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

roast butternut squash

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?

I have good news!

I’ve just created a FREE 5-part email series to show you how to get the benefits from being more organized in the kitchen.

It starts on Monday.

If you’re interested, all you need to do is enter your email below:


Can’t see the signup form? Click HERE


It’s that simple :)

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


roast butternut squash2

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.

roast butternut squash3

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.

roast butternut squash4

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.

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

I have good news!

I’ve just created a FREE 5-part email series to show you how to get the benefits from being more organized in the kitchen.

It starts on Monday.

If you’re interested, all you need to do is enter your email below:


Can’t see the signup form? Click HERE

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

ps. The FREE email series includes a FREE downloadable / printable ‘cheat sheet’ which will give you a big head start.



  • You need to learn a little more about food safety. No way would any food be safe to eat after a few weeks in the fridge. Yuck!

    • Hi Lisa
      I have a degree in food science and majored in microbiology, so believe me, I’ve learnt a lot about food safety in my time.

      I also can’t remember the last time I was sick. So I don’t see the problem.

      Although if you’re not comfortable with eating something. It’s totally up to you :)

      • I hope you’ve been able to ignore the arrogant, rude people. They are far outnumbered by the people who appreciate your hard work and wonderful recipes.

  • Mise en place has been my religion for a long time! It keeps me sane and happy. I love all the simple tips you’ve shared. Fantastic post as always! Thank you for your hard work! Cheers!

  • Hi Jules, I’ve been obsessed with chilli roasted pumpkin lately too, it’s so versatile. I also love roasting it with jalapenos (fresh or pickled), they get chewy and sweet. Just one question, are you sure meat dishes can last safely “for a few weeks in the fridge”? Seems like a long time to me – I probably wouldnt eat a cooked meat dish after 2-3 days!

    • Great question Jay!

      I often have leftover curry or BBQ meat that hangs around literally for 2 weeks before I eat it. I wouldn’t expect a rare steak to last as long. Although I always chill leftovers ASAP and reheat very thoroughly before eating.

      Of course it’s what you’re comfortable with. And if something smells funny or has any sort of mould growing on it, I throw it out.

      • Hmm… Jules, I think you should be very cautious about recommending that people keep cooked meat dishes in their fridge for 2 weeks before eating. Meat, fish and eggs are high risk for food poisoning!

        The CSIRO (among others) suggest 3-4 days …. “If you do not expect to eat the food within three or four days, it is best frozen immediately.”

        • Thanks for the link Jay.

          They’re not saying you can’t eat cooked meat after 3-4 days, just that it’s better if frozen sooner rather than later which is good advice.

          I just ate leftover beef ragu for dinner which was made 11 days ago. So far I’m fine. And it was delicious.. would have been a shame to throw it out.

          That being said, if you think something has started to go off. Or if it wasn’t cooked thoroughly and refrigerated promptly in the first place, I wouldn’t advise keeping it for such as long time.

          • No one is going to tell you that you “cant” eat meat after a week, it’s not law (!)

            However, there is plethora of scientifically and medically based opinion that states “after four days, harmful micro-organisms are likely to have reached risky levels, so throw leftovers out after this time.” (eg. Food Standards in Australia and the USA, CSIRO, Department of Public Health, Food Safety Information Council, Choice Magazine, Mayo Clinic and butchers themselves).

            I understand that in your experience you havent been sick after eating meat that is over 10 days old, but this is insufficient research to be contradicting widely accepted global standards of food safety.

            The research indicates that cooked meat has started to go off after 4 days. There are two different groups of bacteria that affect refrigerated meat. The first, pathogenic bacteria, makes us sick, while the second, spoilage bacteria, makes our food go bad and stink up our fridges. By sight, smell and taste, you cannot identify whether a meat is harbouring pathogenic bacteria, unlike meat contaminated with spoilage bacteria.

            Put simply, by the time you can tell the dish has “started to go off”, it is likely to be already harbouring pathogenic bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes, yersinia enterocolitica, versinia enterocolitica and/or enteropathogenic e. coli (which all grow during refrigeration).

            Essentially you are advocating that we are safe to cook and eat the (potentially large quantities of) pathogenic bacteria on refrigerated meat that has continued to multiply for over 10 days, unfortunately I (and the medical/scientific community) clearly disagree !

          • I’m going to agree with Jules here. Sell-by dates are just that – dates which a product should be sold by. Something doesn’t go bad the instant it passes that date. You need to use your nose and your own awesome human intelligence to determine if something is safe to eat.

            Meat, when correctly cooked and stored, can last much longer than two or three days in the fridge. If you don’t feel safe eating it, no one is going to force you to, but humans have evolved to be able to taste and smell when things have gone bad and might make them ill. Trust yourself, you’re smarter than you’ve been made to think.

          • I have to unreservedly agree with Jay. Unless you freeze this food first, that is FAR too long to safely eat cooked, unpreserved food. You could not leave this butternut squash dish ‘in the fridge for a few weeks’ without it going noticeably ‘off’. This is a vegetable and as such its structure breaks down when you cook it – there is simply no way it would be safely edible – unpreserved – for this long. I understand your post is trying to offer helpful advice but if you really doubt this fact I think you should make this dish, leave it for 3 weeks in the fridge and see what happens. It will not be safely edible and it will be clear by the look and smell! Then, I gently suggest that you print a correction for your readers – for their own safety. With the roasted or bbq’d meat it’s true that you are prolonging its life by cooking it but again I would question any timeframe so far beyond what health authorities recommend.

            In response to Alex – who spoke about the shelf life of store goods lasting for weeks – it’s vital to understand these products you refer to are preserved. If something is preserved in oil, vinegar, using canning, dehydration, pateurization or added preservatives etc – then of course it lasts. Roasted squash is none of these things and simply cannot last anywhere near this long.

            And to Kathleen who ‘eats food longer than 3 days’ and have not had food poisoning. That’s great news! Unfortunately this post is advocating a ‘few weeks’ aka 3 or more weeks – which is a far cry from 1 or 2 days beyond what the CSIRO recommends.

          • Living in Africa the idea of keeping cooked meat for only 3-4 days is appalling and wasteful. Trust me we are not all dying, yes there is a tiny chance of getting something just as there is of getting run over by a bus. I abhor wastage… If the meat smells fine it most likely is… Millions would give so much to eat what is thrown out of “Western” kitchens …

  • I WAS enjoying the article until I read you calling butternut or lentils ‘hummus.’ Noooooooooooooooooooooo! Hummus is chick peas. That’s what hummus means. To make it worse, you suggest substituting peanut butter for tahini? This is sounding like 1950s American cooking gone mad.

    • Jb!
      My Irishman had the same reaction when I told him about the butternut ‘hummus’. And then couldn’t stop eating it!
      I’m happy for you to rename it butternut & tahini sauce if it freaks you out that much :)

  • Great timing on this post! I have so much pumpkin coming out of the garden atm and was wondering what to do with it.

  • Jules,
    Do you remove the skin and seeds from the pumpkin before processing?
    I eat cooked food over 3 days old and I have never gotten food poisoning.
    Love your blog.

  • Hi Jules – great roast pumpkin dip! I don’t know why I have never thought of it before. Most veg are great for this – even roasted mushrooms, or roasted beetroot with red onioin. Yum.

    I need to get the blender out again at home!

    Regarding the food older than 3 days thing – I often reheat or re-invent leftovers that are more than 3 days old. It just happens. It is all down to handling during the initial cooking, the storage afterwards and then how it is retreated. Heat, salt, oil, and vinegar are great things for killing microbes with and protecting food from oxydation. If you think about stuff you buy in the shops – e.g. preserved sundried tomato or roasted or grilled vegetables in oil they are on the shelf for WEEKS!

    Never had food poisoning from doing this at home either.

    Nothing has ever lasted as long as 2 or 3 weeks though! We EAT in our house! Can’t help it :-)

  • I didn’t know there was a name for this (Mise en place). I grew up in West Africa, and this is the way we were all taught to cook (since the food takes so long to cook). To this day, I wash and season my meats as soon as I get back from the grocery store, and prep broths, soups, etc., ahead of time. Great post, can’t wait to try the squash hummus.

  • Jules, just made the roast butternut curry, and did end up using curry powder instead of garam masala. What a winner! I’m so full and content right now, plus there’s enough to last the week. So excited! Thanks for the deliciousness.

    • i just pinned this on pinterest. I am new to cooking (new onset gluten allergy)and wondered, did you use the coconut milk found in the cartons in the coolers or the full fat coconut milk in the cans? The pic looks so delicious I wouldn’t want to ruin it by using the wrong ingredient. Thank you.

  • I just HAD to write: I cooked a butternut your way and it was absolutely delicious and so easy – NO peeling! (Made three meals for the two of us – with other stuff.) I will never cook it any other way and it will be a weekly treat at our place – thanks Jules! (I’m putting your pic in my Pinterest, I am a devoted follower.)

  • Any suggestions of what to add to the hummus for those who can’t have garlic? I’m allium intolerant and have never quite figured out how to make a good hummus without it.

    • I leave the garlic / allium flavourings out of the hummus. Still tastes great without and it lasts much longer that way. Also you don’t get garlic breath. I am the only one in the house that eats it and I have left it in the fridge for about a week no problem. It does not generally last more than 3 days though.

      I don’t use canned chick peas. I’s a bit of a bother cooking up dried chick peas, soaking them and then cooking. However, you can make a huge batch and then freeze in portions. The other secret I’ve found is that you need to wash the skins off the chick peas. It grinds into a much smoother paste. For the rest of the ingredients, olive oil, tahini and salt. If I remember I sometimes put some spices in.

  • I’m just cooking this now and I have popped in a slice of (not chopped but chunked) belly pork and some sage. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m planning to have it with Rolls Royce Coleslaw. Good times!

  • I was just exploring different ideas to share with my own readers about mise en place when I stumbled upon your site. Because gluten-free baking involves so many different flours, starches, gums, etc. that it mise en place is necessary. I have to get my readers to the point where they begin applying basics of mise en place, such as measuring, chopping, etc. prior to putting everything together. When I don’t do that I make mistakes more often.

    I absolutely love your blog. Thanks for sharing such wonderful recipes, stories, etc. I love the fact that you touch upon something for every…vegan, etc.

    Do you do much gluten free baking, if at all?

  • This sounds delicious! Would it work with acorn squash? I have half of one in the fridge waiting to be used…

  • I just made the roasted butternut hummus (aka butternut & tahini sauce) and it is amazing! Thank you!

  • I just made the pumpkin hummus for a work morning tea and it went down an absolute treat! Not at all watery like other pumpkin dips I have made. The tahini is a great addition. Thanks for all the love and inspiration. J

  • you can also cut the roasting time by leaving the pan to preheat in the oven while you chop. Learned that from Cook’s Illustrated I think. you just have to be a little more careful when putting the veggies on the hot pan.

    looking forward to trying the curry – looks delicious!

  • Hi there, was looking for pumpkin recipes and found this thread, just wanted to say that rather than leaving the roast pumpkin in the fridge, why not freeze it? That’s what I do, when I’m good, I roast vegetables and then freeze them for my daughter’s baby food and then I use them for everything – sandwiches, pasta sauce for some sweetness without sugar, pasta, make a dip with them. I think this is the safest option. I would defrost them in the microwave and other than a bit of the cooking oil coming out, they tasted perfectly yummy. I tend to freeze rather than put stuff in the fridge because I’m better about labelling freezer stuff & it gives me more flexibility than the fridge because I pretty much religiously throw stuff out after 3 days if it’s a protein (meat, chick or fish) and a veg I maybe go to a week max but prefer to freeze so I don’t have to worry about it.

  • I definitely have been waiting too long before trying this roasted butternut squash recipe. I’ve just had it and I’m now fighting with myself not to eat the whole squash in one go. So sweet, so tasty, so much win. My new favorite vegetable :) Thank you!

  • I have stalked your blog for some time now and just look at the lovely photos. Tonight I made this baked squash approach. Holy heck! Life is so much better now! I hadn’t ever thought of eating the entire thing. It is so easy and delicious. Thank you much!

Comments are closed.