There is an increasing trend towards home cooking despite the fact that we appear to “have much to do and less time to do it in.” We are entertaining more at home, making more mid-week meals and cooking more Sunday lunches.
More men are cooking than in previous years, we can order quality food online right to our front doors and we are being inspired by a plethora of cookery programmes and food publications enlightening us as to the next dish we might concoct at home.
Home cooking is achievable, even when we are short of time. I would like to share my tips on making this a little easier.
1) Plan your meals for the week
This may sound boring and you may have read this many times but it WORKS. It is worthwhile involving the family in this and allowing them to make a contribution. It doesn’t take long and allows you to shop in advance when you have more time.
2) Shop online
This is a massive time saver which allows you to plan ahead and will save you from doing a dreaded supermarket shop at the weekend.
3) Make the best of leftovers
‘The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meat has never been found’. Calvin Trillin
Leftover roast is incredibly versatile. Here are a few ideas;-
- Chicken: blend with roast peppers and pasta, add to a creamy risotto or use as a base for soup.
- Beef: stir fry with noodles, easy stroganoff or beef curry
- Ham: omelettes, sandwiches or carbonara
- Fruit and vegetables: can be pureed for babies. Potatoes can be pan fried with bacon and apple or mashed and moulded into crisp-bakes with meat or vegetables, dipped in egg, crumbed and baked.
4) Make a big pot of soup
When my grandmother read to me as a child, at the end of every story she used to say, “They made a big pot of soup and lived happily ever after.”
It never occurred to me at the time to question her about this because there was soup on the go all year round. You may not fancy it as often as that but during the cold winter months it is warming, filling and will last for 2 or 3 days. I make potato and leek in volume as it so easy and the family love it. Alternately, I might make a lentil and carrot broth, creamy tomato or an italian pasta e fagioli.
5) Use a hand blender
They are inexpensive to buy if you don’t have one and invaluable in the kitchen. So easy to handle when pureeing sauces or creaming soups.
6) Summarise your favourite recipes
I like to keep favourite recipes in note form in one place where I can refer to them quickly. A properly indexed recipe book, available in most stationers, is ideal for this. Alternately think about recipes as being guidelines rather than having to be followed to the letter. Allow yourself to improvise with what you have available.
7) Sharpen your knives
I am very guilty of forgetting to do this often enough but food preparation is made a lot easier when using tools fit for purpose!
8) Keep invaluable stock cupboard and fridge items
We all have our own ideas on what these should be depending on our food preferences. Here are some of mine:
- Tinned chopped tomatoes: invaluable in soups, stews or simple sauces
- Cheese: great crumbled into salad or melted on pasta
- Eggs: hugely versatile whether it be to bake with or scramble on toast
- Frozen peas: nutritious and full of fibre I have never been without these in the freezer since Jamie Oliver recommended them.
- Dried pasta and risotto rice: I have made use of these on many occasions when the cupboard is looking a bit bare.
- Herbes de Provences: dried herbs, a combination of herbs typcially used in southern French cooking usually including tarragon, savory, lavender, rosemary and thyme. Great with most meats, fish and vegetables
- Brown Sauce: great flavour booster for casseroles.
- Mustard, Capers and Olive oil: add to salads,sandwiches and pastas
9) Cook in volume
This is an old one of which we are all aware but it is effective. If your freezer looks anything like mine, you may need to clear a shelf for this! When making stews, casseroles, bolognaise, lasagne or fish pie make the extra effort when you have time and make two. Freeze one for that night when you have had enough and can’t face cooking or don’t want to smell of garlic.
10) Do not overdo it
In particular when preparing an evening meal it is often the time when many of us are feeling at our most crochety after a busy day. Cooking doesn’t have to be the sole responsibility of one member of the family, share the load if you can. It’s clearly beneficial to stick to making one meal for all otherwise you might find ‘the cafe’ stays open way longer than you had intended.