Ever had the feeling that there just aren’t enough hours in the day?
We’ve all been there. Caught at work. Horrific traffic. Home late. Tired. Hungry. Here are a few tricks that I’ve developed over the years to get food on the table as fast as possible.
1. plan ahead
I know it sounds a bit boring but having a rough idea of what you’re going to need and doing a weekly shop is so much faster than going to the supermarket every night on the way home. There’s nothing worse than having to fight for a park when you really just want to get home. Be kind to yourself.
2. use HOT direct heat
We’re talking conductivity here. The further away the food is from your heat source the longer it’s going to take to cook. Pan frying or BBQing are my go-to cooking methods when I’m short of time. Boiling can also be fast but there’s the time needed to get the water hot in the first place.
3. skip the peeling
Keeping the skins on things like carrots and spuds not only saves time but gives you the most nutrients as well.
4. cheat (!)
There’s nothing wrong with using modern convenience foods to save some prescious minutes. Tinned chickpeas, par cooked rice, fresh pasta all make a big difference.
5. keep your knives sharp
The most common activity in the kitchen is chopping. Sharp knives make it much easier to get your confidence and your speed up.
6. make technology your friend
Food processors can grate, slice or puree things in a fraction of the time it would take using an old grater or a mortar and pestle. Kitchen scales are another blessing as you can just weigh and go without fiddling around with messy measuring cups.
7. ask for help
If you have access to one, employ a kitchen slave. Not only do many hands make light work – it’s also an opportunity to relax and catch up with your loved ones.
8. cook things you know – or use a simple recipe and READ it PROPERLY first
The first time I do something it always takes a little longer as you figure out a system. This is where 5 ingredients 10 minutes can help. It’s all about keeping the recipe as simple and as quick as possible.
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
beef & broccoli stir fry
Another dish inspired by Saint Nigel. There’s something so comforting about minced beef. Add in the fresh healthiness of broccoli and we’re talking the perfect midweek dinner.
Lovely on it’s own but also great with some steamed rice. If you don’t have time to cook your rice from scratch, I’ve been playing around with the parcooked rice sachets that just need a whirl in the microwave. Expensive for rice but excellent for the time poor.
600g (1 1/3lb) minced (ground) beef
2 heads broccoli, cut into bite sized little trees
2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely sliced
4T oyster sauce
bunch coriander, roughly chopped with some stems included
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook broccoli for 2 minutes and drain.
Meanwhile, heat 2T olive oil in a large frying pan and cook beef over a high heat until very brown. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Add broccoli and sauce and stir through until well heated. Taste and season.
Serve sprinkled with coriander.
Great story. I think these tips are really appropriate. I cook very different things on weeknights than I do on weekdays. You forgot to mention left overs. When you are really busy left overs are an instant meal and if you put in some effort the night before really gratifying.
Looks delicious and so quick – and I reckon my eldest boy might even eat it (a minor miracle..). The other two would wolf it down – and I love the idea especially since rice is my carb of choice for midweek meals since it only takes 10 mins – and that’s without a microwave! Will give this a go next week!
Echoing point number one of planning ahead, when you are able, cook more rice than you need, and freeze it for days when you are feeling time poor. Cooked rice freezes really well and is a much cheaper option than buying pre cooked rice from the supermarket.
you’re right mark – leftovers are the goods
how do you get your rice cooked so quickly? I always use the absorption method and it takes a good 15mins.
I’d never thought about freezing rice – what a brilliant idea. how do you reheat it?
I echo the point about leftovers. In fact, each time I cook a meal, I package up a whole serving of it and keep it in the freezer for nights like these.
This recipes sounds fantastic. And I never think about keeping oyster sauce around the house, what a great idea!
I love the simplicity of your recipes. And since I have both beef and broccoli in the fridge, I’m going to give this a go this evening!
Wish I’d seen this recipe yesterday. Had both mince and broccoli in the fridge and was so tired I had wobbly knees. Made toast and went to bed at 7.30pm! This would have been better…
Hey Jules, I go the easiest method for rice – I buy basmati and just simply boil it in salted water or exactly 10 mins – then drain, put the colander over the saucepan and cover with a tea towel and saucepan lid – it’s ready when you are! And freezing rice is a lifesaver – you should only keep it unfrozen for one day once cooked so I portion freeze leftovers and defrost in the microwave. Great for emergency fried rice nights!
Jules-know this violates the 5 ingredients but I think a wedge of lime juice squeezed on top would be mind-altering-ly delicious. I also love Chinese cooking wine in my stir fries. Just a bit of acid makes it so delicious. Thanks for the great suggestions.
I can not believe that I clicked here this morning and I have all five ingredients for this dish and pretty well nothing else in my fridge – spooky!
I’m a big rice freezer as well. I’ve even done it (please don’t hate me) for arborio rice, making risotto the big lazy cheat’s way by stirring through my own sauces.
my problem is I forget what’s in the freezer. I’, a big fan of oyster sauce on steamed greens. nigel slater actually makes this with a combo of fish sauce, lime juice & a little sugar.
it’s what i had for dinner as well. my dad loved it.
I know the wobbly knee feeling. hope you had a good sleep
I’m going to try it out – I hardly cook rice because I think it takes too long.
elizabeth – great minds. I really tossed up between serving with lime or putting the garlic in – but if I was going with 6 ingredients I’d do both.
If you’re stuck for a 10 min rice supper, my fail safe is to stick the rice on, slice up a pork loin fillet not too thinly and brown on the highest of heat. Whip it off before the pork cooks – you really just want to brown it, then fry some mushrooms, throw in a tub of creme fraiche and whole grain mustard, bring to a boil and add the pork back (and if you have a bit of lemon to squeeze in that lifts it even more). It’ll be ready as the rice is – 10 mins all up! And I know loads of people swear by the absorption method, measuring water, rice etc.. but really I’ve never bothered! If you boil basmati in plenty of water – a bit like pasta, and make sure it only boils for 10 mins, it’s light, fluffy, doesn’t stick together – and easy! Plus you can add flavourings to the rice water to match it to what you’re cooking.
Hope it works for you.
I have two words …
Get them people, get them now.
Yes, rice cooker will save you time and effort. You simply need to put in the rice and water, turn it on and leave it. By the time you finish cooking your yummy dish, the rice should be ready… if not, soon.
Jules, thanks for sharing your tips and recipes. I’m always very lazy to cook because I’m only cooking for myself most of the time, so it’s much easier to just get takeaway. However, after reading your blog, it inspires me to start cooking for myself. Your recipes look simple and yummy, and very importantly, use minimal ingredients and equipments. Thank you.
Oh I’m going to try this recipe for sure, it looks good with steamed rice ;)
Meals like this prove how much simpler it is to cook than take out. Ten minutes in the pan, and it’s done – I don’t have to go out anywhere, I can make tea at the same time, and then sit down to something I a) like, b)know exactly what’s in it and know that it won’t cause any painful reactions and c)know it costs less. Thanks for sharing this. BTW, I’m a great fan, too, of freezing rice in single portions. That way, when I’m on my own, or someone doesn’t want potatoes, or there isn’t enough leftover, there’s rice to heat up easily and quickly.
Great rules, I hate dull knives in the kitchen!
Love it! Planning meals ahead of time has saved me scads of time and money over the years. It almost completely put an end to my super-frequent bouts of getting too hungry, not knowing what to make, not having anything in the fridge, and not being able to just decide on something to make or someplace to go out because I was too hungry to make a decision! Now there’s always either something made, or something I have the ingredients for, or both.
I got so excited with it that I wrote a whole book teaching people how to meal plan (Butter Yourself Up: Joyful Meal Planning for Busy People, which probably needs a nicer website) and now I write weekly cookbooks for people who don’t have time for their own planning – or who just want to try something new and exciting. (I hope the link comes out right; I hate accidentally stuffing comments full of html garble.)
In fact, that’s how I discovered your blog – I was looking for creative-commons-for-commercial-use pics of roast leg of lamb, and the very best one was yours and pointed me here! Many thanks for your brilliant food writing and photography!
nice list – I cringe at your suggestion to ‘cheat’ because I think of some of those horrible sauces filled with msg but I do need the convenience of my tinned legumes and fresh pasta – though I never see the point of parboiled rice – but I think if you followed the ideas of sticking to pre-prepared foods that keep the ingredients to a minimum in cheating that might help
Those muscles looks positively delicious! And so simple.
If you have no desire to use oyster or fish sauce what would be another alternative? I’m thinking soy, but I’m afraid to experiment.
good question elise
The best alternative would be sweet soy sauce – otherwise I’d try substituting 1T honey combined with 3T soy sauce for the oyster sauce
While I’ve never had troubles cooking fluffy rice in a saucepan, I bought a rice cooker for a more challenged male – and was converted. 10-12 minutes or so and it’s done, perfect every time, without needing any attention. It is well worth cooking more than you need, as others have suggested and refrigerating the rest (great for fried rice) but I think you’re only supposed to keep rice a couple of days and only re-heat once.
Ah, beef and broccoli it is tomorrow night. Since I have no fridge, I’ll walk to the market, return home to cook and we’ll have a nice dinner. This sounds so good; thanks!
I just made this. :) fiancée loved it! thank you!
OK! THIS looks awesome! Would love to feature you again on Can I get the Recipe? Jules! Full credits and links to you of course! Are you keen? :-)
i’ve now made this recipe twice and i LOVE it, it’s so simple and delicious and we almost always have these basic ingredients on hand (though I used all my oyster sauce tonight AND substituted cauliflower instead of broccoli). I wanted to add that I cook my rice in a rice cooker and dump an entire can of coconut milk in place of the equivalent amount of water- it makes the rice absolutely delicious and it’s way more subtle than it might sound.
thanks for this recipe, it has quickly become one of our family favorites as my 2 year old is a fan of all these ingredients as well.
Oh, and would you ever substitute hoisen sauce for the oyster sauce? I did the reverse in another recipe and it turned out great! Just a thought.
yes hoisin will give a different flavour profile but will still be delicious!
This recipe looks delicious and it’s super easy to make. I’m always looking for quick and easy meals to make during the week. Thanks for posting this!
Many, many thank Jules for your great ideas and yummy recipes. Haven’t come across a dud one yet. X
I know this is an old recipe, but I just wanted to comment and say this is the first recipe of yours that I’ve made but it won’t be the last. This was fantastic! Hubby was skeptical that so few ingredients could work, but he was converted with one bite. I used beef but I’m sure it will be lovely with lamb, turkey, and chicken too. I did add a little ginger with the garlic since I had some on hand, and I added a splash of soy sauce at the end because it seemed to need some salt. This is definitely going into our regular meal rotation. Thank you!!!
Awesome Jen! It’s still one of my faves too Jx