Aug 10, 2011

How to cook dinner from scratch in 30 minutes

I had a chat with a friend in Melbourne, a couple with two kids who are both working. I commiserated with their after-work rush, saying I remembered the times when I would rush back home from work at 8pm or 8.30, and cook dinner in half an hour. I cooked mostly from scratch too, because I was a purist and simply because anything pre-cut, pre-marinated or pre-cooked was pre-tty expensive!

She implored me to teach her my secrets and here they are :-

1) Make sure you are not doing the washing
Institute a "I cook, you clean" rule. Because you are going to make a helluva mess and don't want to be caught having to clean up after yourself. To cook fast, you can't stop to wash pots, wipe countertops, can you?

2) Have many pots, pans, knives so you can observe rule Number One.

3) Multi-tasking is everything. Have a few burners on your stovetops and use them all at the same time. Be chopping away furiously while something's on the boil and something else is on the fryer.

4) Be prepared to occasionally eat burnt food.

5) Be prepared to occasionally slice a finger.

6) Defrost something in the morning
Of course, a more professional homemaker would preplan meals in the morning and pop something into the slow cooker before she left for work. I didn't have time for any of that because I would be officially late for work sometime between the waking up and the brushing of teeth.

7) Know your project management and critical path
(Critical path - heard this on Renovators, my newest fix, though a rather poor replacement for Masterchef)
Rice takes 30 minutes to cook, so that's usually the first thing to put on. Chop up similar stuff at one go and put them all on plates so you don't have to walk back and forth (go ahead, use those many, many plates)


soya sauce and garlic oil tofu

8) If cooking rice with three dishes, let one dish be the 'hero' and the rest be easy stuff - fried omelette, soft tofu with soya sauce and garlic oil, stir fried veges, blanched veges with oyster sauce...(Have condiments, like the garlic oil ready, so you can just spoon it out)

You might notice that the success generally depends on a willingness to be not a perfectionist, messy and multi-task, talents not everyone have. Hubs is not endowed with a single one, and why we always ate at 10pm when he cooked!




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