Where to begin? Overcoming the kitchen panic with Leiths teacher, Jane

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Where to begin? Overcoming the kitchen panic with Leiths teacher, Jane

Jane in her beautifully organised kitchen cupboard

You have the ingredients that you have managed to squirrel away, but what's next? It can be overwhelming, but we're in this together and we're here to help. Getting organised and being methodical will help you save time, make the most of your ingredients and reduce food waste. This lockdown period is going to require us all to be resourceful and creative, and we’re going to be here with cooking tips and recipes, every step of the way. Here are some initial thoughts on organising your pantry, your ingredients, portion control and freezing food.

Organising your fridge

  • Take note of what you have
  • If its perishable note down the use by date
  • Organise your ingredients together in categories – salad, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, condiments
  • Place what needs to be used first at the front

Organising your pantry

  • Take note of what you have.
  • Double check use by dates (remembering these are different to the sell by date) – but it is usually less urgent than fresh ingredients especially with pastas, grains etc.
  • Grouping ingredients in categories can help you stay organised and make it easier to see what you have to use e.g. baking/flours, grains/rice, pasta, spices etc. If you have jars and a good labelling system this is a definite bonus!

Building the flavour

We still want our food to be tasty of course, so if your current repertoire needs to pack more of a punch, here are some non-essential ingredients which can lift and give depth of flavour to your meal.

  • Capers
  • Black Treacle
  • Anchovies
  • Pomegranate molasses
  • Mustard – whole grain/Dijon
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Tomato paste
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Oils – sesame/flavoured oils
  • Spices and herbs
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Stock fresh and stock cubes
  • Olives
  • Cured lemons
  • Coconut milk/cream
  • Soy sauce

Make a plan

Prioritise what needs to be eaten first, not just what you want to eat first!

  • You can cook and freeze spare meal portions
  • Individual ingredients freeze as well as whole meals
  • Even freezing diced onions is useful and prevents waste
  • Basing a dish around one ingredient can help you be creative and make searching for ideas much easier, whether that’s quinoa or a tomato

Weighing and portioning:

Weighing and portioning give longevity to your store cupboard, meat and vegetables. Reduces waste and may as an added bonus reduce your waistline. If you don’t have it in you to use scales, the rule of palm is also helpful. Your palm dictates what sort of portion is appropriate for you personally.

Portioning advice for an “ideal” balanced diet for an average plate of food:

  • 2 palms of Vegetables
  • 1 palm grains/carbohydrate e.g. potato
  • 1 palm meat/protein

Leftovers are king

Looking up simple recipes for the following dishes is great for using up spare ingredients:

  • Soups, stews, salads, pies, risottos, omelettes, fajitas, smoothies, pestos

Other ideas for leftovers:

  • Risottos can be reused for arancini
  • Left over rice or grains can be used in a stir fry
  • Left over roasted bones can be used to make a quick stock with a few none starchy veg

Freezing vegetables

Vegetables will freeze best having a blanch (popping into boiling water briefly) and refreshing (stopping the cooking by cooling down quickly in cold water-ideally with ice for speed). Blanching before freezing slows down the enzyme that causes loss of flavour, colour and nutritional value. Dry well and store in an airtight container. Ideally freeze in individual appropriate portions as if they will clump together in the freezer.

If you have any questions about cooking in isolation, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us via any of our social media channels. Also follow #CookWithLeiths on Instagram for recipe videos from our students, teachers and guest chefs, which we will be posting regularly.

Author: Jane Montgomery


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