Cooking Made Easy and Healthy
Cooking Made Easy and Healthy
I e-met Jules Clancy just recently. She has a degree in food science, lives in Cooma (not far from my home town) and blogs about how to make great meals using less, and in less time, over at The Stone Soup. A noble aim! The girl is on my page!
Today I’ve asked her to share her favourite tips for making cooking dead simple and brimful of nutrition. Over to Jules!
1. Use five ingredients or less.
On my blog and in my books I pretty much always stick to a 5 ingredient limit. Of course you don’t have to go that hard core, but keep an eye out for recipes with few ingredients, like my chilli chicken with hummus.
Chilli Chicken with Hummus
From The Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion
Hummus is one of my favourite ingredients. It’s wonderful here as a cross between a sauce and an accompaniment. You can get some decent commercial hummus these days so don’t feel like you need to make your own from scratch.
Enough for 2
- 4 chicken thigh fillets
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes or powder
- 8 tablespoons hummus
- 2 large handfuls washed salad leaves
- 1 lemon halved lengthwise
Heat a frying pan or skillet on a very high heat. Trim fat from chicken and bash with your fist to even out the thickness. Rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with chilli. Season. Sear with the oiled side down for 3 minutes. Turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Smear hummus over the base of 2 plates. Top with chicken and serve with leaves and salad on the side.
- vegan – replace chicken with 2 field or portabello mushrooms per person. Trim and pan fry for about 4 minutes each side until the mushrooms are tender and juicy. Sprinkle on the chilli at the end before serving.
- vegetarian – replace chicken with sliced halloumi cheese and cook in a little oil until golden and oozing.
- home made hummus – whizz 1 can chickpeas with 3 tablespoons lemon juice, tahini, canning liquid and 1 clove garlic in a food processor until smooth.
2. Replace carbs and starches with vegetables.
One of the easiest ways to make your cooking more nutritious is to skip the carbs in favour of veg. It doesn’t mean you have to change your cooking that much. My favourite trick is grating raw cauliflower in the food processor and serving it instead of steamed rice with curries or stir fries. It’s actually much quicker than cooking rice AND you don’t have to worry about your rice sticking together.
Other ways are to use a vegetable peeler to make zucchini or carrot ‘noodles’ to serve with your favourite pasta sauces, whizzing raw cauliflower in the food processor until it looks like couscous or using lettuce leaves instead of mountain bread for lunch time wraps (think sang choi bau).
3. Make one-bowl meals.
I used to feel like dinner wasn’t a proper meal unless I had a side dish of salad or some veggies. But over the years I’ve discovered that I can throw a handful of baby spinach or shaved cucumber (like in these chickpea burgers) on the plate with my main course and still feel satisfied. For midweek meals, challenge yourself to keep it one plate or one bowl as often as possible and save the complicated meals for the weekends.
While I LOVE the flavours in these burgers, they are quite fragile, even with the egg to bind them. I’ve found it’s important not to over-process the chickpeas to help avoid your burgers falling apart in the pan. Just pulse until chopped. The good news is they still taste delicious if they do happen to fall apart.
Enough for 2
- 1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz), drained
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup roasted red capsicum (bell pepper), diced
- 6 – 8 tablespoons natural yoghurt
- shaved cucumber, to serve
Pulse chickpeas and cumin in a food processor for a few seconds or until roughly chopped. You don’t want a smooth puree here. Crack egg into a small bowl and whisk lightly. Add egg and pulse again for a few seconds. Fold capsicum into the chickpeas by hand so it keeps its shape. Season and using your hands, form into 2 burgers. Pop in the fridge for a few minutes. Heat a small fry pan on a medium high heat. Add a little oil and cook burgers for around 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Be careful when turning so they don’t fall apart. Meanwhile, stir yoghurt in a small bowl until smooth and season generously. Serve burgers with yoghurt and cucumber.
- egg-free / vegan – we’re relying on the egg to bind these fragile burgers, so I’m afraid you’ll need to try a different recipe.
- carnivore – serve with a few slices of crispy bacon.
- beef – replace the chickpeas and egg with 400g (14oz) minced beef.
- dairy-free – serve with a tahini sauce (equal amounts water, tahini and lemon juice) or hummus.
4. Cook in bulk.
You’ve heard this one before, but it does make a difference. If I’m making something that freezes well, I always make a big batch and eat some now and squirrel away the rest for another meal or more. Try one of my soups or curriesfor cooking in bulk.
If you’re freezing leftovers it’s best to divide into usable portions first so they will defrost quickly. I love ziplock bags for this. And don’t forget to label your bags. I never used to bother labelling and my freezer was a nightmare until my fiancé put a permanent marker in our cutlery drawer. Now since I know where the marker is, I find I actually do label and my freezer has never been as organised or useful.
5. Master ‘mise en place’.
One trick I’ve stolen from the world of restaurants is the concept of ‘mise en place’. It basically means preparing an ingredient so it’s ready to be used. I tend to prepare at least one ingredient on the weekend or a Monday night so I can use it in different ways during the week. This could be soaking and cooking up a batch of beans or roasting some pumpkin or beets. I then keep my prepared ingredient ready to go for super quick week night meals.
My favourite is to cook a batch of quinoa (just boil like pasta until tender and drain). I love it for breakfasts with natural yoghurt and a little cinnamon. Other uses include as a healthy alternative to cooked rice in egg fried rice. Or as a main course salad with roasted cauliflower. It also works as a high protein accompaniment any where you’d normally serve rice or couscous.