Save a little time and lots of sanity with these rather ingenious cooking tips
1. Pre-prepared pastry is totally acceptable
Quiches and tarts are great for summer lunches and snacks, but to make life a whole lot easier for yourself, skip the hard part and use ready-made pastry. Quicker than making your own, with a lot less mess and washing up afterwards, you’ll ensure that the crust is perfect every time. Ready-roll pastry is also ideal for fabulously flaky apple pies as dessert.
2. Top your pies with pre-made mash
Peeling and mashing potatoes is a thankless task, so when you don’t have time to waste, the pre-prepared stuff is great to have on hand for shepherd’s pie, fishcakes, cottage pie and to go with your bangers. Add a personal touch with your own ingredients, such as grated cheese, herbs and spices, seasoning or cream cheese for extra flavour.
3. Keep packet rice on hand
Mexican dishes such as enchiladas and chimichangas often call for rice but who has 20 minutes for the long-grain varieties to cook? Ready cooked rice can be spiced up in an instant for an authentic Mexican taste or you can use it in stir fries, to stuff vegetables, with curries or on its own with cheese, vegetables and some seasoning.
4. Make the most of frozen foods
Vegetables from the freezer eliminate preparation time (and are fantastic for filling out soups and stews to make meals go further) but there’s a whole host of other ingredients that can be kept on ice. Freezing herbs in an ice tray with olive oil locks in their flavour, plus it ensures you always have a supply ready to use. You can also try freezing a variety of fruit. Berries, apart from strawberries, store well and are quickly defrosted for making last-minute desserts. Use straight from the freezer to quickly cool drinks in place of an ice cube and add a sweet twist.
5. Add flavour to stews and soups fast
Garlic is an essential ingredient but when you’re making large batches of bolognese, casseroles or soups, chopping and crushing can be a chore. While garlic powder is one option, a far better solution is ready chopped garlic in a jar or garlic paste. It’ll last longer in the fridge than cloves and gives a delicious flavour that’ll be hard to tell from fresh.
6. Get the most from your appliances
If you’ve had a food processor or blender languishing in the cupboard, now is the time to retrieve it and plant it firmly on your worktop. Most machines can chop, blitz, grate and shred a variety of ingredients, so put it to work. You can always make getting it out worthwhile by chopping more than you need. For example, a pile of chopped onions will last in the fridge for a few days but you’ll only have to wash the processor bowl once. Some processors will even whip cream, cake mixes and sauces for a light fluffy texture that’s hard to achieve under your own steam.
7. Invest in measurements
Measuring cups and spoons are real timesavers in the kitchen. Spoons on a ring ensure you’ll never have to go digging in your cutlery drawer for the right sized utensil again, while cups take the effort out of pouring contents onto a scale.
8. Plan meals in advance
Knowing what you’re going to cook for the week ahead may seem dull but by doing so you’ll always have the ingredients in the house that you need for each dish – no last-minute trips to the shops or popping round to the neighbour’s to borrow items. You’ll also end up throwing less away – big bonus.