10 Clever Cooking Tips

Jane ClarkeLooking for ways to cook healthy and tasty food without breaking the bank and without breaking a sweat?  These ideas will help.

  1. Cook tired-looking apples (which have just as much fibre in as very fresh) in a little orange juice (just peel, core and slice) for a couple of minutes in a saucepan, or microwave, until soft. Allow to cool, then mash and serve with natural yoghurt for a good ‘using up leftovers’ pudding made with apples you no longer fancy biting into.
  2. UHT fruit juices can contain just as much vitamin C as supermarket freshly squeezed juices! The vitamin C may well be added during the processing, but it’s just as beneficial for our body and the overall juice is often far cheaper.
  3. Squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over steamed vegetables and fish to bring out the flavours without having to use much, if any, salt.
  4. To make healthy, more economical homemade beefburgers, add some cooked wild or normal rice (a good way to use up leftover rice, therefore less food wastage) to your lean minced beef, as this not only helps them to feed more hungry mouths, but also the fibre within the rice makes them more satisfying, lighter on the stomach and lighter on the purse.  Quantity-wise, I tend to use 100g cooked rice to 200g lean mince.
  5. For a delicious way to use up leftover cooked peas or broad beans, make a pesto by simply mashing the cooked frozen (much cheaper than fresh) peas with some olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, torn basil (tear rather than chop, as chopping bruises the leaves, unless you use a plastic knife) and freshly chopped garlic, until you have a vibrant green paste. Great with pasta, jacket potatoes or spread on fresh warm toast.
  6. Frozen white fish portions, which can be easily steamed in minutes, are far more practical, economical and taste just as good as fresh, as long as you don’t overcook them. They’re nutritionally just as good for you, and if you have some left over, just mash up with leftover mashed potato to make homemade fishcakes.
  7. Use an oil spray filled with a supermarket vegetable oil to fry your food – you need far less than you often get into the habit of pouring into a frying pan. And then drizzle over just a dash of virgin olive oil to get the delicious appetizing olive oil aromas before you eat – this is a far more economical way of using olive oil.
  8. Ensure that the fat you fry with is at the right temperature to seal the food and cook it well – either use a thermometer, or simply pop in a cube of bread, which should bubble within a few seconds. Too cold and the food soaks the fat up to make a soggy, high-fat food, too hot and the oil will smoke and turn bitter-tasting, making your food taste bad. Also, if you reheat oils (especially those containing polyunsaturated fatty acids, i.e. the majority of vegetable oils) several times, the fat can break down to form trans fats, which aren’t good for you. This is why the Actifry can be such a great kitchen aid.
  9. Use frozen fruit (defrosted) when making your own jam – this not only saves money and is more practical, as you don’t need to make the jam on the day you buy the fruit, but also frozen fruit, such as raspberries and blackberries, contains just as much, if not more, vitamin C than so-called fresh. The vitamin C content is even higher if you use the Vitamin button on the jam maker.
  10. While limp-looking vegetables may not be the most attractive, use them to make into a chutney or a homemade soup by just simply chopping, adding to stock (which can be just from a stock cube), seasoning and blending. The vegetables may have lost a little vitamin C, while their freshness has diminished, but the beta-carotene, another antioxidant vitamin, and the fibre levels will still be high. Freeze in single portions so that you can take one out in the morning before you leave for work – then all you’ll need to do is warm it through in the microwave when you get back in the evening.

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