After several months as a freelancer, I’ve now joined the ranks of the gainfully employed. That’s right, I’m living the 9 to 5:30pm dream. And quite honestly, it’s really tough cooking on the evening after a busy day at work. I come home and simply devour the contents of my fridge with no real thought to actually cooking something that might constitute, you know, a meal.
Cooking while working – it’s hard!
Recent meals for me have included pasta, beans on toast, avocado on toast, more pasta and baked sweet potatoes. Not the most exciting or creative meals, I think you’ll agree.
I’m loving my new job, but the one thing I miss from my freelance days is the freedom to cook up a new meal during the all-important day light, and then having the energy as well to make something in the evening that’s a bit more exciting than beans on toast.
Of course, there are many recipe books out there from various chefs that have been written with the aim to help you at home whip up a home cooked meal in no time at all. In principle, I guess they’re ok but sometimes they do annoy me because of the expectation that you will have 6,000 different ingredients in your pantry, (many of which you will use once, it will then go out of date and you’ll have to throw away) and also the expectation that you own some fancy schmancy bits of kitchen equipment to help cut down on prep time. All in all, I sometimes feel these recipe books are unrealistic.
After much deliberation (and stubbornness, because I refuse to buy a food processor when I’m perfectly capable of chopping myself), here’s how I think you can get creative with your cooking after a long day at work:
Use a slow cooker – I’m a huge fan of slow cookers, not only because they are super cheap and super economical, but also because they do all the work for you. Simply throw in your ingredients before you go to work in the morning, set on low and, voila, dinner will be ready when you get home. Spending 20 minutes in the morning to make your life ten times easier when you get home at night seems like a good idea to me.
Batch cooking and using the freezer – another thing I’m a fan of is making a huge batch of something on a Sunday, and then freezing it or even keeping a couple of portions in the fridge so you’ve got dinner ready to go when you need it.
This is a brilliant way to use up things in your fridge that may be going out of date, or if you’ve accidentally bought too much of something, simply double up and freeze half for another day. Repeat after me: my freezer is my best friend!
Souping – slightly related to the last point is souping. Apparently this is the ‘new trend’ for 2016. Last year was juicing, this year is souping. I mention this with a healthy dose of scepticism, because I’ve been ‘souping’ for years now and I don’t think this is anything new. Rather, somebody thought, ‘quick let’s come up with a new trend for 2016’ and they happened to be eating soup at the time.
Again, it’s a great way to use up vegetables, you can do it in batches and most soups freeze really well. I say most, because in my experience, any potato based soup comes out the freezer a little ‘starchy’. Not quite as tasty as before you put in the freezer! There’s so many soups that you can make and, when served alongside a cheese toastie, this makes a pretty tasty and quick meal.
Have key ingredients on standby (but don’t go crazy) – again, the freezer will be useful here (remember, it’s your best friend!). Whip up some homemade pesto and freeze in ice cube trays for ready-made pesto to add to your pasta dish. Same goes for homemade tomato sauce for pasta. Keep breadcrumbs frozen in your freezer, ready to add to homemade burgers and meatballs, so they can be rolled and shaped in a matter of minutes.
Keep tins of chopped tomatoes, your favourite beans, coconut milk and curry paste on standby in your cupboard. Yes, we could all make our own Thai Green curry paste, but who wants to do that after a long day at work?! Invest in a decent, low salt stock cube and keep a stash ready for adding to dishes.
So really, after sitting down and thinking about this, there’s no excuse for not getting creative with my cooking. Still, I’m sure there will be the odd night I’ll come home and eat an entire packet of cooked prawns just because it’s easier than cooking an actual meal! And, funnily enough, I’m ok with that!
Do you have any suggestions for how to get creative with your cooking? What’s your favourite mid-week supper that’s delicious and easy to make?