You know the scenario: Arrive home late, bone-tired and ravenous - need food now. The Default Meal kicks in as you heat the pan and raid the fridge.
The good old DM is the emergency kit of cuisine. Everybody has one, yet it scarcely rates a mention in cookbooks. Mine is the "fromelette" - a frittata I'm too knackered to brown off.
Last Sunday I defaulted even lower to a frozen hoki fillet, grilled and slapped on a slice of bread (with tartare - I was feeling continental).
That's a cry for help, so as you do in crisis, I appealed to family and friends for support in compiling a better "kit". They responded magnificently. Here's a selection of their favourite DMs:
CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
Once a week I make a huge pot of stock with either chicken or beef bones. Cupfuls go into the freezer for Default Meals - and to be honest we eat this at least three times a week.
2 cups stock, thawed
2 sticks of celery, chopped finely (garden)
2 handfuls any greens from garden or fridge
Splash of fish sauce
1 chilli, chopped
Fresh coriander. All cooked up together for 10 minutes.
Any leftover meat chopped finely.
Cook 5 minutes.
Put in yellow rice noodles for 1 minute and serve with sprouts and mint.
Yum, yum. D.DG.
It's quick and easy to defrost some meat in the microwave to cook. Then line a roasting dish with baking paper. Spray with oil, add chopped agria potatoes, mushrooms, halved tomatoes, brussels (really nice roasted), spray again and roast in a hot oven for 30-40min. Hope that helps. K.DB.
Frittata: Bacon, onion and veges stir-fried in the pan, topped with three eggs and a sprinkling of cheese. Brown until the grill. A.H.
I'm a 5-minute walk to the best supermarket in town, so I have two lazy options:
1. I make a huge stew, curry, or whatever on a Sunday afternoon and freeze the excess into single meals. Then I just whip one out of the freezer each day and add a simple salad.
2. Cold cuts from the supermarket, and make a quick salad - the best variation on this is a salad topped with "lox" (cut-off pieces of salmon that taste divine). E.P.I. ( Canada)
Meal for one: In a shallow frypan, with a tinge of sesame oil (olive will do), add fresh ginger, garlic and chilli. Throw in two chicken legs and brown off.
Throw in some water with a Rapunsel organic vege stock cube. Put the lid on until the chicken is cooked.
Add any veges (unsoggy) from the fridge, eg celery, cabbage, carrot, courgette, spinach, corn. Serve with jasmine rice in a bowl. Add chilli sauce. Mmmm. C.J.
Two boiled eggs and soldiers with lashings of butter. Very nutritious (maybe not the butter) and satisfying, and it only takes 10 minutes.
Also, corn fritters: Tin of creamed corn, 1 egg flour, baking powder all mixed together and plopped in spoonfuls in the frypan to cook. If feeling extravagant and not too tired, mix in chopped up bacon and onion. Makes more than you can eat in one sitting so there are leftovers. P.F.
His: French toast. Dip bread in beaten egg, cook one side in frypan, flip over, add slab of cheese and continue to cook until cheese has melted. A grind of pepper , sometimes tomato relish.
Hers: Poached eggs on Vogel toast with lots of salt and pepper and a thick layer of chopped parsley. P&A. G.
A packet of Korean Shin Ramyun noodles. Add with the flavour sachets to boiling water. Then roughly chopped veges - spinach, carrots, mushrooms are good, but honestly anything will do. Break an egg into the pot. When noodles and vegetables are tender and egg almost firm (5 minutes tops) pour the whole garlicky chilli-laden mess into a deep bowl. Eat with chopsticks if you have the expertise and spare energy. Otherwise shovel up with fork and spoon.
It's not just about the food of course - ambience is important. When I'm really, really hungry and so tired that even boiling noodles is a challenge, I recommend eating leftovers straight from the Tupperware while standing in the beneficent glow of the refrigerator light. R.C.
Heat pan, chop red onion and get it going, or opt for spring onion (even quicker). Chop and chuck in veges. Chuck in leftover rice, coriander seeds, chilli sauce and can of sardines or tuna. Must not take longer than 5 minutes tops." J.M.
Salmon steaks and Uncle Ben's rice. Microwaved whole potatoes. Tin of soup. Baked beans on toast with egg on top. M.S.
Microwave sliced potato in water in a bowl for 5 minutes, then rest, and cook for 1 minute more. Dry. Put potato and crumbed hoki fillets in frypan at medium heat for 20 minutes. Microwave carrot (diced), broccoli, butternut (diced) in water, nuked at 80 per cent, for 5 minutes. Make a white sauce with sauv blanc to taste.
All one bowl, one pan, one plate, minimal wash-up. - J.I.
(Yes, he's a bloke. We bring a big-picture scope to laziness - sorry, "efficiency" - that extends to the washing-up.)
Homemade oven chips. When nearly done we fry eggs and heat a can of baked beans, which we have sprinkled with grated cheese. J.G.
Monk fish (because it's a firm flesh) cooked in a can of coconut cream and a teaspoon of cumin and one of turmeric mixed into the cream. S&P if wanted. Served on brown rice. Easy-peasy and can be served to guests. A.W.
My little-bit-of-energy-left meal is vampire pasta. A whole head of garlic, peeled, fried off in a little olive oil, then a jar of spaghetti sauce poured over, and the whole lot dumped on overcooked pasta.
My no-energy-left meal is peanut butter and banana on grainy toast.
My bugger-off-I'm-dying meal is a muesli bar and a glass of milk.
My actually-dead-now meal is to collapse on the couch and make hubby cook. A.I.
Footnote: Thanks again, guys. You're the best. Now, I've attached a spreadsheet roster so each of you can pop round and roadtest your speciality on me . . .