Meal prep time......what are your tricks?(15 Posts)
I'm a batch-cook. So when I make bolognaise I make a vatfull and freeze it in bags or boxes. Lasagne in this house is therefore defrosting time and making up some cheese sauce. Still takes an hour in the oven but i don't need to stand there while it does its thing!
I have mashed potato, crushed (but not as smooth as mashed) carrots, chopped onions, chopped leeks all in the freezer. I always have stock in the freezer too so a leek and potato soup (for example) for all of us can be pulled together in the time it takes to saute down the leeks.
I second what Neverknowingly says: always try to get your meal done in the time it takes to cook the longest component, whether it's the mash for a fish pie or the chicken for a roast.
i always turn the oven or pan on first.
chop things whilst otherthings are cooking.. onion first, whilst cooking do other things.
i easily get macaroni cheese into the oven in the time it takes to cook the pasta,
white sauce made from scratch, onion and bacon cooked, cheese grated.
sames with fish pie, just the time it takes to cook potatoes for mash, poach fish, white sauce, onions veggies boiled eggs done intime to add the mash ready for oven.
i spend about 20-30 mins prepaping our evening meals each night. very rarely longer, all meas cooked from scratch.
I'm a big fan of buying frozen diced onions, as my super-sensitive eyes mean I HATE chopping them fresh, particularly if you only need a small quantity.
My new Year's resolution is to chop and freeze my own (in the processor), because buying them works out way more expensive .
I do, however, make up HUGE batches of tomato sauce with as much veg hidden in it as possible using both fresh and frozen tomatoes, olive oil, basil if I have it, (plus onions, garlic, carrots, sometimes mushrooms, sweet potato, celery, whatever else is around) so I can sneak some vitamins into my veg-phobic sons (one ONLY eats peas and the other ONLY cucumber - really). This I use as a sauce for pasta (alone or with bacon/whatever added), a base for curries, stews, whatever... Lasts for weeks in the fridge, and months in the freezer.
I am invariably cooking with a toddler on my hip and now I have a mini electric chopper, (bit like this but mine was from Lidl) life is much faster. Just quarter and onion and shove it in and press and it's all finely chopped up in about 2 secs. Can also stick in peeled garlic gloves/root ginger with the onion if you need those in the base of your meal.
I use it to chop up (or if I go far enough, to puree) DD's food once cooked, to turn tinned plum toms smooth, to make pesto, to dice veg for soups (carrots etc), to chop nuts finely. It is bloody marvellous.
I also chop and freeze lots of ingredients on trays and then stick them in tubs so I can go to the freezer and grab a handful of chopped raw bacon bits and fling them in my pan (cook from frozen, shove in with the onions), a handful of diced peppers, a handful of chickpeas/cannelini beans/whatever other pulses! Frozen peas, broad beans, sweetcorn, spinach are all great.
Learn what you can cook from frozen to save on forethought. I find most fish is fine, I just sit the mackerel/trout/salmon etc fillet skin side down ontop of the veg I am sauteing to keep it slightly off the heat and it will be cooked by the time the veg is. Or stick it straight from the freezer into a pan of stock or milk if poaching.
Embrace the food processor (if you have a dishwasher!). Use it to grate whole blocks of cheese at a time and keep them in a tub in the fridge so it's easy to sprinkle a handful into a sauce/onto a dish going in the oven. Use it to slice up potatoes/veg for gratins/dauphinoise. Use it to slice fruit for crumbles. Use it to make pastry, to mix up crumble topping.
Get pans heating whilst you get your stuff chopped - soooo much quicker. And always preheat the oven whilst doing any hob based stuff and make sure your oven trays/dishes are in there so they are hot when you need them.
As you see I have had to embrace one handed cooking!! I now flit round the kitchen like a mad crazy thing but I did once get an apple and blackberry crumble prepped from scratch to in the oven in 7 mins, and that included stewing the fruit for a couple of mins so it was hot when it went in the oven <proud>
How big is your freezer?
Chop the onions,mushrooms,veg in bigger quantities and freeze them.Then take a handful when you need it.
Yes to heating the oil for onions
Make a base for spaghetti/lasagne/cottage pie and freeze in portions.
It always takes longer to prepare something for the first time.
Not all the ingredients have to be measured exactly-add more of what ou like and less what you don't like.
Wash the utensils as you prepare food-smaller pile to wash at the end.
I can do a Jamie 30 min meal in 30 mins! BUT the prep is so important. Get all the ingredients out, get the equipment out, make sure you know exactly what each step means
(But when the dc are acting as sous-chef it does take longer but I don't mind about that bit)
Magimedi - good tip re. getting the oil hot for the onions. I have just done that (turned it down as soon as the onions went in the pan) and it seemed to cook them faster.
It took me 40 mins to prepare a sort-of paella I'm doing for dinner. Its still cooking atm. The finished product will probably be an hour and 15 minutes from start to finish.
For the onions, get the oil/butter really hot first & then turn it down when you put the onions in. I find it then takes 10 mins.
Before I start to cook I have a wee think about how I am going to do it in terms of time & motion. So, for example, if I am going to have to go to the garage for onions I try to remember to get the spuds or garlic that I need at the same time.
I've been cooking 'from scratch' for over thirty years & I do remember someone giving me the time & motion advice when cooking was driving me bonkers in the early days. I really don't think about it now, it's second nature, but you can train yourself to do the work this way.
Once I've peeled any veg I'll run some hot water in the sink (or end of a kettle) so there's always somewhere to wipe a knife etc.
I have an old ice cream tub that I use as a mini rubbish bin when I am cooking so I only have to chuck the rubbish once.
I've just made a fairly complex Mahdur Jaffrey (sp?) beef & potato curry & some carrot & coriander soup. From start to finish, including all the washing up & wiping the kitchen down it took me 50 minutes.
I don't want to come over all saintly, just trying to help. Honestly, a lot of it is practice. I dread to think how long it would take me to change a nappy & dress a toddler for going out - I'd guesstimate at least an hour!
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Exactly Charlotte. If I was cooking, say, bolognese sauce, it would take me at least 20 minutes before I got to the adding mince stage.
Agree, that assembling all the ingredients should be counted in the prep time. I guess the people who time the recipes are professional chefs with everything already weighed out into little glass dishes (a la Delia).
cooking onions - that's the one that always gets me
every recipe seems to suggest it takes 5mins to get some finely chopped onion to soften up nicely
mine seem to take at least 20mins otherwise I find crunchy bits everywhere.
It took me 2 hours to make one of Jamies's 15 minute meals...
The recipes are such a con. Sure the recipes can be made in 15 mins (maybe) if you spend an hour beforehand getting everything out, water boiled, tins open etc etc
I think thats what gets me - I do that, get organised beforehand, sort out pots and pans and get all the ingredients out.....but surely that is prep time too!
I agree, I sometimes look at recipes online and feel the urge to link them here and ask if anyone could prepare them that quickly.
I heard some silly arse on the radio this week (re. horsemeat scandal) arguing that it wasn't difficult to make a lasagne. Well, ok, perhaps not technically all that difficult but it takes hours.
I am very slow but I find that if I have all the knives and pans I need already out, the vegetables washed or peeled before I start and the ingredients spread out in front of me then that works best. But it rarely happens. I am usually half way through and then find the roasting tin I need is hiding in the oven and needs a thorough washing up!
I can't be the only person in the world who looks at the prep time listed for a recipe and then multiplies it by 3....... or am I? Where are these people for whom it actually only takes 20m to knock up a lasagne? Please tell me how you do it?!
Seriously, I feel like I spend far too long in the kitchen. What are your top tips for reducing the time you spend making a meal?
Join the discussion
Please login first.