It’s a busy modern world and it’s hard to keep fabulous food on the table every night – especially if cooking is not really a passion (yet!) or you weren’t taught by someone great, so you’re wasting time following recipes to the letter. Here are a few short cuts I take to cut kitchen time. Planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance, as an old boss once said. The 6 P’s, she called it!
Find time and cut the cuttable corners to make sure your meals at home ROCK!
- If it’s a stew, pastry, soup, Bolognese, braise, roast, bake, lasagne, compote, cookie dough… NEVER, I repeat NEVER only make enough for one sitting. Aim to have either double, to do a whole other meal or snack at a later time, or at least enough to use for lunches the next day.
- Cook more rice, beans, lentils or mash than you need – These are easy things to ‘soupify’ the next day with a few different new ingredients and create a whole new meal!
- Get good at a repertoire – I know what I’m like cooking a recipe with a new technique the first time – I read, re-read, take 100 steps more than needed back and forth in the kitchen! Allow yourself the time to get good at something. Asian food was my big hurdle, and now, there are a couple of dishes I can do with my eyes closed, because I have made them a couple of times. Master a couple of different techniques or spice ratios, so that they’re committed to memory. Confidence means efficiency in the kitchen.
- Never chop a lone onion or leek – if you’re anything like me, It’s the psyche up to get started on making dins – the big initial ‘chop’. Recently I started chopping 5-6 onions and other common veggies I use and popping in a jar / pyrex and freezing, so that at the drop of the hat I’ve got them to pop in the pan and while they soften, I can assemble everything else.
- Do like on TV! Get all your bits ready and chopped for adding effortlessly. A clear and organised workspace mirrors a clear and organised head when it comes to cooking.
- Make use of time pockets – While the kettle’s boiling for your herbal tea at night, pop some almonds in a bowl of filtered water with a teaspoon of salt to get their over night soaking under way. Good use of that time – C’mon and admit, you were just going to dawdle on facebook while you waited for the kettle… Same goes for the morning when the kettle’s on again – strain the almonds and pop in a 75 degree Celsius oven for the rest of the day – activated nuts: 3 minutes work!
- Menu plan, and group steps and ingredients so that you only have to prep them once: Why cut carrots 3 times in a week? Why make a pesto or a mash twice? Why cut 5 onions on 5 different nights? Menu planning gives you the ability to attack your week of food with military precision. It makes you think realistically about what’s achievable, what nights you’re not going to have any time etc…
- Know your braises and stews! Kitchen debutants always marvel at ’12 hour lamb shoulder’ and chicken & veggie stew, and un-rightly so! They don’t take 12 hours, they take literally 5-10 minutes max. A few steps at the beginning, and then popped into a 120 degree oven while you head off to work, simmering away all day – perfect! Check out my lamb shoulder recipe here. Gets ‘wows every time for 10 minutes work!
- Learn to make awesome stock! Home made stocks are packed with minerals and nutrients and one of your best immune system pep ups. Not only that, they are key to allowing your quick sauces to taste like they’ve been simmering for days! Read how to make your own HERE and a whole bunch of FAQs I did to get all your stock questions answered HERE
- Outsource! Controversial right? You mean we might just need some help? How dare we. Ha! We’re only human… There’s only so much a busy person or parent can do, especially if running your own business, or in a full time role or have many kids. It pays to outsource sometimes. Can your cleaner cook? Then maybe they should cook that day when they’re in cleaning your house. There are fabulous ‘real food’ options popping up everywhere for ordering. My favourites, if you’re Sydney based, are the Dinner Ladies or gorgeous varied family meals or Eat Fit Food if you’re in the mood to feel incredible and improve your health. When outsourcing, make sure you ask if the meat comes from pastured animals, if the eggs are free range and fed non gmo grain supplementation. Outsourcing good cooking is not failure – it’s a strategy for those hectic weeks where you need back up and you’ve run out of freezer batches! Now I love to cook, so I don’t outsource often, but when I do, I do like it to feel as if it were at least home cooked by someone who cares about the ingredients they use and boy do I enjoy every mouthful of someone else’s efforts!