Rev up those fryers, ‘cause I am sure hungry for one – Help! Help! My leg!
– Fred the fish, SpongeBob SquarePants
While you’re at it, rev up those vocal cords too. This is gonna get intense.
Welcome to the Sunshine Singalong Cookathon!*
Invite a friend, or maybe wait until you have the flat to yourself – I’m doing the latter…
Tonight’s soundtrack is the 1999 classic, Make Yourself by Incubus. Want to sing along? Hit play and turn up the volume!
Cue the music!
It may look strange, but it works! I call this the poor man’s sound system. It amplifies the bass to give a deep, satisfying sound.
On the menu tonight: Chicken tikka masala. Get everything out now so you don’t forget anything later!
Grab a cup of frozen mixed veges and give them a quick blast in the microwave while you chop the onion and garlic. Chuck the mixed veg and onion in the pan with a little oil.
Garlic cooks quicker, so hold it back til the other veg is soft. About now you’ll need to put on the extractor fan – and turn up the music so you can still hear it! Now fill the saucepan two-thirds with cold water and put the heat on full.
Fry the veg til it’s done and turn the heat off. Dump one cup of rice into the saucepan, which should be warm by now. Important: Turn the heat down now or it’ll boil over during the next step! (True story.)
Time for chicken! Chopping this is probably the most time-consuming part of the process, and the most demanding in terms of food hygiene (wash your hands, folks!). Recipes will typically tell you to cook the meat first, or cook meat and veg separately, but I’m too lazy to wash up two chopping boards and two frying pans. So, veg out, chook in, heat on.
This stuff demands your full attention for the next little while, apart from a few quick stirs of the rice. Keep it moving – pink to the middle, brown to the outside. Let all that water (injected to bulk up the weight for sale) pour out and steam away.
When the chicken starts browning, dump everything in the pan. EVERYTHING. Including the sauce. (Drain the rice first.) While that simmers, now’s a good time to start washing up. But scrape the bottom once in a while to stop it burning!
When it’s no longer soup, it’s time to plate up. And we’re done, midway through the last song! Make Yourself (sans bonus tracks) clocks in at 48:12, so including clean-up we’re talking maybe 50 minutes total. Take a bow and chow down!
Bonus round: How many more meals will I get out of this?
One medium container and one small container means three more meals ready to go –not a bad haul!
And that’s how I cook.
This method works for a remarkably wide variety of recipes:
- Meat: Chicken, steak, sausages, mince, or none at all (substitute pumpkins and/or kumara for substance)
- Carbs: Rice, pasta, couscous, corn chips, wraps (skip the saucepan for the last two 😉)
- Veg: Frozen mixed, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils
- Sauces: Pasta sauce, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, soy/teriyaki
- Optional extras: Cheese, sour cream, chilli sauce, mayonnaise/aioli
- Music: Whatever you like to sing along to!
Some combinations obviously don’t work. Use common sense. Or go wild and experiment!
Ok, but… what?
You might have cringed while reading this. Sauce from a jar? Everything in one pan? What madness is this? Well here’s the thing: I’m not a chef. This is a pragmatic system, honed over years of flatting, and it works for me. It’s economical in money and time, it’s nutritious (I think!), and – crucially – it’s fun. So much so that I no longer dread cooking – I truly look forward to it!
What’s your go-to food-prep playlist? Got any cooking tips for me? Let me know!