The magic of mise en place – How a ‘chef secret’ can help you prepare for the busy week ahead…

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Do you struggle to find the time and energy to cook during the week?

You’re definitely not alone there.

Recently, for the ‘Master Your Meal Plan‘ class at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School, I introduced my students to a simple technique used by chefs the world over. It’s the reason restaurants are able to deliver so many different dishes to your table in a small amount of time.

My students were so excited about this, they overwhelmingly voted for a followup class to delve deeper into this ‘secret’.

What is ‘mise en place?’

Ever eaten at a restaurant with an exposed kitchen so you could watch the chefs at work? And ever noticed all the little containers and bottles of sauces they have at their work stations?

Well you’ve seen ‘mise en place‘ in action.

Mise en place is a French term that roughly translates as ‘put in place’. It’s used to describe the practice of chefs preparing food up to a point where it is ready to be used in a dish during food service.

It may be as simple as washing and picking herbs into individual leaves or chopping vegetables. Or more complicated like caramelising onions, cooking dried beans or slow cooking meats.

The main benefit in a restaurant is that it makes it much quicker and easier to get food on the table after the customer has ordered.

The secondary benefit is that the preparation can help to extend the shelf life of fresh produce.

How can this ‘secret’ help you prepare for the busy week ahead?

1. Save you time during the week.
By taking the time on weekends to do a little ‘mise en place’ preparation, we can make it much quicker and easier to get dinner on the table when we come home from work late and everyone is hungry.

2. Prolong the shelf life of your produce
Happily, a little bit of preparation can extend the shelf life of fresh produce. This is usually because the preparation involves some sort of heat which reduces any microbes present.

Just think of a slow cooked meat dish which will last for a few weeks in the fridge, compared to a piece of fresh meat that may only keep for a few days. Same goes for wilted spinach vs a bunch of fresh spinach.

Keen to learn more?

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The NEW class for April at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School is called ‘The Weekend Cook – How to Prepare for the BUSY Week Ahead’.

The doors are closing to new students soon, so you’ll need to be super quick!

For more details go to:

an example – 3 ways with roast butternut squash

Roast root veg are one of my favourite things to build a meal around, but it’s rare that I have the time to start roasting from scratch during the week.

I’ve discovered it’s super easy to pop a batch in the oven on a Sunday afternoon to bake away while I’m reading the paper or pottering in the garden.

Then the possibilities are endless during the week. And the veg will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, so there’s no pressure to use them straight away.

Here are a few ideas for ways to use roast butternut squash to get you started…

roast butternut squash

roast butternut squash

I adore roast pumpkin, sweet potato or butternut squash. But I used to hardly make it because it always felt like a huge hassle to peel the damn things. So one day I thought I’d cook them peel and all and take the peel off once they were done. The good news is the roast skins actually taste really lovely. Since then I haven’t ever peeled. So much quicker.

I also leave the seeds in partly to save time, but mostly because I love to eat roast pumpkin seeds.

Will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

1/2 butternut squash
1-2 teaspoons cumin or coriander seeds, optional
1-2 teaspoons chilli flakes or powder, optional

1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).

2. Chop butternut squash (pumpkin) in half, crosswise. Then chop each half into 6-8 wedges.

3. Place wedges on a baking tray. Drizzle generously with oil and sprinkle over spices, if using. Scatter liberally with sea salt flakes.

4. Bake for 30 – 45 mins or until wedges are deeply browned on the edges and tender in the middle.

different veg – any pumpkin such as Jap or Queensland blue. Sweet potato or yams are also lovely like this.

short on time? - chop into cubes about 2cm (1in). Should only take about 20 minutes to roast.


video version of the recipe


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warm salad of chickpeas & butternut squash
serves 2.

This is a brilliant light dinner for Autumn when the days are getting cooler and shorter.

4-6 wedges roast butternut squash (recipe above)
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 handfuls baby spinach
small handful almonds
4-6 tablespoons natural yoghurt

1. If the squash is cold, warm in the oven (200C/400F for 10 mins) or heat with a little oil in a frying pan.

2. Add chickpeas and allow to warm for a few minutes.

3. Divide baby spinach on two plates. Top with warm chickpeas and squash.

4. Season yoghurt generously with salt and pepper and drizzle over the salad. Top with almonds.

dairy-free / vegan – make a tahini dressing instead using 2 tablespoons each tahini, lemon juice, water and olive oil.

don’t have any roast squash? – replace with other roast veg OR some roast red capsicum (bell peppers). Or finely sliced fresh red capsicum (bell peppers).

nut-free – just skip the almonds or replace with a handful of toasted sourdough breadcrumbs.

chickpea alternatives – any cooked or canned legumes are good here. Try cannellini beans or lentils. Puy or French-style lentils are particularly lovely. Or just double the roast squash and forget about the chickpeas.

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roast butternut curry
serves 2

The sweetness of butternut works really well with the deeply savoury spiciness of an Indian curry. To make it more substantial, feel free to toss in some cooked or canned lentils or cooked meat such as chicken.

Lovely with flatbread, steamed rice or cauliflower ‘rice’ (raw grated cauliflower).

1 heaped tablespoon garam marsala
1/2 – 1 teaspoon chilli flakes or powder
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz)
4-6 tablespoons coconut milk
6-8 wedges roast butternut squash (recipe above), chopped into chunks

1. Heat a little oil in a medium frying pan. Add spices and cook for about 20 seconds.

2. Add tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced a little.

3. Stir in coconut milk. Taste and season.

4. Add butternut chunks and bring back to a simmer.

no garam marsala? – Use a good quality curry powder instead. Reduce the quantity to about 2 teaspoons and taste before adding more. You may want to skip the extra chilli. Or replace with equal parts ground coriander and ground cumin.

higher protein / more substantial – add in some cooked chicken, beef, chickpeas or lentils.

dairy-lovers – replace coconut milk with whipping cream.

- serve with fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves OR add in a few handfuls of fresh curry leaves to simmer with the tomatoes.

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roast butternut hummus
makes about a cup

Roast veg make a wonderful substitute for chickpeas in hummus. This is easily the best I’ve tried. If you’re a little doubtful, feel free to add in some chickpeas as well.

Serve anywhere you’d use regular hummus.

250g (1/2lb) roast butternut squash (recipe above)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled

1. Whizz all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Taste and season.

regular hummus – replace butternut with a drained can of chickpeas and 3 tablespoons of the canning liquid.

different veg – roast carrots, roast beets, roast parsnip.

lentil hummus – replace butternut with a drained can of lentils and 3 tablespoons of the canning liquid.

can’t find tahini? – use peanut butter instead – preferably one without added sugar.

recently on the Stonesoup Diaries

:: The tastiest ‘meat tenderizer’
:: A completely new type of recipe?
:: The easiest way to steam greens

Like to get into the habit of setting yourself up for the busy week ahead?

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T&HCC video 3D CoverAnd…

Everyone who signs up for ‘The Weekend Cook’ class will get a bonus copy of The Tired & Hungry Cooks Companion Video eCookbook [$97 value] for FREE.

To get access before doors close go to:

Jules x

ps. Wondering if online classes are for you?

Here’s what some Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School students have been saying…

Jim, SVCS Student.
Love the videos; cooking works very well in this format (as opposed to something like yoga or a golf swing or learning the violin where someone needs hands-on supervision to make sure they’re doing things right).

Jana, SVCS Student.
I love the extra bits that come with the recipes such as how to adapt recipes to carnivore or vegetarian etc, other ingredients that work well (improving my basic & recipe creation skills).

Julie, SVCS Student.
I am almost ready to get rid of most of my cook books, as I really only use your recipes now. In fact I tend to scan all other recipes and if there are more than 5 ingredients, or steps just pass it by. I’m looking to simplify my life, and you really have made quite a difference to that – I enjoy preparing dinner now.

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