I know what some of you will be thinking, ‘I don’t have time’, ‘I’m not creative, I can’t think what to cook’, ‘I can’t be bothered’ but never fear my friends I’ve got some great tips for you here to help with transitioning to at least one more home-cooked-from-scratch meal per week in no time.
Pre-packaged sauces and recipe bases are choc full of nasties that you so don’t need in your dinner. An example of one big name recipe base for an innocent sounding ‘mixed herb’ chicken dish contains the following…
- Modified Starch (1422) – Thickening agent and stabiliser
- Maltodextrin (from corn) – made by cooking down the starch, and then acid and/or enzymes break the starch down even further. Used in processed foods as a thickener or a filler
- Yeast extract – a chemical taste enhancer often containing MSG
- Vegetable fat – Beans and grains that have been through a hydrogenation process to make them last, this process makes them unusable by the body.
- Colour (Caramel 1) – A food coloring which is made by heating or burning sugar (or other carbohydrate)
- Food Acid (Citric) – Mainly derived from citrus by fermentation of the fruit sugars
… all that before they get to listing the actual herbs.
Needless to say this is a whole lot of nasty that could be avoided but simply putting your own herbs directly onto your chicken and then cooking it. This leads me to tip #1:
1. Make friends with Herbs and Spices
If you’re new to matching herbs and spices with your meats and veggies never fear there are plenty of resources out there to help you out. One that I find invaluable in my kitchen is Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion a massive tome that lists just about every herb, spice, meat and veg you could ever hope to get around to. Big, comprehensive cookbooks like this are a great investment (and make for great Chrissy presents too).
If you’re not into cookbooks there are plenty of great online resources you can check out. Bespoke Spices is one great site that gives you recipes for spice blends for common dishes like curries and tacos. I tried their Simple Taco Seasoning Recipe the other night and it was amazing, so much better than pre-bought ones.
2. Use Ghee, olive oil, coconut oil etc. to achieve great flavor and texture
These good fats will make everything you cook taste better. Don’t be afraid to use a big splodge of ghee to crisp up your schnitzels or some melted Coconut oil to flavor your roast veg, you’ll never look back.
3. Come up with at home versions of your fave take away’s
What’s your vice? Fish & Chips, a spicy Indian curry, a hamburger with the lot or chicken burritos… whatever it is there’s a way to make it yourself tasting even better than you’d get at the shops (and often much cheaper too). It’s all about experimenting a little and pinpointing the things that make them so tasty to you. Is it crunchy chips, a fiery sauce or maybe a particular topping? Whatever it is you can focus on it and experiment with getting it just the way you like it at home. The great bonus here is it then becomes your own personal recipe you’ll quickly become renowned for amongst friends and family.
Note: Keep your eyes peeled on this site as I’ll be bringing you some pre-tested, guaranteed to please home versions of popular take away’s real soon.
4. You don’t need 1000 ingredients to make something taste great
I used to think that to make my favourite Mexican dishes at home would be way too complicated. That it would require a trek to a specialist Spanish ingredient selling store for obscure things to go in them to make them taste any better than supermarket brand name kit. I’m pleased to say that once I got into it and used a little imagination (and inspiration) this was far from the case.
5. There are plenty of great time-saving tricks
Doing this doesn’t have to take any more time than cooking with a packet mix, just a little pre-planning and commitment.
- When you come across a favourite spice mix that you like, make up a bulk jar of it and store it in the pantry ready for next time. That way you’ll always have some on hand ready to season your dish at the flick of a wrist.
- Keep a shopping list on the fridge and add to is as soon as you run out of anything.
- Make your own stock . Freeze it into cup sized portions. Chuck them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. I did this one at the beginning of the year and am still working through one large pot of stock’s worth of ready to go portions. A little bit of effort for a whole lot of gain.
So what are you waiting for gang? Have a little think and come up with one that’ll work for you, otherwise try one of the suggestions above. Either way let me know how it goes.