As a food writer and stylist, I cook for a living, so after a long day of recipe development, the last thing I feel like doing is making yet another meal. I sometimes fall back on takeaways, but they’re expensive and can be disappointing. So, having come up with many a cookery hack for my work in the past, I decided to try out a few in my own life to reclaim time for myself and the family.
I’m a serial food shopper, and buy groceries on a near-daily basis. I’ve meal-planned in the past, but life can thwart that detailed timetable in a heartbeat, so this time I’m aiming for a happy medium. Instead of making multiple supermarket trips a week, I do one online shop for staples such as lentils and pasta, five days’ worth of mix-and-match proteins and veg, plus some garlic, fresh herbs and tinned goods like coconut milk, chickpeas and chopped tomatoes. Then I can be flexible as the week progresses and pop some things in the freezer if they aren’t going to get used.
For the nights when I’m too tired to cook, I buy a Charlie Bigham’s Fish Pie and Tikka Masala. They’re the closest thing I’ve found to a ‘from-scratch’ dinner without me having to put the effort in.
Handy and reliable kitchen tech genuinely saves me hours and effort. I use my food processor to whizz up raw veggies for a speedy soup, my pressure cooker can poach a whole chicken to perfectly tender in 30min, and my stick blender blitzes batters, mayo and marinades in seconds.
Mornings are often fraught: getting ready for work and school, assembling breakfast… there aren’t enough hours to get it all done.
Instead of the usual dawn dash, I try something different. While my Bigham’s fish pies cook for later, I make some brekkies for the next few days, opting for dishes that are speedy to throw together and can sit in the fridge overnight.
I stir up a coconut, chia and oat bircher muesli, to serve with almond butter and berries come morning: I mix 4 tablespoons of chia seeds with a handful of oats in a large jar, adding a 400ml tin of coconut milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I give it a quick stir, screw on the lid and pop it in the fridge to thicken and set.
To add to the breakfast spread, I pre-boil some eggs and cook up a raspberry compote to go with the bircher or some Greek yogurt.
Tidying up after I’ve cooked? Not fun, especially with kids in the mix. Rather than dirty loads of pans, I get creative with some one-pot recipes. I make a big sausage and tomato stew that’s done in one casserole dish and gives me enough leftovers to freeze for another meal. The next day, I dust off a favourite