Dinner for dummies: Hannah Crawley reviews recipe apps

With deadlines forever looming, it’s easy to get stuck into the routine of using your mum’s spag bol recipe for the third time in a week, sneaking a bit of whatever your flatmates are cooking, or even devouring a late-night meal deal in bed. I am 100 per cent guilty of all of the above, often seeing cooking dinner as a time wasting chore.

However, I recently decided to challenge my outlook and search for new and easy ways to cook healthy meals at the end of a long day. This week I ditched the cookbooks and headed straight to the App Store to find the best cooking apps for beginners, and try out a few of their recipes for myself.

BBC Good Food – Warm Quinoa Salad with Grilled Halloumi (iOS – Free)

I loved the simplicity of this app, and its traditional cookbook feel. The fact that this quinoa dish was listed under their ‘classic’ collection certainly says a lot about the app’s target audience, but it was delicious nonetheless.

Start by thickly slicing one large pepper and one small red onion.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil (extra-virgin if you’re feeling extra-fancy) in a saucepan, and cook the onion and pepper for a few minutes, before adding 200g of quinoa and cooking for a further three minutes.

Next, add 500ml of vegetable stock and then cover the saucepan, turning the heat down to a simmer. Cook for around 15 minutes, and stir through a handful of chopped parsley.

Whilst the quinoa mixture is cooking nicely, the next step is to make the dressing. Mix the zest and juice of one lemon with the remaining parsley, two tablespoons of oil, and finally add a large pinch of sugar and salt and mix.

Cut up a 250g pack of halloumi cheese into six chunky slices, and grill until both sides are brown and crispy.

Serve the quinoa salad with the halloumi and dressing on top, and ta-da you’re a culinary genius!

Recipe serves two to three people.

Kitchenbowl: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Portobellos (iOS  – Free)

This app is like Pinterest for recipes; you can follow chefs, as well as adding their recipes to your own collections. My favourite thing about Kitchenbowl is its clear-cut steps using photos and videos, and how easy it is to navigate. Granted, this recipe took about two hours, but now I’ve got to grips with it I’d love to try it again.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut two sweet potatoes in half (length ways), season and drizzle with oil, and bake for about an hour.

Clean out two portobello mushrooms gently with a spoon, and set aside. Then create the topping by mixing together a handful of chopped walnuts and parsley with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil.

Stuffing time! Chop up and sauté one onion, and then fry with two and a half cups of brown rice. Add one cup of chicken broth, simmer for a few minutes until moist, then remove and set aside.

Once the sweet potatoes are done, scoop out their insides and add this to the rice mixture with a sprinkle of parmesan. Now stuff the sweet potatoes and portobellos and sprinkle with the walnut topping. Bake for 20 minutes, and voila.

Recipe creates enough to serve two.

Kitchen Stories: Pasta Alla Norma (Android / iOS – Free)

My favourite app by far. Kitchen Stories also includes photo and video tutorials, but has a more professional feel and is extremely user-friendly. You can find ‘how-to’ videos on how to properly chop an onion if you’re a real newbie, and can browse through loads of categories to find your perfect dinner. The pasta dish I tried was delicious, and definitely an easy weeknight meal I will be using again.

First, cook 250g of wholewheat penne pasta in salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes. Drain most of the water, then set aside.

Finely chop one onion, two cloves of garlic, and dice one aubergine into small cubes. Heat up some oil in a pan, and then sauté the mixture for about ten minutes until the aubergine is browned on all sides.

Add a can of chopped tomatoes and three sprigs of thyme leaves (or more, if you’ve got thyme), and boil over a medium heat for around five to eight minutes.

Finally, toss the cooked pasta into the sauce, and serve with a few dollops of ricotta and fresh basil. Delicious!

Recipe serves four (lucky flatmates).

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