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Five weekday dinners busy Hongkongers can cook in 15 minutes

If it’s your turn to cook today (or every day), you’re going to be late and you need some ideas for quick home-cooked dinners, we’ve got just what you need. From an easy crab boil to a filling frittata, a creamy pasta, a quick steak dinner and a way to spice up siu mei roast pork, you’ll love these easy meals that give you more time with your loved ones (or, perish the thought, in the office).

Quick seafood recipe: crab boil

The amount below will serve four people with moderate appetites. If you’re serving big eaters, or have more guests, use the same amount of water and seasonings, but add more crab, potatoes and corn (you’ll have to cook the ingredients in batches, though). Have plenty of paper napkins available.

Ingredients

1 onion, roughly chopped

8-12 garlic cloves

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

3 bay leaves

Red pepper flakes, to taste

2 tsp whole coriander seeds

2 tsp whole dill seeds

1 tbsp whole black peppercorns

1-2 tbsp Tabasco sauce

50 grams coarse sea salt

1.5kg small potatoes

8 medium-sized fresh crabs (with shells measuring about 10cm across at their widest point), scrubbed clean

4 ears of corn, halved

Method

Heat eight litres of water in a large pot and add the onion, garlic, celery, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, coriander and dill seeds, peppercorns, Tabasco and salt. Bring to the boil then taste the liquid – it should be quite salty and spicy.

Add the potatoes and simmer for five minutes. Add the crab and corn and simmer for a further six to eight minutes, depending on the size of the crabs. Remove the crabs and corn from the liquid and blot them with paper towels.

Test to see that the potatoes are tender by piercing them with a sharp knife. When the potatoes are ready, remove them from the pot, blot them briefly, then serve with the crab and corn.

Quick frittata with goat’s cheese

To cook this dish, you need a skillet that can go from the stovetop into the oven. Choose small zucchini – they’re more tender and less watery.

Ingredients

6 large eggs

250ml cream

20 grams freshly grated parmesan, divided

A little freshly grated nutmeg

15 grams unsalted butter

15ml cooking oil

1 large shallot, minced

1 small garlic clove, minced

200 grams zucchini

10-15 cherry tomatoes, preferably a mix of colours

80 grams soft goat’s cheese

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Whisk the eggs, cream and half the parmesan, then add salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg.

Cut the zucchini into long, thin strands. Halve the cherry tomatoes.

Heat the butter and oil in a skillet (about 23cm diameter) over a low flame. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the zucchini then season with salt and pepper and stir until tender.

Turn off the flame and spread the zucchini into an even layer. Crumble the goat’s cheese over the zucchini. Place the tomatoes, cut-side up, over the zucchini and cheese.

Carefully pour the custard over the ingredients. The frittata should be 1.5cm thick or less.

Grind some black pepper and sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the frittata.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes or until set – the surface will be lightly browned at the edges, and the custard will be a little soft at the centre.

Cool the frittata slightly before cutting it into wedges.

Serve with easy-cook side dishes of your choice

Quick recipe for steaks with Bearnaise sauce

The classic recipe for bearnaise sauce often calls for clarified butter. I make it with whole (unmelted) butter, which is easier because the sauce cools down each time a chunk of butter is added. This prevents it from overheating, which might make it curdle. It’s important that the water in the double boiler is at a very low simmer.

Ingredients

2 medium shallots, chopped

4 small sprigs of fresh tarragon, plus fresh tarragon leaves as garnish

3 whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed

60ml tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar

60ml dry white wine

250ml unsalted butter, cool and firm, but not straight from the refrigerator

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature

5ml fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Fine sea salt and ground white pepper

4 steaks, seasoned and cooked however you like

Method

Put the shallot, tarragon sprigs, peppercorns, vinegar and white wine in a small saucepan over a medium flame. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces to 30ml. Strain through a sieve set over a bowl; discard the solids.

Cut the butter into 1cm chunks

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, then set it over a pan of barely simmering water, adjusting the flame so the water doesn’t get too hot. Whisk the yolks constantly as you add the butter a chunk at a time, letting it melt and incorporate into the liquid before adding more butter.

As the mixture thickens, whisk in the vinegar/wine reduction and when that’s used up, add a little warm water.

After adding all the butter, season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Chop a few fresh tarragon leaves and chervil leaves and whisk them into the sauce before serving with the steak.

Serve with side dishes of your choice.

Quick spaghetti with leeks and pancetta

Ingredients

100 grams unsalted butter, divided

2 large leeks, white and pale green part

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

60ml cooking oil

100 grams thickly sliced pancetta

About 160ml cream or unsalted chicken stock (preferably homemade)

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

200 grams spaghetti

About 30 grams freshly grated parmesan

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Trim off and discard the ends of the leeks then cut them in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly between the leaves. Cut the leeks into fine shreds about 4-6cm long.

Melt 60 grams of butter in a skillet, add the leeks and cook over a low flame until soft. Continue to cook without browning as you prepare the other ingredients, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a little water to prevent them from sticking.

Start cooking the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water.

Cut the pancetta into small cubes and put it in a small skillet with the cooking oil. Place the pan over a medium flame and cook the pancetta until crisp and lightly brown. Drain on paper towels.

Whisk the eggs with the cream or chicken stock and a little salt and pepper.

When the spaghetti is al dente, drain but don’t rinse it; add it to the skillet with the leeks. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir quickly and constantly as you add the cream (or chicken stock) and egg mixture; the residual heat of the pan should thicken the ingredients to a sauce that lightly coats the pasta strands. If needed, add more chicken stock or cream.

Stir in the remaining butter and the parmesan. Serve additional parmesan on the side.

Serves two.

Quick recipe for roast pork with chillies

This is made with crispy-skinned roast pork that’s sold at siu mei (roasted meat) shops. It’s my mother’s recipe, although I use red and yellow bell peppers, instead of her green ones.

Ingredients

30 grams pine nuts

2 heaped tbsp dried shrimp, soaked in 60ml warm water

300 grams slightly fatty skin-on roast pork

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

Fresh hot chillies, to taste

2 garlic cloves

20ml cooking oil

A pinch of sugar

About 10ml soy sauce

A little cornstarch dissolved in water

Iceberg lettuce leaves

Method

Put the pine nuts in an unoiled skillet over a medium-low flame. Stir constantly until they’re lightly toasted, then cool.

Drain the shrimp but reserve the soaking liquid.

Dice the pork into 6mm pieces.

Discard the stem and core from the bell peppers, then cut into 6mm dice.

Discard the seeds from the chillies, then finely dice them. Halve the garlic cloves.

Coat a wok with oil over a high flame. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add pork, bell peppers, chilli and shrimp. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add shrimp soaking liquid, sugar and soy. Stir together then cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

Remove the lid. If it is dry, add water; if it’s too moist, increase the heat and cook, uncovered, to reduce the liquid slightly. Stir in a little cornstarch with water so the sauce lightly coats the ingredients.

Adjust the seasonings, if needed, then stir in the pine nuts.

Spoon the mixture into iceberg lettuce leaves and serve.