Chefs can seemingly make food appear in a flash. They do that by cheating. There is no magic or fancy secret involved. It is simple cheats to maximise your output whilst minimising your time and effort. Its that easy.
Preparation - Every great chef is organised. This is the unsexy reality you don't see on Masterchef. Yes, it's boring but this is how you get results. Let's start with the mis en place. This is the part of a chefs section (their particular part of the kitchen) where they have many of the composite parts of the dishes they will be creating that day. Of course some will be in the fridge also. But all will be prepped as much as possible. This means ingredients chopped, even par-cooked or fully cooked if possible. Whatever needs to be done to reduce the time between order and plate. An unprepared chef is a stressed chef. We need you to be a chilled chef. Take this system and apply it to your home cooking by prepreparing food in bulk as much as possible once a week. Or even once a month for some ingredients. Here is a list of what you can preprepare.......
- Quinoa - will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge
- Toasted seeds - keeps well for months in an airtight container
- Garlic and ginger paste - click here for a recipe
- your own spice mixes
- toasted and ground nori sheets with sea salt - this is a great condiment and it looks kinda fancy if you want to impress!
- ground dried shiitake mushrooms - this will take your soups and stews to the next level
There are ingredients you can buy preprepared already........
- Frozen cut vegetables. They get a bad rap. But often they are fresher than their 'fresh' counterparts. Fruit and vegetables that are destined to be in the frozen food aisle are frozen soon after picking. Effectively putting the produce into stasis. Whereas the 'fresh' produce has taken an age to get to you. this process is all about eliminating barriers to you cooking and eating healthy food. The fact that frozen food is already cut up is one such barrier we have just seen the back of.
- Precut vegetables from the fridge section. Ironically not as fresh as the frozen veg but still helping to break those barriers. These packs can handily include a selection of veg.
- Garlic and ginger paste. This can be created by your own fair hands (see above) but if you want to cut out that step they can be store bought. Some supermarkets are selling them but you can always find them in Indian food shops, usually at half the price of supermarkets.
- Use spice mixes....but good ones! Spice mixes mean that you don't have to mess about with a teaspoon of this..a pinch of that etc. And you know the flavours will work as they are recipes that have been around for aeons. I use Seasoned Pioneers spice mixes, click here for their site. I buy sachimi togorashi from Amazon in bulk as it's a favourite of mine. Click here for the UK link.
To take the home-mis en place to the next level reorganise your cupboards. Store the ingredients you want to use the most in your quick-and-healthy diet at the front, within easy reach. Sounds obvious and simple but it really does work. When you are able to cook on the fly, as I will teach you, this method will be crucial. You will be making split second decisions about what to include in a dish. So the ingredients you want to use should be in eyesight and easy to reach. This is a list of things I have ready to hand......
- Extra virgin olive oil - decanted into a bottle with a pouring spout.....the original bottles always have a mouth that is too wide
- Favourite spice blends - sachimi togorashi, ras-el-hanout, kasmiri masala, rose petal masala
- Profusion Himalayan Herb Salt - available at health food stores, click here
- Marigold vegan stock powder (I prefer powder rather than cubes as it dissolves quickly) - available at health food stores, click here
- Various seeds in one box i can easily pull out of the cupboard
everyone thinks that i will have high-tech high-cost kitchen equipment. but i don't. i have a cheap (£20) hand blender that has a chopper attachment and a juicer. that's it. i have never needed any more than that. and if you aren't going to juice you don't need the juicer!
I do rely on a y peeler....these have been used in all the professional kitchens I have worked in. They are cheap and the perfect shape for quick peeling.
i also rely on one knife. yes, only one knife. it is japanese and of fantastic quality so it was expensive. but as i only need this one knife and it will last me a life time the price is reasonable. I also have a knife sharpener to keep her in tiptop condition.
buying kitchen gadgets might make you feel like gordon ramsey for a moment but they will clutter up your kitchen and make your life more complicated than itr needs to be. we want to streamline your life.
one key idea you need to understand with this type of cooking is that Complicated food isn't better food. a dish that includes several different processes, a ton of ingredients and bizarre combinations may get you the judges praise in masterchef but it won't help you to create better food. for your day to day meals we want to focus on quick, tasty, variety, easy, nutritious food. for those special occasions i also have recipes that appear high end but will be just as quick to prepare as your daily dinner.
These are all small steps....small steps which will take you on your journey to becoming your own private chef. They will all add up but are easy to implement one by one.