Do you struggle to find the time and energy to cook after a long busy day? Well you’re certainly not alone!
A few years ago I did a survey of Stonesoup readers for the biggest problems when it comes to cooking. And the overwhelming majority of you said that being tired at the end of a long day was THE biggest cooking challenge.
So no prizes for guessing that this problem was at the front of my mind when I decided to write my soon-to-be-published print book, ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes’.
It’s less than a month till my book will hit the shelves, so today I thought I’d share with you my favourite ways to find time and energy to cook when I’ve had ‘one of those days’.
And to give you a taste of what’s to come, I’ve included a 5-Ingredients 10-Minutes recipe that didn’t make it into the book.
4 ways to find the time and energy to cook after a long busy day
1. Use convenient ingredients.
There aren’t any prizes for cooking everything yourself from scratch. Let convenience food do what it’s supposed to do!
Some of my favourite ‘convenient’ ingredients include:
Prewashed salad leaves. Read the packet as some brands still need washing.
Curry pastes. Great for speedy fragrant curries like this green pea curry.
Pesto. Adds flavour to soups or sandwiches. Also brilliant as an instant sauce to serve with grilled chicken.
Frozen peas. Great for an almost instant green veg fix.
Frozen spinach. Takes a little longer to defrost than peas, but still worth having some around.
Canned chickpeas + other legumes. Just rinse, drain and toss with lemon juice, olive oil and grated parmesan for a super comforting salad.
Canned tomatoes. Ever tried peeling fresh tomatoes? It takes ages.
Natural yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper and serve as a sauce with salmon, chicken or lamb.
2. Prepare in advance.
If you hate being super organised, just skip this one. But if you are inclined to squirrel things away for a rainy day, cooking whole meals like soups or stews or curries in bulk and freezing for later does make a difference.
The other approach is to prepare ingredients in advance so all you need to do in the evening is ‘assemble a meal’. I do this all the time, usually cooking up a big batch of lentils or quinoa and keeping them in the fridge for different dishes. My other favourite is to roast heaps of veg. If you’d like to learn more see this post on ‘Mise en place‘.
3. Have actual food in the house
Here’s the thing, no matter how great a cook you are, if there isn’t food in the house and it’s been a long day, you (and all of us) are way more likely to pick up some takeout than go to the store, buy ingredients, come home and cook. So having food in the house gives you a HUGE head start.
I find there are 2 parts to this. First, having a well stocked pantry can be a huge life saver.
The other piece of the puzzle is finding some sort of regular system for buying fresh ingredients. It might be an idyllic weekly trip to the farmers market, or maybe a Monday night trip to the supermarket or maybe it’s a regular online order that gets delivered. The type of system isn’t important, you just need to find one that works best for you and then stick to it.
4. Have a collection of fast, simple recipes.
There’s a time and place for fancy cheffy recipes, but that isn’t on a regular ‘school’ night. Having a collection of quick, easy recipes is key. If you know that dinner is only going to take you 10 minutes or so, aren’t you more likely to be able to find the energy you need to make it happen?
I can hear you asking,
“Great Jules, but where am I going to find such a collection?”
To be honest you don’t need to look any further than Stonesoup. This collection of 50 healthy 10-Minute meals would be the best place to start.
BUT if you’re someone who also struggles to face looking at a computer after a long day in the office, and would prefer to flick through an actual, old-fashioned print book, then I finally have an option for you!
5-Ingredients, 10-Minutes PRINT Version!
Chicken with Pine Nut Sauce
So you’re probably wondering why this recipe didn’t make it into the book. And truth be told, it was just laziness on my part. The original version was made using fish fillets but I wasn’t 100% happy with it or the photo I had taken. So it got the cut.
I made it again the other day, this time with chicken so I could take a Stonesoup-worthy photo. I just loved it so much I’m kinda kicking myself I didn’t retake the photo earlier.
Enough for 2
4 chicken thigh fillets
100g (3.5oz) pine nuts
1/2 clove garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 large handfuls baby kale or other salad leaves to serve
1. Preheat a large frying pan or skillet on a high heat.
2. Trim fat from chicken and bash with the palm of your hand so that the thigh fillets are an even thickness across. Rub with a little oil. Season.
3. Pop chicken into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side.
4. Meanwhile, whizz pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until you have a smoothish sauce. Taste and season.
5. Turn chicken when well browned and cook on the second side for another 3-4 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink.
6. Divide sauce between 2 plates. Top with chicken and serve leaves on the side.
different meat – chicken breasts, 1 per person will work (bash them until flattened and about 1/2in thick before cooking). Also good with fish fillets (adjust cooking time and no need to bash) or pork chops. Lamb fillet or back straps will also be great.
vegetarian – replace chicken with sliced halloumi – just cook until golden on both sides. OR try serving the sauce and salad with a couple of fried eggs each.
vegan – replace chicken with eggplant ‘steaks’. Slice 1 large eggplant crosswise and cook in oil until well browned on both sides and super tender. Will take about 5 minutes a side. You might like to increase the sauce recipe to make it more substantial too.
budget – replace pine nuts with cheaper nuts like cashews or almonds. Also consider using 1/2 nuts and 1/2 soft breadcrumbs.
nut-free – serve chicken and salad with a yoghurt sauce (natural yoghurt seasoned with salt & pepper) or just use a good quality mayonnaise or aioli.
Video Version of the recipe.
ps. The links above for my new book are affiliate links. So if you buy using them you’ll be supporting Stonesoup even more. And I really appreciate it :)