Nigella, eat your heart out…
For some people who work from home I can imagine it’s daytime TV that’s their vice, but for me it’s a little different. Of course there is the obvious YouTube black hole that’s currently sucking me in with old clips from America’s Next Top Model which is just a cracking show (‘WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!’ is TV gold), but it’s actually cooking that is my number one favourite way to procrastinate. If I know that I’ve got all the ingredients for whatever we’re cooking that night and if it’s something that can be prepped in advance, then by lunchtime I’m in there, doing my chopping and cooking it up. Of course it’s probably quite a preferable way to procrastinate, but it does mean that I have to stare longingly at whatever I’ve created and attempt not to eat it till Mark gets home which is pure torture.
Seeing as I love cooking so much, and as today’s video is a ‘What I Eat in a Day’ collaboration with the lovely guys at Waitrose – I KNOW! – I thought I’d share five tips that I’ve discovered over the years to help me feel a little more comfortable in the kitchen, get to grips with meal planning and the one thing that fools people into thinking you know what you’re doing…
Invest in the essentials. When Mark and I first moved in together, I arrived with nothing but a vanity table and big box of beauty products and he arrived with all the kitchenware that he’d previously owned at his student house. I know, can you tell who is the practical one in our relationship? These student utensils were a mix of things he’d picked up from IKEA, borrowed from his mum or stolen from his housemates and although some things are still going strong 10 years down the line – IKEA cutlery is surprisingly hardy – other items didn’t fare as well over the years and I definitely feel like investing in some items makes cooking a dreamy process. Non-stick pans and baking trays are a revelation (as are silicone cooking utensils that don’t scratch them), we’ve also recently invested in a set of high quality knives and you’d be surprised how quickly you can chop a sweet potato when the knife is actually sharp. You can never have too many chopping boards and I know I’ve said it before but I would marry the Magimix Food Processor if I could. We use ours ALL. THE. TIME.
Learn your workspace. I don’t feel like any kitchen is planned perfectly as the more and more you use it, the more and more that you realise that the fridge feels like it’s miles away, or there is just NO COUNTER SPACE as much as you try to clear it. However there is always a way to work around it and the more you cook in your kitchen you’ll be able to see what changes will make chopping/cooking/serving a more efficient process. There are two things that I’ve found helpful in our kitchen. When we first moved in we purchased a ceramic slab that sits next to our stove (you can see it in the pictures, it kind of looks like marble – similar to this) and it comes in so handy – you can pop spoons on it, make tea on it, rest a tray on it that’s just come out of the oven. It’s the only reason our wooden counters are only 60% screwed and not 100%. We also bought two Joseph Joseph Silcone Pot Stands which again have been so helpful at protecting our counters. I don’t think we would have been able to plate up a Christmas dinner for seven people without melting the countertops without them.
Collect recipes. Now you either fall into two camps here; you love recipes, hold them dear and flick through them to find what floats your boat for the week ahead, or you’re not a fan, you like to go off piste and cook from memory like the complete badass that you are. I’m firmly in the recipe loving camp, although there are some nights where I’ll throw in a salmon fillet with some Mediterranean vegetables, add every single spice I own and call it dinner and nine times out of ten it tastes alright. However mostly, I like to push myself a little out of my comfort zone and try a new dish at least once a week (last week it was this Jamie Oliver Pasta Bake which wasn’t great I must admit – other suggestions are welcomed). Of course the most obvious recipe source are books, however I tend to get a lot from family and friends, recipe cards from supermarkets and on the internet. BBC Good Food is golden and rarely steers me in the wrong direction and I love Madeleine Shaw’s ‘A Year of Beautiful Eating’ book the most.
Learn how to chop an onion. This might seem like an odd addition, but how often do you chop an onion? I’d say that if it’s a week where we’re eating in from Monday to Friday then there’s probably at least three onion chopping situations there. I used to make a mare out of it, cutting uneven slices as I teared up and rubbed my eyes as Mark told me off for wiping my eyes and making it worse. I looked like I’d had a heavy round with Mike Tyson whilst suffering with awful hay-fever by the end of it. Then on one of my many procrastination sessions where I end up in a YouTube hole, I watched this video and it changed my life. Not only can I now cut an onion without crying and with maximum precision and minimum waste, I feel like a CHAMP. I makes me feel like I’m on a cooking show is and weirdly a step that I look forward to. Learn it and you too will be able to fool others into thinking you’re basically Nigella in disguise.
Always over estimate. My family are big on the phenomenon of ‘feeding the freezer’. Made too much chilli? Pop it in the freezer for a rainy day. Soup that’s been hanging around in your fridge a bit too long? Shove in it in the freezer for when you fancy it again. Whipped up enough spaghetti bolognese sauce to feed an army? Carton it up into the freezer for when you CBA’ed to make a fresh dinner. So over the years Mark and I have jumped on the bandwagon too, because why the hell not? It makes SO much sense. It means that you can cook a homemade meal on three days of a week and actually have enough for seven. If a recipe says that it serves six, we make it to those measurements and either pop it in the fridge to eat for dinner the next day (peas make for a great accompaniment if you need a quick and easy veg side to go with it) or add it to a tupperware box (IKEA do some great ones or use old butter tubs) and freeze to re-heat over the next month or so. Less time in the kitchen, with more homemade food. YES PLEASE.
Photos by Lauren Shipley
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