COVID times were tough, but even though it has definitely not been fun, at least many of us got more time at home, which meant we could spend more time perfecting our cooking skills. So much so, in fact, that 91% of Brits said they plan to cook more this year. As we’re going back into the office and the agenda is getting busier again, our mastery remains but our time is shrinking. So, how can you whip up gourmet-level meals even when your agenda is full? Here are a few tips that will help you quickly cook up a storm.
1. Make use of recipe kits
Even if you’re a phenomenal cook, recipe kits can make things simpler in the kitchen. Whether you opt for one that delivers calculated raw ingredients and a recipe, or a box that arrives almost-prepared for you to assemble and handle the final touches, this is a great way to save you time. No longer will you need to think about what you’re having for dinner, venture out to your local supermarket and end up getting too many things. What’s more, it’s a great opportunity to be introduced to new dishes that you can easily replicate later, with exact measurements. What’s not to like?
There are many recipe boxes on the market such as all-rounders HelloFresh and Gousto, boxes which cater to specific cuisines like Pasta Evangelists, or even boxes that allow you to recreate dishes from your favourite restaurants. With Italian food being the UK’s favourite, we think pasta is a fantastic start for anyone. We promise it will never get boring. As pointed out by the aficionados at Pasta Evangelists, there are so many different types of pasta that you could quite easily try a new one every day of the year!
2. Grow your own herbs
Good food is about flavour. Spices, condiments or herbs are a crucial component of every meal. While the first two are simple to store and keep for months — sometimes years — herbs are far more fickle. Buying a pack at the grocery store will not only be bad for the environment (just think of all that plastic), it will also create a major time hurdle as they rot quickly, meaning you need to buy a new batch with almost every cooking opportunity.
This is why growing your own herbs is the perfect solution. You’ll save yourself the bother of constantly chasing fresh ones, while adding a fragrant plant to your home. You can also plant leaves you’ve never tried before or ones that are rare in your local shop, from kaffir lime to marjoram. Whether you have a garden or you live in a flat, herbs are easy to grow indoors and outdoors. Try starting with basil, mint, parsley, oregano, rosemary, chives or thyme as they famously thrive in a planter, but once you get to grips with it, the world is your oyster (or your lemongrass).
3. Create a weekly meal plan
The perfect recipe for organisation, especially when time is scarce, is planning in advance. By creating a weekly meal plan at the weekend, you can cook your food for the week before it gets hectic, ensuring you always have a delicious meal waiting for you at the end of the day. This will also allow you to experiment with different foods as you don’t need to whip up something quickly every day and have the peace to properly consider what you’re going to eat.
If you prefer to use your Sundays for relaxing (or partying, or simply doing anything but thinking about the coming week), we understand. But you can still utilise a good meal plan even if you don’t cook ahead of time. One of the most onerous elements of preparing food is figuring out what we want to eat. You can use one of the many templates online. The only thing you need to do is make sure you have all the groceries you require ready to go, and you’ve already saved yourself half the hassle.
4. Swap the chopping board for a mandoline
You may absolutely love cooking. Or, you might do it just so you have something delicious to eat. Regardless, we can all agree that chopping up ingredients is a long, boring task (unless you’re a trained chef that can cut 250 slices in 60 seconds, blindfolded, but if you’re reading this article, we’re going to assume that you’re not). Luckily, there’s a cool little gadget made just for this purpose — the trusty mandoline.
This implementation will not only allow you to cut up vegetables extremely fast. It will also let you chop them in various shapes suitable for different dishes. From paper thin slices for your ratatouille to intricate formations for waffle chips, the mandoline is a great way to save you time as well as shake up your usual dishes with new textures. If you don’t want to invest in it, you can get smaller choppers that will do the trick, even if not as professional-looking.