Forget air fryers – this is why microwave meals are here to stay

The microwave can save effort, energy, time, money and most importantly stress  (Sam A Harris)
The microwave can save effort, energy, time, money and most importantly stress (Sam A Harris)

We are the microwavers: the open-minded optimists who embrace technology, excited by its potential to make our lives easier and our meals more delicious.

Many of us are also, it must be said, short on time, energy and funds. The microwave can help us mitigate all of these issues.

It’s obvious that the microwave has the capacity to expedite our cooking. What may be less obvious is it may also improve the quality of our lives.

The microwave can save effort, energy, time and money, in small but not trivial ways. The microwave is a tool for cooking, but it can also be a tool for alleviating stress and anxiety, for nourishment that goes beyond nutrition.

Put it this way: you can make a risotto the old-fashioned way, ladling stock, stirring, ladyling stock, stirring, ladling stock, stirring, ladling stock, stirring, ladling stock, stirring, until it’s finally done, and by that time your kids are all grown up and have left the house and your dog is dead and you realise you missed out on so much because you were too busy ladling stock and stirring forever.

With the microwave, this needn’t be the case. You can put the risotto in the microwave for 8 minutes, then go and dance with your family to a couple of Taylor Swift songs, come back to stir it up, pop it back in for another 8 minutes, then go and dance some more.

Or you can use those 8 minutes to do part of a Joe Wicks video, or build something, or have a cup of tea, or do yoga, or help your kids with their homework, or drink an ice-cold Kinnie in the sunshine.

Let the microwave take care of dinner, so you can take care of yourself.

Sweetcorn with sour cream, cheese, chilli and lime

This simple starter is inspired by Mexican elotes (Sam A Harris)
This simple starter is inspired by Mexican elotes (Sam A Harris)

This is inspired by Mexican elotes, barbecued corn which is then slathered in a mixture of sour cream and mayo, and seasoned with liberal amounts of chilli sauce, grated or crumbled cheese, and fresh lime. This recipe mainly differs from the real deal by being very much not barbecued – but it’s still tasty nonetheless, and how could it not be? This power-team of toppings are so delicious they could make masking tape taste good, so imagine how they are on steamed sweetcorn, which is already considerably more delicious than masking tape.

Serves: 2


2 tsp soy sauce

2 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned

2 tbsp sour cream

1 heaped tbsp mayonnaise

½ tsp smoked paprika

About 30g (1oz) cojita, feta, pecorino, Wensleydale or similar dry, salty cheese, grated or finely crumbled

Many dashes of hot sauce

½ lime

Chilli (hot pepper) flakes or powder, to taste


1. Rub the soy sauce into each corn cob so it sinks into the kernels. Place the corn on a plate and cover, then cook for five minutes, turning the corn over halfway through cooking.

2. While the corn is cooking, stir together the sour cream, mayo and paprika until smooth.

3. When the corn (in step 1) is done, uncover it and let it cool slightly, then slather it in the sour cream mayo mixture. Top with the cheese and hot sauce, then squeeze over the lime and sprinkle with as much chilli as you like.

Pea and smoked mackerel risotto with lemon

Risotto doesn’t have to mean hours at stove (Sam A Harris)
Risotto doesn’t have to mean hours at stove (Sam A Harris)

I don’t know how risotto got its reputation for being difficult to make. Is it because you’re supposed to stand there like an automaton, stirring it until you die of old age or boredom? That’s not difficult, it’s just tedious. And you don’t even have to do it! You can just whack it in the microwave. (Or the pressure cooker! I heard it cooks in five minutes. But this is not a pressure cooking recipe.)

Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side


40g (1 ½oz) butter

10cm (4in) leek, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely diced

150g/180ml (5½oz/6fl oz/¾ cup) short-grain (risotto) rice

540ml (18fl oz/2¼ cups) fish, chicken or veg stock

2 tbsp white wine

Zest of ½ lemon

100g (3½oz) peas

Lots of black pepper

1 smoked mackerel fillet (about 150g/5½oz), skinless and boneless, broken into big chunks

60g (2oz) cream cheese

30g (1oz) parmesan, grated


Few sprigs of mint or dill, roughly chopped


1. Place the butter in a large bowl and cook for 30 seconds to melt, then add the leek, garlic and celery. Stir, cover and cook for four minutes, stirring again halfway through cooking.

2. Add the rice, stock and wine. Stir, re-cover and cook for 16 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.

3. Add the lemon zest, peas, black pepper and mackerel. Stir, re-cover and cook for another minute, then stir in the cheeses and cook for another minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with the mint or dill.

Miso walnut brownies

Miso, walnuts and chocolate sing in this quick sweet fix (Sam A Harris)
Miso, walnuts and chocolate sing in this quick sweet fix (Sam A Harris)

Walnuts are fairly far down the list in my nut powder rankings (it goes: macadamia, pecan, peanut, pistachio, hazelnut, pine nut, Brazil nut, walnut, cashew, almond) but I do like them in brownies. Miso has an affinity with both walnuts and chocolate, adding a nice fruitiness and, of course, saltiness to the mix. But if you don’t have miso, feel free to leave it out – just replace it with 1 teaspoon salt and the recipe will work the same.

Makes: 12-16 brownies


180g (6½oz) butter

200g (7oz) dark chocolate, chopped

100g (3½oz) milk chocolate, chopped

60-80g (2-2¾oz) miso (use more for a stronger, saltier flavour) (any kind)

320g (11oz/1¾ cups) light brown sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

180g (6½oz/1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

50g (1¾oz) cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

80g (2¾ oz/generous ¾ cup) walnuts, roughly chopped


1. Combine the butter and chocolates in a large bowl and cook, covered, for two minutes until completely melted, stirring with a spatula at the end of cooking to ensure the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the miso, then the sugar.

2. Beat the eggs into the chocolate mixture from step 1, one by one, whisking hard until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Add the vanilla, then the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Mix well with a whisk, then a spatula, to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and fully incorporate the liquid into the dry ingredients. Finally, stir in the walnuts. Tip into a 23x23cm (9x9in) silicone baking dish, then cover and cook for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

Extracted from ‘Microwave Meals’, by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant Books, £16.99).