one side of the tortilla, scatter over grated cheese, then fold the other side of the tortilla over so you have a half-moon. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, then once it's hot, lift your half-moon and put it in the pan (you don't even need to oil the pan first!). Press down on the tortilla with a spatula or similar implement so everything can heat through, the cheese will melt and will seal everything together nicely, and the tortilla will get brown and crispy - this will take just a few minutes. Flip it over and let the other side of the quesadilla get nice and toasty too. Then slide it out onto a chopping board, cut into triangles, and you a quesadilla! They're pretty quick to make, so you can cook several up for the family.
P.S. For more quick recipes on the go, check this list out!
7. Honey soy chicken drumsticks
Honey and soy is an awesome combination, and when I'm not in the mood to think of what to cook, it's usually my go-to for a quick marinade. I use the marinade for some chicken drumsticks, pop it in the oven, and voila! Instant meal - you can add sides like rice, mashed potatoes and salad to make it complete. Check out this recipe from Lemon Blossoms.
8. Pasta bake
Is there anything more comforting than baked pasta? Don't think so! It also helps that it's easy to prep and cook. Pasta bakes are often associated with some sort of tomato sauce, ground beef and cheese (like this recipe from The Recipe Rebel). They're pretty simple to do, you just need to get some jars of tomato sauce at the grocery store.
#HHWT Tip: Some brands like Leggo's even have ready-to-go pasta bake sauces which makes it even easier!
Looking for a slightly lighter alternative? This recipe for chicken and broccoli pasta bake by Nagi at Recipetineats (one of my favourite online cooks!) promises to super simple to do. The combination of pasta spirals, cheese, milk and chicken promises to be ultra hearty and delicious, while the addition of broccoli means you sneak in some veggies too! This one is sure to be family-pleaser.
9. Easy beef bulgogi
Do you love Korean food? Me too! One dish I really like is bulgogi and I wanted to try cooking it at home. Thing is, bulgogi traditionally uses crushed pears to tenderise the meat. Luckily, I found this recipe on Allrecipes that sort of cheats by using thinly sliced beef instead. Other than that, the recipe uses pretty common ingredients (soy sauce, sugar, garlic and ginger) so it's pretty convenient to whip up at home! Even if you don't have sesame seeds or pepper flakes, do feel free to give it a go - I made it several times without both and still enjoyed it immensely.
10. One-tray chicken bake
One tray bakes are truly a saviour when it comes to easy meals. You can just pile everything in a pan, leave in the over for a while, and you're all set. I typically include a starch (either potatoes or sweet potatoes), any veggies on hand (carrots, capsicum, celery), an onion (red onions are really nice for this!) and whole cloves of garlic, plus chicken (skin on dark meat is the best in my opinion, but use what you have! Drizzle everything wth some olive oil, salt and pepper, and herbs of your choice. If you have fresh herbs that'd be nice, but dry works well too.
This recipe by Tasty is easy to follow along and is pretty straightforward - I never have fingerling potatoes, so I usually use regular potatoes that are peeled and chopped. This other recipe by As Easy As Apple Pie shows another variation with just chicken and potatoes, but the variations you can do are pretty much endless!
Even if you're not a super amazing cook (which I'm definitely not ?), you can still whip up some yummy, nutritious meals for you and your whole family. In a time where staying at home is a high priority to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19, you'll be all set for easy recipe recipes that you can tweak to your liking and make again and again!