Beginners’ checklist for being speedy
- The old adage ‘A watched pot never boils’ is TRUE… well, sort of. Hide the water from your eyes with the pan lid, trapping the heat in and helping it reach boiling point much faster. This might sound obvious when you think about it, but I know how tempting it is not to bother rummaging around in the cupboard for the right saucepan lid.
- A sharp knife and good board will make a noticeable difference when time is short, so switch out your blunt knives for sharp ones and your glass chopping boards for plastic or wood.
- Reclaim valuable seconds by keeping the things you use often at the front of your cupboards and shelves.
- Make better use of your kitchen scissors – they’re great for finely chopping bacon or herbs.
A quick way to halve small ingredients like grapes or cherry tomatoes is to wedge lots of them between a plate and a board, or two plates:
- Put pressure on the top plate with one hand to hold it all steady while you slice in between them with a serrated knife.
- Lift off the top plate to find everything sliced in half in no time.
The fastest sauce in town
Tonia Buxton first showed me this recipe and it changed my life! Tahini, the smooth sesame seed paste, is easy to get in jars from most supermarkets and is a secret weapon if you want to be in and out of your kitchen at lightning speed.
- Simply mix 3 tbsp tahini with the juice of 2 lemons or around 3-4 tbsp water. (You can also add garlic if you like, but I often just make it with just tahini and cold water).
- The mixture will start off lumpy but becomes a smooth sauce the more you mix. Add a little extra water until it’s the consistency you like.
- Serve cold over cooked salmon, chicken, halloumi, eggs, vegetable dishes… I eat it with pretty much everything.
Freeze it, don’t bin it
Cutting up a whole lemon when you need one slice is a bit wasteful and takes time. Open-freeze lemon slices on a plate, then put them in a freezer bag when they’re solid. This way, you’ll have slices at the ready for all your cooking or gin and tonic needs.
The same principle applies for sofrito (that classic mix of chopped onion, carrot and celery used as a base for everything from soups and sauces to risottos and bolognese). Our Lulu Grimes swears by filling her freezer with prepped sofrito – not only does it cut the prep time right down, it also means you’ll never discover soggy celery at the back of the fridge again.
Another way to save time in the week is to roast more vegetables than you need at the weekend. Roast a simple mix of cauliflower florets and squash, or whatever is in season, and use them through the week in salads, pasta dishes or fritters.
Switch to passata
Passata is made from whizzed-up tomatoes so it has a thick, smooth consistency that would take hours to replicate with chopped tomatoes. Try it in our recipes for okra in tomato sauce or beef & bacon meatloaf.
Peeling garlic is so fiddly… solution? Don’t bother. You can bung a garlic clove into a crusher unpeeled – you’ll need a little more elbow grease when pressing the lever down, but the result is squished garlic. When you open the press, you’ll be able to lift out the peel in one piece. Job done.
Peel for speed
One kitchen gadget I would never be without is a Y-shaped peeler. It makes super-fast work of thinly slicing courgettes and carrots, with the added bonus that when they’re cut so thinly they can be served raw in a salad or only need a couple of minutes to cook in boiling water.
See our review of the five best peelers on test.
Tidy as you go
A tip borrowed from professional chefs – keep a bowl or two on your work surface for rubbish so you can fling in packaging or sort your compost as you cook. This is especially effective if your bin is at the other end of the kitchen or has a bit of a knack to it. Save precious seconds and keep tidy all in one.
Microwave your onions
Softening onions is at the beginning of so many recipes, and to get them really soft and shiny can take up to 20 mins. However, the trusty microwave makes quick work of this. Pop 1 chopped onion in a microwave-safe bowl, add a heaped teaspoon of butter, and microwave on full power for 4-5 mins, stirring at least twice during cooking. Read our review for the best microwaves on test.
Got a busy week ahead? Try these super speedy recipes...
Quick sushi bowl
Smoked haddock & sweetcorn chowder
Watermelon & feta salad
Find more handy kitchen hacks…
Food hack guides
Healthy lunch meal prep
Roast dinner hacks
Do you have any quick cooking tips or tricks? Leave a comment below…