Friday, 22 November 2013

Tips for Quick Meals from Scratch



We think it's about time I wrote something practical, since this blog is supposed to give cooking advice as well as recipes. (And I've also been suffering from terrible lack of creativity in the kitchen this week). Lately, meals in our house have been all about getting a tasty and healthy dinner prepared as quickly as possible as we have all been very busy, so I thought I'd share some thoughts and tips on cooking quick meals from scratch.

Tips:
  1. If you have to cook for 4 or more people preparing veg can be a time-consuming chore- but remember that a healthy plate should contain 1/2-1/3 veggies. So you can't take shortcuts, right?- Wrong! When you are really pushed for time, choose veg that are simple to wash and chop like peppers, cauliflower, cabbage etc. rather than fiddly ones like runner beans, celery or anything that needs a lot of scrubbing, mincing or peeling. And when you do chop, go for chunky; you'll get it done faster. (But bear in mind also that the smaller you chop it the shorter the cooking time will be.) Don't resort to expensive packets of ready-prepared veg though, as they are not fresh and will contain less nutrients. You can, however, sneak some frozen veg in to bulk it up- this has been proven to contain more nutrients than canned, or even fresh veg which has been hanging around a while.
  2. Invest in a few favourite spice mixes/ masalas. There's no shame in using these for fast and tasty meals, and they take out a lot of the brain work and hunting for stuff in your spice cupboard. (Or if you really can't bring yourself to do that, then make your own masalas and store in jars for future use.) In addition to single spices like cumin seeds or coriander, we usually have a rogan josh, chana masala, Madras or Malaysian curry powder, Chinese 5-spice and ras el hanout, which between them can cover a lot of different meals. The same ingredients, differently spiced, will mean you can serve up a variety of flavours with the minimum of fuss- and nobody will get bored with your cooking!
  3. Ensure your storecupboard is stocked with some time-saving groceries like cans of coconut milk, beans, tomatoes or passata, yeast flakes (aka nutritional yeast), tahini, soy sauce/ liquid aminos and various dried herbs. Then you'll have some pretty much instant sauces. Stir fry or steam veggies and serve them over rice/ pasta and beans with a quick sauce. All you really have to decide is what kind of flavour you're going for- creamy, spicy, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese etc.
  4. Save time on grains: cook brown rice and dried beans in a pressure cooker. Every ten days or so I cook up a quantity of beans and chickpeas and keep them in bags in the freezer. This makes stuff like hummus a quick and easy option.
  5. Invest in some time-saving equipment. A food processor will make short work of slicing and grating veggies, a hand blender will turn a pot of veggies and a can of tomatoes into a delicious soup in seconds, and a grinder will create seed and nut-based sprinkles/ sauce ingredients in no time at all.
  6. Plan how you're going to cook your meal: prepare the slowest-cooking veggies first and throw them in the pot to give them a head start while you prepare the faster-cooking ones. That way you'll get them all cooked at the same time, and you'll have made the best use of your time by having some already on the go while you're chopping the rest.
  7. Meals that practically cook themselves while you get on with other stuff include jacket potatoes or sweet potatoes- just whizz up a quick soup or salad and hummus to go with them, and brown rice and beans with assorted roast veggies.
Quick and easy Recipe Suggestions and links:


So what tips and recipes do you have for time-saving yet healthy meals?



5 comments:

  1. What helpful and great tips! We’ve also been focusing on whole foods meals, without relying on expensive or ready-prepared dishes or packets lately. While in Argentina, we are fortunate to find spices markets and they are pretty affordable to have around and use in our daily meals, yay for Oriental curry powder or garlic powder! It’s a bit silly, but I’ve never used a pressure cooker, but I imagine it saves time on everything else!

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    1. Yeah, a pressure cooker is a great investment!

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  2. I would love to hear more about spice mixes. My problem is exactly that: to create different tastes as I seem to only know the salty kind.

    As I know you avoid onions and garlic, I'm wondering about rogan josh wich contains both ingredients.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback- hope you get this. Maybe we'll play around with some home-made masalas to keep in the cupboard. The rogan josh we use is by Mangal brand. It took a lot of reading small print on packets to find it! I haven't seen any other kind that doesn't contain garlic powder.WeI just add some hing to ours.

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