• Lemon chicken (Danielle Abou Karam)Source: Danielle Abou Karam
Zippy meals for when your appetite for cooking is sluggish at best.
9 Aug 2021 - 3:20 PM  UPDATED 25 Aug 2021 - 2:16 PM

--- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm and 10.00pm and series will be made available after broadcast on SBS On Demand. Watch the Family meals in 20 minutes episode Monday 9 August on SBS Food. --- 


Cooking for the family is fine, but why does it have to happen every. single. night? Can't these people do anything other than eat!?

Deep breaths. Every night of the week for the rest of your days is what it is. The trick to making it through is having an arsenal of recipes up your sleeve to effortlessly fire off at a moment's notice. Rat a tat tat, dinner is done.

Which is where the easy, breezy 20 comes into its own. These 20 dishes take less than 20 minutes to get on the table, but they offer a variety the family will never grow tired of. Feel free to run them out each night, then start at the beginning and run them out again.

1. Salmon foil-yaki

Foil-yaki is like the Japanese equivalent of the French en papillote, only better. Better because you can have this dish done on the stove in the time it takes the oven to heat up.

2. TV spaghetti

Just the thing to eat in front of the tele. You can start watching while you cook it as well.

3. Spinach and sesame sauce

You couldn't order a take away faster than this dish takes to make. Let alone collect it. Ready in 10 minutes and packed with all the power of spinach.

4. Spaghetti carbonara

The recipe may say this carbonara takes 25 minutes, but we swear you'll knock it out in under 20. It's one of those 'slap it all together and make magic' kind of dishes, as pasta so often can be.

Pasta with ricotta and prosciutto

Ditch the jar of pasta sauce. This pasta goes for ingredients that can quickly be thrown in for a fast meal that packs flavour.

Simple Sicilian spaghetti

This is a fast pasta – by the time the spaghetti is cooked, the sauce is too.

5. Cong you tofu

This gem of a vegetarian dish requires not much more thought than keeping the spring onions from burning.

6. Oyakodon

Oyakodon tastes amazing, but it's not the only reason it's one of Japan's most popular family meals. Find a dish you can whizz together in around 15 minutes and it's certain to become a favourite.

7. Salmon meunière

All manner of salmon dishes fit the bill for an easy, breezy dinner, but none are quite as tasty as Adam Liaw's take on salmon meunière. Saltbush and lemon myrtle are two native ingredients that pack some serious punch. Plus butter. Lots and lots of butter.

Sashimi rice bowl (hoedeopbap)

There’s very little you need to do with this dish, simply serve the fresh salad and raw sashimi on a bed of steamed rice and call it done.

Pan-fried salmon with dill butter

Salmon and dill make for a perfect pair, and what better way to achieve that perfectly crisp skin than pan-frying it in a dill-infused butter?

8. Lemongrass pork belly

Just remember to start this dish the night before so the pork belly has plenty of time to marinade. Then we're taking restaurant-quality pork for approximately 10 minutes of effort.

9. Spinach and dill fried rice

There's an entire bunch of English spinach smashed into this family favourite. You're welcome.


Kimchi is a classic Korean pickle that can be made from just about any vegetable. This one uses wombok (Chinese cabbage) and is pungent and addictive.

10. Mozzarella in carrozza

No shame in a toastie for dinner. No shame at all.

11. Broccolini and sausage spaghetti

When particularly tasty ingredients come together, good dinners are made. Here it's spicy Italian sausage getting loved up with charred broccolini, chilli and parmesan. Tied in a bow with good ol' spaghetti.

12. Singapore noodles

Making your own is ridiculously easy but if you happened to use a jar of pesto to bring this recipe into the easy, breezy 10 minute sanity category, we won't say a word.

13. Beef and broccolini

This is a complex tasting dish, but it's quick. Fifteen minutes worth of quick. You could theoretically add extra time by marinating the beef for longer, but if Adam says 10 minutes is enough, then that's how long we'll take.

Water spinach with garlic and fermented bean curd

Wok stir-fry water spinach is one of my favourite dishes. It’s so simple, yet it’s tasty. And is cheap too!

Mapo tofu

Originating in Sichuan province, this fiery dish of pork, silken tofu and chilli bean paste is the perfect antidote to a cold winter's night. Serve with steamed Asian greens for a complete meal. If you prefer a thicker sauce, use the potato starch.

14. Zucchini scrambled eggs

Eggs for dinner is always a good idea.

15. Baked river trout

Fish has so many things going for it, but the fast cooking time is surely up there. How else could you produce a restaurant-quality dish like this in less time than it takes to shower?

16. Pork belly and spring onions

Pork belly is such a tasty winner that we're bringing it to the table again. This time it's showing its light side, wok-fried simply with spring onions and sesame seeds.

17. Stir-fried lettuce and mushrooms

You'll have this vego dish on the table before you've even removed your coat. Everything goes straight into the wok bar the lettuce. Fry it up, toss in the greens and serve.

18. Zabak mucveri

These little Turkish dill and zucchini puffs are incredibly easy to make. They give a lovely crunch in the mouth that will be a hit with the kids.

Stir-fried fish cake (eomuk bokkeum)

Fish cakes are absolutely one of my favourite street foods in Korea, stir-fried here in spring onion, sesame seeds and mirin.

Cauliflower fritters

You can use this versatile Ukrainian batter to fry any vegetables you like.

19. Crunchy fish hand rolls

If Yumi Stynes' kids can eat this dish once a week, ours can too.

20. Lemon chicken

Lemon chicken

Faster than home delivery, Adam Liaw's fresh take on lemon chicken is the BOMB.

Easy breezy
Foul mudammas

A classic Middle Eastern dish of fava beans and chickpeas, seasoned with tahini, lemon and garlic for a light and fresh vegan meal.

Kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeum bap)

Since you can usually throw kimchi fried rice together using leftovers it’s an amazingly easy, quick and economical dish – and still packs a big flavour punch.

Fresh peas, burrata and horseradish

This dish is all about beautiful fresh produce. The peas have to be freshly podded, the horseradish freshly grated, the burrata fresh and creamy, the best anchovies and the olive oil top quality, otherwise it will fall a bit flat.

Emergency apple crumble

This is the crumble I make every time a friend has a baby! I drop around a bag of the crumble topping, a tin of apple (or pear) and some delicious thick cream.

Scallops, bacon and asparagus

This is a Western-style stir-fry, with a rich salty flavour from the rendered speck and seared scallops. The asparagus and apple cider vinegar cut through to provide a crisp, fresh contrast.

Roman-style rigatoni alla Gricia

A simple pasta throw-together that's ready in 15 minutes, complete with chunks of guanciale and a good shaving of Roman pecorino.

Mamak-style fried noodles (mee goreng mamak)

Mee goreng are the fried yellow noodles eaten commonly in Malaysia; in this popular version, found in mamaks (open-air eateries), the noodles are tossed through a rich sauce of kecap manis and tomato ketchup, as well as potato, fried tofu, calamari and egg.