No time to cook?

While some cooking enthusiasts might like to spend hours in the kitchen, many of us have commitments that do not allow us to spend so much time cooking up a storm for our families every day. This week a survey said that just a quarter of meals (one meal in every four) is  home-made (cooked from scratch) and we learned that British women are the most overweight in Europe, with British men the second most overweight in Europe. I can’t help but feel that these results are inter-connected and that a greater reliance on home-made meals would have a beneficial effect on British health.

I like to make our food myself because I want to be sure that we are eating a good range of nutrients. Yesterday I cooked up a 500g bag of chickpeas (about 80p from the supermarket) and then looked on-line for some chick pea recipes. I decided on chickpea and cabbage curry, because I had some cabbage left from my vegetable box delivery, and home-made homous. I had some of the required ingredients to hand (spices, tahini) but just missed out or substituted the ingredients that I didn’t have available.  I didn’t have dried mango powder for my curry so I just did without – I don’t suppose that many people do have dried mango powder. I learned long ago that having all the ‘required’ ingredients is not always necessary and usually find that meals taste great even if I do miss out or substitute an ingredient or two. There are times when my changes or omissions don’t work very well, but the food is still edible and I try to remember what went wrong for next time. The important thing is to practice, to learn what will or won’t work if you make changes to a recipe.

I really believe that the only way to eat well most of the time is to think ahead. Prepare a menu for the week and stock up on the ingredients you will need. Use frozen or tinned vegetables to save on preparation time (washing, peeling, chopping). Invest in a slow-cooker so that hearty meals can be prepared in the morning and be ready to eat when you get home after a long day at work. Forgo your favourite TV show one night (catch-up later) to cook up a few meals for the week, storing them in the refrigerator or freezer. Keep a big pot of home-made soup fresh by reheating it daily. Don’t forget the quick and simple things, like an omelette or a steak or chop or fish with salad. I often bake six or more jacket potatoes at a time, then keep them in the fridge and heat one in the microwave when I get home late at night, serving it with my favourite topping.  This afternoon I will make a start on a soup for tomorrow – I will be boiling up the stock for the soup and soaking the pulses (green and yellow split peas) – then tomorrow I just add the pulses and a few chopped vegetables to the stock and simmer all day. Easy! And nutritious!

Most importantly, love your leftovers. Tonight we will be having leftover curry with fresh, chopped cantaloupe melon for dessert (preparation time about 10 mins). Lovely!

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