When I first moved away from home, I diligently followed recipes. Step by step, I would put together the meal as per the instructions. The meals were mediocre, not bad for a beginner I suppose. However, from the time that I entered the kitchen to the time that the meal was finally served, it would take about 2 hours. As much as I loved to cook, it was exhausting, and after a long work day, the thought of a 2-hour cooking marathon did anything but encouraged me to enter the kitchen.
Until Jamie Oliver changed my life.
I was flipping channels one evening and stumbled upon Jamie Oliver’s show, Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. The title of the show was appealing, especially for someone like me who has been trying to figure out how to cook dinner under 1 hour. So, intrigued, I sat down and watched.
The show was shot in real-time, meaning, it reflected the actual time that it took Jamie to cook the entire meal, including appetizer, main, and dessert. The selling point of the show was that no editing was done to the videos to reduce the cooking time, and so you could see how Jamie puts together everything in the real 30 minutes.
When we watch cooking shows, read cook books, and browse food blogs, it is not only to take away recipes, but more importantly, it is to acquire the tips and tricks that other chefs and home cooks devised themselves from their own experience and to then introduce them into our own kitchens. When watching Jamie, what attracted me was not his recipes (though no one could deny that they were delicious), but it was how he cooked so fast.
I have now incorporated these methodologies into my daily cooking, and it has undeniably improved my cooking speed significantly. Cooking dinner within 30 minutes is still a little bit of a stretch for me, but I can now definitely have a meal on the table within 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cooking is now more fun, and less daunting. I hope Jamie Oliver is proud of me.
Here is what I learned from Jamie:
1. Clear off the dish rack before you start cooking
You need to know where the empty dishes are in the cabinet immediately when you need them. Clear off your dish rack and putting everything back into the cabinets before you cook lets you know exactly where the plates are, and would save you time from digging through a pile of dishes on the dish rack, trying to find that colander or sift that you need.
2. Clear off your kitchen counter before you start cooking
You need space to move around, place your dishes, chop your ingredients, and put your pots. Clear off your kitchen counter to give yourself more space to cook, so you no longer have to hold a large pot while scrambling to find a place to put it.
3. Have a kettle of hot water ready
How many times have you found yourself needing to add water to a sauce that you are cooking, only to have cold water on hand, which, once you add to the bubbling sauce, extinguishes the heat, and then spending an extra 5 to 10 minutes to reheat the sauce again? Having a kettle of hot water ready in hand would let you add water to your cooking sauces without reducing the heat, saving you those precious minutes.
4. Place a towel under the chopping board
Chopping is the most time consuming, boring, but mandatory part of cooking. Sometimes, the faster and more impatient we chop, the more the cutting board slides around, and the more frustrating we could get as we try to balance everything. Placing a towel under the chopping board will prevent everything from sliding around while you chop.
5. A large plate for putting used cooking utensils (wooden spoon, ladles, spatulas, etc.)
A dirty wooden spoon from stirring the sauce, a used ladle from pouring soup, or a used spatula after scraping the bowl. Many times, in haste, we drop them into a dirty sink, then realizing later that we need it and have to wash it again to use. Having a large plate to put all these used utensils in one place would save you from unnecessary wash ups in between cooking.
6. Get into the “30 Minute Mindset”
In other words: multitask. Play the recipe once in your head and find out what can be cooked simultaneously to save time. Read the recipe thoroughly to reduce the number of times you have to consult it while you are cooking.