An ode to the microwave – and other time saving tips in the kitchen (Part One)
I do like cooking- taking the time to prepare a special meal is a great way to relax and take a break from studying. But alas, there is a difference from cooking at home and cooking at university – the difference being that at university, quite simply, very often I don’t want to spend much time cooking. The reasons are quite straightforward: here, as opposed to home, there is less free time, fewer people to cook for, and the person that will take the hit for any extra washing up I create, is me and not the dishwasher. With this in mind, I’ve come up with some time-saving strategies that I thought would be good to share in case you’re ever in the same situation!
1. MULTIPURPOSE MICROWAVE: Before any health fanatics jump down my throat, I’d like to make it very clear- I don’t mean microwaving ready-meals: I’m talking about physically cooking from scratch in the microwave. I’d also like to highlight that if you’re worried about the radiation from microwaves making them unsafe, that’s also unnecessary! (See this link: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/what-to-microwave-ovens-health). So. Why use the microwave? Because it’s So. Damn. Fast! No preheating an oven or waiting for water to come to boil on the stove. No saucepan or oven tray to wash up. Just the bowl you can even use to eat in. As well as having a microwave to cook food, I definitely recommend investing in some microwaveable containers if you’re meal-prepping in advance, as then you can just microwave your food when you’re ready to eat and eat straight out of them. Even less washing up!
My favourite things to cook in the microwave:
Vegetable curry: The method is very simple. Boil/ steam vegetables for as long as appropriate per vegetable in a bowl or jug. As long as you don’t over-microwave vegetables, just as with over-boiling, the loss of nutrients is minimal. If you’re meal-prepping for later, rinse them with cold water after to cool them down quickly so they are ready for refrigeration. Transfer to your microwaveable container and stir in salt/herbs/spices/tomato purée etc. Finally, before heating up to eat, add a couple of teaspoons of water if necessary. And there you have it: curry is served. (See blog pictures. Left: kidney bean and mixed vegetable chilli. Right: sweetcorn and aubergine curry with parsley and turmeric, alongside green lentils. Making two portions of either protein/vegetable combo usually takes me under half an hour, including washing up!).
Tomato sauce: Ok, I know you can’t sauté the garlic and roast the herbs in a microwaved sauce but if you add enough garlic and herbs, you’ll honestly not be able to tell the difference! Take a tablespoon of tomato purée, and add as much water (or oil) to make the sauce as runny as you desire. Add in dried or fresh herbs such as parsley or basil, along with salt, black pepper and a finely chopped garlic clove (or two, I like my garlic) and heat for about a minute.
Jacket potatoes (and sweet potatoes especially): At home, we use an air fryer to cook potatoes or chips but at university, I’ve found the microwave is the next best thing! Simply wash and score the potatoes and microwave in a bowl/ plate (no water required) for roughly 6 minutes for an average sweet potato, and a bit longer for an average white potato. If you’re in even more of a rush, you can chop smaller pieces and they’ll be done even quicker! (Sweet potato with ratatouille vegetables and sweetcorn. All cooked in the microwave😂!)
Pizza wraps: Microwave a wrap (from the cupboard or from frozen) for 10 seconds on each side. Add tomato sauce, cheese and any other desired fillings and microwave again for a couple of minutes till the cheese is deliciously melted and everything is hot.
2. PREPARATION PAYS: Overplayed and probably self-explanatory but remains very true: meal-prepping will certainly save you time in the kitchen. However, you don’t need to spend hours designing each dish and fixing days- because, you could always discover an unidentifiable-sitting-object rotting away in the fridge that needs urgent attention (I hope not but you never know) or you could end up going out, or attending a society event where there’s an irresistible abundance of free pizza…. but just have a general idea of what protein, carbohydrates and vegetables you’re going to be using up in the week in order to create quick and balanced meals. This also prevents aimlessly wandering around the aisles of Tesco like a nomad in the desert, and being lost in the blinding lights. Moreover, meal-prepping not only prevents physical loss of time in the supermarket but also strange glances from other customers that one receives from just standing dithering: unlike in the song by The Weeknd where ‘No-one’s around to judge me’, here, they probably are. No one should be eyeing up the fruit and vegetable aisle as if the produce are contestants in a beauty pageant.
3. SIMPLIFIED VEGETABLE SOUP: Boil chopped vegetables (leek, peas and carrot is my personal favourite combination) in water, then take out as much water as you actually want to have in your soup (this recipe is for a non-blended soup) and then add your seasonings and crumbled up stock cube. It’s controversial (then again so is this whole blog), but I don’t see the point in laboriously measuring the ‘right’ amount of water for the amount of stock, and then stirring continuously to dissolve the stock cube, and then having to wait to evaporate any excess water from the soup! No. I’m not transfusing blood, the measurements aren’t going to have life-changing consequences: I’m just making lunch. Efficiently.
4. MAGIC MACARONI: A childhood favourite for many, but a pasta dish that is less often made from scratch by university students because of a lack of ingredients and time required to make a traditional roux sauce (flour and butter). Well, I’m here to tell you that Roux has passed its time. You can definitely achieve a creamy, cheesy, totally Instagrammable macaroni cheese sauce by just boiling pasta in milk. Simply cover dried pasta with milk (and some hot water depending on how much milk you want to add), and boil and stir on a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, alongside your personal preferred ingredients (such as salt, pepper, mustard powder). When the pasta is almost done, you can stir in some grated cheese, but the sauce will already be thick enough by itself if you just prefer having cheese on the top. Bon appétit! (Macaroni cheese made with soya milk as I’d ran out of normal milk- works just as well!)
Thanks for reading Part One: Part Two coming soon! Comments are always welcome.😊