Do you love to get in the kitchen and cook up a storm on the weekend?
I love to be in the kitchen with friends or family sitting and chatting at the kitchen bench. I find that this is one of my most rewarding and fun times. Looking for a new recipe (I’m a cookbook addict!) and searching the pages for a good-looking picture that stands out always gets me excited to get out those utensils. I had a neighbour many years ago that inspired me to take on any recipe out of a book and just go for it. This has stuck with me over the many years and I now use recipes as a guide and adjust where I can. I love that you can basically start with a bunch of stuff and before you know it you have created a masterpiece! Of course there are some tips to make this all happen and keep the enjoyment alive.
Having a good work space is imperative. Remove the clutter! Once you have to get the ingredients out and spread them across the bench there will be no room left for those unopened letters, keys or sunglasses that are taking up valuable space. It maybe that you need to keep some of the clutter in the kitchen and if you do that's fine too, simply keep it organised. It will make the experience more pleasant!
In the pantry I always keep a few unusual ingredients that I have found at the market like unusual spices, rubs for meats, different flours etc. I am very lucky that there are so many great kitchen shops in close proximity. Dried beans and legumes are on hand, and once a month I soak and then cook them for storing in the freezer. That way when unexpected guests pop over I can grab a bag of chickpeas out and whip up a hummus dip with fresh vegetable crudites. Not many ingredients needed and super quick and easy! I also love to keep a variety of vinegars and oils,so every salad dressing can be unique. What are your favourite ingredients to keep on hand?
Fresh herbs are easy to grow and you don’t need much space and let’s face it, fresh basil with cherry tomatoes is a winner. There are so many ways to grow plants these days be it a wall garden or hanging pots for small spaces, you can plant cherry tomatoes in a hanging pot and let them cascade over. Parsley and chives are super easy, mint of different varieties, the choice is yours and you are only limited to your imagination! If you cannot grow your own buy them fresh and keep them in a glass of water near the sink, trim as needed!
Utensils are an important addition, and you have to feel comfortable using them. So invest wisely. Keep knives sharp as this will make a huge difference in time saving. I like to put any of my plastic boards in the dishwasher to kill the bacteria that can accumulate on them, and wooden boards are great if you keep them well oiled. A good olive oil works well. I have an array of different sizes. Wooden boards are also a great way to serve finger foods, cheese etc. Just make sure if the plastic is getting a bit rough that you toss them as this can harbour bacteria.
Using fresh seasonal produce is not only healthy it is also rewarding, as the flavours are more intense. Have you ever had a tomato in winter compared to those that you get in the middle of the warm summer? You can definitely tell the difference!
One of my favourite dishes on the menu are the ones that I call “interactive meals”. This is where we prep the meal and then bring the elements to the table so everyone can assemble their own. It is a fabulous way to enjoy and chat and make any occasion special. The options are endless but some of our favourites are Mexican fiesta (tacos etc.), cold rolls or nori anything that you can chop and assemble really.
And last but not least you need to enjoy, so before starting to get that recipe underway, take a deep breath and go for it. Taking the time to smell, look, feel the textures and taste test to enhance the experience. Oh and don’t forget to fill the sink with some warm soapy water before you begin, making cleaning up as you go a breeze. Now off to the markets! Enjoy