This day and age everyone seems to be time poor. Too busy doing things to, well, do other things. But honestly, there is no excuse of too little time when it comes to eating real food, good food, even (dare I say it) healthy food.
It takes just as much time to buy a ready meal as it does to buy a few simple ingredients, so no time savings there. And with the variety of Apps available, the question of what to buy isn’t really a question. These days there are so many online recipes and places to pull together your own recipes, which is particularly great for planning. For example, I use Pepperplate. I can choose from my collection of recipes (or simply collect from other sites when I find one I like or fits my needs) and then add the ingredients to a shopping list. This shopping list is available on my phone, through the App, when I am out in a store – so I know what I need to buy. Again time savings.
Or if I am in a store and something is on offer and I want to know what else I need to go with it, I can search my App, choose my recipe and buy the rest of my ingredients then and there. So, no excuse on the ‘I don’t know what to cook tonight’, ‘I am too tired to cook’, or the standard ‘I don’t have time to cook’ front. With so many tools to help, these excuses are just that, excuses.
Now I get that some times, maybe most evenings, you don’t wish to spend hours cooking. The way I look at it spending time on cooking is a real treat and should be thought of that way. So when you don’t have or don’t wish to make the time, it doesn’t mean you should eat badly.
When I don’t feel like cooking, I go one of two ways; the slow road, or the fast road.
The Slow Road means bunging a bunch of things in a big old pot and in the oven for hours on end on a very low temperature. (You could also use a slow cooker). This is a great one for amazing tastes and cheaper meals as you can use cheaper, tastier cuts of meat. (For vegetarians there is more below.)
How do these sound? Thai Pork and Peanut Curry, Braised beef with cranberries & spices, Rioja lamb shanks with chorizo and garlic, Lapin À La Moutarde (Rabbit in mustard), or Duck tagine with clementines. And, my all time favourite, and not just because I live in France ~ Boeuf Bourguignon with baguette dumplings (though personally I leave off making the dumplings most times, though they are delicious.)
I very often simplify the above dishes if feeling time poor or not inclined to cook. Essentially, I put all the ingredients into a big pot, maybe sautéing or browning where called for , maybe not, but more or less I ignore the written cooking instructions and timings, and let the slow cooking work its magic rather than me. All of the above I normally put in the oven in the morning or at lunch time, on no more than 100 C / 212 F, and simply let slow cook all day until I am ready to eat. The trick is having liquid more or less covering the meat and the pot should be covered in the oven.
Now slow cooking is not the best for vegetarians. That’s not to say there aren’t some amazing recipes for vegetarian dishes that take awhile, but they also take some effort. This is about lack of time when it comes to cooking, and vegetarian food in particular can be perfect for fast meals.
The Fast Road. I qualify a fast meal as 15-20 minutes, from prep to table. After all, we are trying to compete with ready meals that take 5 – 10 minutes to microwave. So for 5 minutes more you can have something fresh, far tastier and far far far better for you. And of course you can feel virtuous when serving to yourself or others.
I have a regular stock of ‘Go To’ recipes that are my favourites, so I don’t even have to think when I am tired and want food fast.
Such as: Spaghetti with sardines, asparagus with chorizo and croutons, Pork and Mushrooms, Chicken Burgers. And for fish lovers (though also can be done with chicken) you can’t beat ‘En Papillote’ (baked in paper or foil) as a quick way to cook an all in one meal, and healthy too. a few favourites: Salmon en Papillote, Herby Salmon & Couscous Parcel, Trout en papillote.
And for the vegetarians: Braised Greens with Tomatoes, Quinoa with Celery and Mushrooms, Rice with Kale & Spring onions, Stuffed Brie, Swiss Chard Tacos, Fontal Polenta with Mushroom Sauté, Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint, and so many many more…
I recommend for any of the above, you find 2 or 3 favourites that you can cook without thinking and generally always have the basic ingredients to hand, with only the possible need to buy the odd fresh item, or take something out of the freezer.
Here’s hoping you never buy a ready meal again. Or better yet, make extras of your favourites and freeze into dinner portions – et voilà! Your own, you know what’s in ’em so must be healthier, ready meals.