There has long been a growing popularity for easy meals that can be thrown together in a flash, but these days people are also increasingly responsive to concerns about health and saving money. Ultimately, since we all want to enjoy our meals and maybe even entertain with our cooking, keeping it fast, cheap and easy sounds like a difficult task.
The popularity of cookbooks with a ‘quick and easy’ theme shows that there are ways to meet all these criteria, but this approach can make us reliant on specific texts and recipes rather than arming us the with tricks and techniques that can really help. Of course, there are many tips and hints available, and The Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy has a few key points in mind:
– Cooking method
– Do it yourself
– Don’t fear the freezer
– Eat seasonably
– Salt is not the enemy
Healthy dining is not just about what you choose to eat, but is greatly affected by the method you use to cook it. Generally, the shorter the cooking time, the more vitamins and nutrients the food is able to retain. When cooking any meat or fish, the pan should be hot to the point of smoking. The same goes for the vegetables – they should still be crunchy when you eat them and will be much more flavoursome this way.
Placing food into the hot pan will bring the temperature down, so you need not fear a fire in the kitchen. Also, remove ingredients from the fridge as soon as you get home as chilled ingredients will extend cooking time. Put your pan on the heat whilst you are prepping things, giving it time to heat up whilst you make everything ready.
Do it yourself
We are often too ready to accept that making things from scratch will substantially increase time in the kitchen. Making things like curry paste or pasta sauce will, on average, work out cheaper. Also, the results will generally be superior, and there is the benefit of knowing exactly what has gone into your food and into your body. The Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy has been running several healthy and ‘detox’ classes in January, and people are often surprised at just how easy cooking from scratch can be, as well as how fresh and tasty the results are.
Don’t fear the freezer
The freezer should not be seen as a ‘shortcut’, except perhaps where packaged ready-meals are concerned. Making your own bread, pasta, soups, sauce etc. takes some time, but most things do freeze really well. My own freezer is always packed with anything from herb butter to choux pastry buns ready to be transformed into profiteroles. The best way to ensure efficiency is simply to plan ahead where possible. Once ever fortnight, or even once a month, spend some time cooking and freeze the results. Then all you need to do during the week is to take your soup or sauce out of the freezer the night before (or even in the morning). Once supper time arrives there is almost no fuss at all.
Whilst this may not seem an obvious point, it is always worth favouring fruit, vegetables, meat and fish which are in season in your part of the world. Seasonal produce will be cheaper due to its sheer availability, and will not have its price tag inflated by the cost of transporting it across the globe to supermarket shelves. Food which is naturally at its freshest, especially fruit and vegetables, is also likely to contain more vitamins and nutrients, depending on where it comes from. There is also some weight to the ‘native produce’ argument – whilst there is no need to reject food from outside our own locality, there are imported grains, fruits etc. which our digestive systems are less used to breaking down.
Salt is not the enemy
Salt should not be automatically avoided – as with most things, moderation is the key. I recommend using salt often but sparingly during cooking since it locks in flavour, and is more easily digested in this way. You can also get natural, unprocessed salt. It does have an unappetising grey colour, but is much better for you. This also allows you to add bags of flavour just with one pinch.
There are many books on the market at the moment, apparently trying to save us time by buying pre-cooked ingredients. There is always time and a place for shop bought puff pastry or something equally tricky to make, but there are so many ingredients that will taste better, be cheaper and healthier when made at home. It is worth spending the odd weekend cooking up a storm and freezing it for later. You will love your food and so will your family and friends.