Friday, October 22, 2010

Minimize the mess

Nothing beats a home cooked meal. It’s freshly prepared with care and consideration for family health and personal preferences.

Some people say they hate to cook, but I think what they really hate is the clean-up required afterwards. I’m not a great fan, myself, but I’ve found the best way to handle the clean-up operation is to tackle it as I go along.

I usually head out to the kitchen at about 17:45 – of course, a lot earlier, I had already taken out of the deep freeze anything that needed to thaw. Placemats, serviettes, cutlery and condiments go on the table. I fill the sink with hot water. I wash my hands and wipe down all the counters. Then, recipe in hand (or brain), I get out the other ingredients I need.

I peel, clean and chop any vegetables and fresh herbs I’m going to need, and the rest goes back in the fridge. I measure out spices and herbs, rice, couscous, pasta – either directly into a pot, or into small dishes – and then put any remainders away. All I have on the counter now are the ingredients I am actually going to cook, lined up in the order I’m going to use them. Organization like this takes very little effort, and means that the onions don’t burn while I’m looking for the curry paste.

Now the actual cooking begins, and when I have some free time – while everything is simmering away nicely – I warm the dinner plates and rinse off any little dishes, kitchen knives and chopping boards I’ve used and stack them in the dishwasher or drainer. I wipe up any spills and splashes as they happen.

Cooking healthy portion sizes means that once I’ve dished up there are no leftovers, so I can immediately fill any saucepans I’ve used with cold water. Cold water helps release the starch and makes the pots much easier to clean.

Time for dinner, with some pleasant conversation and a glass of wine.

I rinse off the dinner plates and cutlery and stack in the dishwasher. I always wash my pots by hand – they take up too much space in the dishwasher – but this is quick and easy to do since they have been soaking in cold water. I wipe down the surfaces again, and it’s time to relax. Total time spent on preparation, cooking, eating and clean-up – 60 minutes, maximum.

It takes at least that long to order a take-away, wait for the delivery guy, eat and clear up; a take-away is less healthy and more expensive. And I bet you didn’t do anything important while you were waiting!

No comments: