The 4-Ingredients Challenge

Back when the Ninja Turtle lived Down Under, there was a dynamic duo of moms-turned-celebrities who came up with this cute little concept called 4 Ingredients. This idea took the country by storm – after all, it was incredibly appealing in many different ways. Pantry and fridge almost empty? Not a problem. Don’t enjoy the fuss and mess of  cooking? Not an excuse. Don’t dare the risk of setting the kitchen on fire? Not likely to happen. It’s cheaper than dining out, takes a fraction of the time to ring and wait for delivery pizza, and healthier too. Really, it was a win-win formula which they should be congratulated for.

Now, the Ninja Turtle brought this up because, until recently, she has never needed to consider the simplicity of easy cooking. The last several months she has spent living in France opened doors to new flavours, textures, ingredients and cooking methods she was previously unfamiliar with. More importantly, she has had the luxury of an abundance of time to discover all this in. When it takes at least 4 hours to make one’s own bread, let’s not pretend that it’s a normal activity that anyone and everyone can fit into their daily lives.

Of course if given the opportunity, most of us would love to eat local and organic, preferably with at least 90 minutes to linger over each meal, which should preferably stimulate all five senses, take us on a voyage across the globe, and nourish the soul as well as the body. Sure, if you’re someone like Madonna, maybe. For the rest of us mortals, there is no point flogging us with guilt if we choose non-organic oranges that have 800 food miles simply because the grocery store decided to sell it for cheaper than the local organic version. Or the fact that we unceremoniously heap our meals in bowls rather than plating it Pinterest-style, because let’s face it, if every dish were to be three morsels large, it would take 10 dishes to make a meal, and take it from GodzillaPin, he is NOT washing up 20 plates.

So, the beauty of the 4 Ingredients meals appealed to the Ninja Turtle when she recently found herself engaged occasionally on several evenings in teaching. By the time lesson is done, GodzillaPin is starving, or drunk, if he’s been having one too many rum and apple juice cocktails, or worse, both. Turtle has all of 20 minutes to whip up a meal – a reasonable amount of time before she becomes hangry herself. The number of ingredients is actually arbitrary – it’s merely an aid to limit cooking time.

With that, here are two simple 4-ingredient (plus a base) weeknight meals to get people going. It’s actually quite fun, and can be turned into a challenge to see just how good a meal one can produce with unlikely ingredients.

Vegetarian pasta

Vegetarian pasta

Vegetarian Pasta
Fresh egg pasta
Ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper

Steam the broccoli and spinach. When they are almost done, blanch the spinach quickly.
At the same time, prepare the pasta as directed.
Drain the pasta and the vegetables. Pop them back in one of the pots (the bigger one), and stir the ricotta through.

Turkey pasta

Turkey pasta

Turkey Pasta
Spiral pasta (or any shape you prefer)
Turkey breast, cut into small pieces
Cheese (we used comté)
Salt and pepper

Boil the pasta as directed. Drain and set aside.
Sauté the onion in a pan, then add the turkey pieces.
Blanche the spinach.
Mix all the ingredients, and grate generous amounts of cheese on the lot.

While the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin still enjoy testing the complicated recipes from those fancy French cookbooks, it is undeniable that the inclusion of these 4-ingredient meals have saved tempers from fraying, and proven to be more enjoyable than just an “emergency” option.


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