I’m a chef and recipe writer which means that my life is heavily centred around the kitchen but I definitely appreciate that a lot of people would much prefer to swap their kitchen for additional wardrobe space. If you’re a dash in and out kind of person or you find yourself spending double the amount of time slaving over the stove than what a recipe suggests I’ve got some tips to help.
If you want to be in and out of the kitchen in under 30mins (including clean up) then you need to know what you’re going to cook. Give yourself 5-10mins when you’re on the way home from work/school/the gym to decide on a recipe or have a solid idea of what you’re going to cook. I always begin by taking stock of the fresh produce I have. If I have carrots, celery, tomatoes and onions then I might think to make a bolognese. This way I know I’m going to need pasta, lentils and Italian herbs from the pantry. Having a clear idea of all the ingredients you need and how you’re going to approach your meal before entering the kitchen will help you speed things up.
Chose faster cooking ingredients when you’re putting together a plan. Choose white rice over brown (long-grain white basmati actually has a lower GI than brown rice!), or even sub rice for rice noodles that just need to be soaked in hot water for a few minutes. Sweet potato or baby potatoes cook faster than standard potatoes and dark leafy greens are quicker to prepare than heartier green veg like broccoli. Tinned beans, legumes and tomatoes will always come through whenever you’re in a pinch for time, so I highly recommend filling your pantry with a variety of these.
Mise en place is a technique used in French cooking and the phrase means “everything in its place”. Once you’ve decided what to make, use your recipe as a map to set up your mise en place. Collect all the ingredients that you’ll need for your meal and put them together on a tray or to one side of your bench space, you can also go one step further and weigh everything out. Set up a chopping station and get out any equipment you’ll need for cooking, if the oven needs to be heated or you need a pot of boiling water this is the perfect time to get those going.
This tip is a bit of a two parter. Firstly always start with the element of your meal that is going to take the longest and work your way backwards from there. Anything that needs to roast or bake in the oven should go in first, followed by anything that needs to be cooked on the stovetop and in your downtime prep the elements of your meal that are the quickest like cutting up salad leaves and making dressings.
The second part to this tip is to give yourself an allocated amount of time in the kitchen. I’ve been working in kitchens for almost 10 years and I still find myself faffing around more often than I’d like to admit. To combat kitchen-procrastination I recommend giving yourself a 10-20minute time slot to get your cooking done. You can even set a timer for yourself, as this little bit of added pressure can really help you focus and halt any tendency to check your emails mid-chop! I even have a series of videos where I make a dinner for two in just 10 minutes if you’re interested in some recipes to get you started!
In vegan cooking, high heat is a great tool. You can use high heat to speed up meal prep as well as adding additional colour and flavour to roasted or sauteed veggies, tofu, tempeh etc. and the beauty of it is that you don’t have the same food safety concerns associated with under cooking meat and eggs. Just make sure to stay close and stir or check your food more often than you would when cooking on lower heats.
This is a little cliche but truly an essential practice if you want to reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen. Have a clean tea towel and dishcloth on hand and if you don’t have a dishwasher fill your sink with hot soapy water. Place used dishes in the dishwasher or sink immediately after finishing with them, wipe down your chopping board and surfaces regularly and do the washing up while you wait for your food to cook. Another great tip is to fill a medium-sized jar or drinking glass with warm water and place a couple of spoons (or any utensils you regularly use while cooking) in it, use these spoons for tasting, mixing, measuring and return to the glass each time you finish with them. This will stop your reaching for a clean spoon every time you need one and help reduce the washing up.
Wash all your fresh produce at the same time! I do a fresh produce shop once a week and when I bring everything home I fill the sink with cold water and a dash of apple cider vinegar. I pop all the veg that needs to be washed in the water, give it a quick rinse and dry it with a tea towel. Then I know it’s all washed and ready to go when I need it.
For more super fast recipes check out the videos below where I make a dinner for two in just 10 minutes!