This morning I was reading a magazine from a few years ago (yes one of the many I have read and must re-read as I’ve forgotten what was in it!) when I can across an article about cheating in the kitchen. And so I thought…. What is the meaning of cheating?
According to the Collins Concise Dictionary, to cheat is to deceive, defraud, swindle. To practice deceit to gain advantage. Hmmmm! Maybe that isn’t the correct word for it as now I feel like I am going to be arrested by the food police for cheating in my own private kitchen!!
Anyway, the article got me thinking about ways in which we cheat in the kitchen to make our lives easier, a good thing, not a bad thing. Sometimes I find cheating may even cost less which is good for those on a budget. Therefore my definition of cheating is helping myself and all those hungry people relying on me to feed them and feed them quick.
I believe there is no problem for us ordinary home cooks to cheat sometimes. I mean who has time to make bread and pastry from scratch? Who has all the equipment to make pesto and pasta? Who wants massive cauldrons of stock bubbling away on the cooktop 24/7? I love to cook but I love to do other things as well therefore I must cheat. Sometimes anyway.
Having conveniences that can help us to get a good meal (or even a great meal if I do say so myself) on the table allows us to cook when we get home from a busy day. Knowing we can whip up an almost gourmet meal with the help of some wonderful products takes ordinary cooks like me and makes them confident to experiment and try new cuisines.
Also if we had to make everything from scratch I believe there would be a lot of people out there who just wouldn’t even cook, instead opting for take away or pre-prepared meals. Homemade doesn’t mean you can’t use ready-made pastry, pasta, pesto, jam and the like. Homemade means you can and should use these conveniences as part of your recipe. There is nothing wrong with that!
Being a home cook I love to try new recipes and experiment with different cuisines but to make a pesto or a curry paste can sometimes be rather daunting. So I say cheat! There are some great jars of different styles of pesto’s and curry pastes out there to buy. But instead of just opening the jar and chucking it in, add your own touches to the dish. Use some fresh herbs, some lemon or lime juice, even more garlic or onion and I dare anyone to tell you your dish doesn’t taste good. Also I find when you are making pesto’s and pastes you have to buy quite a number of ingredients you may not have in your pantry (and may not use again) and they could cost you more than your budget allows so buying a good quality jar and adding to it is a common sense approach, don’t you think!?
One of my favourite cheats is picking up a roast chook from the supermarket, getting it home and ripping all the meat off the bones. Use the bones to enhance a bought packet of stock. And use the meat in so many ways. Why not try a chicken pot pie, chicken enchiladas or burritos, chicken caesar salad or chicken and pesto pasta.
Pastas and pastries are another good cheat. I love using puff pastry but to make it fresh is so time consuming and not many of us have that much time to spare even on the weekend. If you are like me I want to spend time with my partner, taking a nice bush walk, fishing and having lunch out at a lovely café. Pasta requires extra equipment which I don’t have room for in my kitchen and with so many dried and fresh varieties at the supermarket and your local deli there is no reason to make pasta fresh unless it is something you really enjoy doing.
And finally one of my other favourite cheats is tinned tomatoes. They are great for everything. Good quality tinned tomatoes have plenty of flavour and when you buy them on sale, stock up! Using a tin or two of tomatoes you can make pasta sauces, soups, Mexican meals, casseroles and stews. By adding fresh onion, garlic, spices, herbs and seasoning you can make any style of cuisine you like. So much quicker than peeling, deseeding and chopping all those tomatoes yourself!
Some of my favourite dishes are made using the above cheats and they all taste great and have plenty of flavour. By using cheat ingredients and adding your own touches you can make any meal fantastic without spending all day following that recipe that has 50 steps and just as many ingredients.. And I guarantee that hungry family of yours will very much appreciate it too.
Cheating in this fashion doesn’t mean you will never make a homemade pesto, homemade pastry or even homemade pasta. The fun of cooking is trying to make things from scratch, when you have the time and energy, not when you need a meal on the table. Cooking is about having fun so when you are looking for a day of cooking and trying new things go the full on homemade route. But if you have had a busy day and want a good meal on the table without the hassles and stress, ‘CHEAT’! You won’t regret it.
Stay tuned as I will share some more of my cheats recipes with you (I have already shared a few) and would love to hear how you cheat in the kitchen as well.
And remember: If you open a packet and heat it up, that is not cooking but if you open a packet and use it as an ingredient along with other fresh ingredients, well that is cooking.