MODULE 3. Minimal Effort Equipment + Techniques

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Module 3. Audio

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The 3 Pieces of Time-Saving Equipment You Really Need.

icons more2NOTE: The written content below is the same as that contained in the audio and video versions. This training will be included in the class ebook at the end of the program so you’ll be able to download everything in the one file.

A few years ago I rented an apartment on Mulberry Street in Soho and spent a month pretending to be a New Yorker.

It was so much fun! But as you can imagine, my little kitchen was minimalist to say the least. It was really eye opening to discover how little I needed to be able to cook for my Irishman and myself for the month.

Sure we were eating out a great deal (so many options!) but we did enjoy quite a few nights in.

Here’s the critical ‘3’ pieces of equipment that made it onto my essentials list…

1. Sharp Knife.

Cooking without a sharp knife is no fun for anyone. And really slows down any prep work. The existing knife in the apartment we so bad I ended up buying a cheap cooks knife to last the month. Money well worth spending.

For longer term I would have invested in a better quality knife and a good sharpening system as well.

I don’t normally like to recommend brands of equipment or ingredients but I will make an exception for my knife sharpener. I have a nifty until called the Furi ‘Fingers’ and it’s by far the easiest and best sharpening system I’ve ever come across.

2. Chopping Board.

Nothing fancy, but big enough to be able to chop a whole bunch of kale is perfect. For carnivores, having another plastic chopping board to use for raw meat is beneficial but not critical.

3. Frying Pan with Lid

As we’ll cover in techniques, being close to the heat source is the quickest way to get food cooked. So pan frying and stir frying are my go-to methods. Which means you need a frying pan!

If you’re usually cooking for 1 or 2 a small to medium pan will be best. For larger families a larger pan will help.

Make sure the sides are high enough so you could make a small batch of soup if you felt the urge. No other pot required!

A lid allow you to use the pan for braising things like greens.

Best to get a pan with ovenproof handles so you can also use it to cook in the oven.

26 Kitchen Equipment Traps to Avoid…

IT would be easy to spend a life time and a rather large fortune in many kitchen ware stores these days. They can be tempting! So I’ve pulled together a list of equipment that I avoid to help guide you on keeping it simple.

BUT this is just my opinion!

If there’s a piece of equipment on this list that you find indispensable or you love for some reason… Please keep it. It’s reason there’s a saying about one mans trash being anothers treasure!

1. microwave oven

I’ve gone with and without a microwave over the years and I’ve decided that while it can be helpful for defrosting things at the last moment and possibly melting chocolate, that’s not enough to justify all the space they take up. I haven’t had a microwave since 2008 and haven’t missed it one bit. But if you’re using yours every day by all means give it pride of place.

2. stand mixer

For creaming butter and sugar I use my food processor which seems to work fine. If you’re a die hard baker or pavlova maker a stand mixer might be worth the cost and the space but for the rest of us mortals it’s not.

3. ice cream machine

It’s no secret that I LOVE my ice cream. And I did once have a huge ice cream machine. But as soon as I discovered how to make ice cream by just pureeing frozen fruit in the food processor with a little cream, I got rid of the big space waster.

4. knife sets

While they can look totally styling, and it can be handy to have a couple of good knives in the house if there’s more than one of you cooking at a time – there aren’t many people that actually need 7 knives of varying sizes. Save your money and invest in one excellent sharp cooks knife for each cook in the house and spend the rest on a good sharpening system – like the furi fingers. If you’re a fan of rustic sourdough loaves, a bread knife is the only other one you’ll need.

5. bread machine

This trend should be well and truly past but I can’t imagine there are many people out there who actually get much use out of their bread machine. If you have an oven and a pair of strong arms to knead you have everything you need to make excellent bread – and it won’t be in a weird square tall loaf shape.

6. rice cooker

OK OK. If you’re cooking rice once a week or more – skip this point. But for the rest of us what’s wrong with a good saucepan with a lid?

7. pasta maker

I am guilty here. I go through phases of making pasta but it’s never more than once every 6 months. If I had my time again I’d be struggling to justify my shiny, Italian designed pasta machine. Fresh pasta is pretty readily available to buy now and it’s not that expensive. If I feel like making ravioli I could always use chinese wanton wrappers or cut down some fresh store bought lasagne sheets to size. And if I really wanted to channel my inner Italian nonna – I could always use a rolling pin or make something designed to be formed by hand.

8. toasted sandwich press

When I was in college I had a little breville toasted sandwich maker in my room and pretty much used it every day. I found that there was usually something in the uni dining room that could be half edible if put between a couple of slices of bread and given a whirl in the ‘jaffel’ maker. Roasted vegetables were a big favourite. I’d also use it to ‘fry’ an egg on the odd occasion. Since then I’ve hardly used one. If I want to make a toasted sandwich I employ my trusty frying pan and cook one side at a time, squashing down as I go. I find that toasted sandwiches may take a little longer this way but are just as delicious – even a little crispier because the steam is escaping as you cook – not being trapped.

9. any other ‘single purpose’ small appliances

Juicers, deep fryers, hot dog warmers, popcorn makers, milkshake machines, chocolate ‘fountains’. No explanation needed really.

10. wok

Even though I’m guilty of owning a wok, I tend to do my stir frying in my large frying pan. Of course, if you are cooking lots of Asian food a wok might be a better option than a frying pan.

11. griddle pan

Before I had a BBQ I got myself one of those cool cast iron pans with the ridges in the middle. I know some people swear by them but I always found myself with a kitchen full of smoke waving a tea towel in front of the the fire detector. I’m pretty sure I didn’t use the griddle pan ever again once I had the BBQ option. Sold the poor thing on ebay. Great decision.

12. saucepan sets

Unless you’re cooking for a large family, you probably don’t need multiple pans in various sizes. I find it’s better to invest in your pots individually, as needed.

13. cake tins and tart shells in every shape and size

Along with little ramekin-like pots, and white plates and wine glasses this is probably my weakest link in the minimalist kitchen.

14. anything that is only to be used on ‘special’ occasions

I grew up with multiple dinner sets and crystal glasses that were only used on a handful of occasions. Life is too short people if it’s good enough for Christmas day it should be good enough for a random rainy Tuesday.

15. mortar & pestle

Call me a mad scientist but I loved owning a mortar & pestle as much as I love saying ‘mortar’ and ‘pestle’. The truth is that it didn’t get used often because it was a pain to clean – so I got rid of mine.

16. anything purely ornamental

Useful kitchen equipment can be beautiful and decorative in its own right – I love my jar of stainless steel utensils sitting on the windowsill. But it’s a working display.

17. a coffee grinder for grinding spices

Unless you’re a hardcore curry head I think it’s better to just buy quality pre-ground spices in small amounts so that you’re buying fresh. If you’re in Australia I love herbies.com.au.

18. expensive coffee machines

I always thought that when I moved to the country I’d invest in a proper espresso machine so I’d still be able to have decent coffee. And then I discovered the Aeropress – a nifty little utensil for making seriously good coffee. And best of all it takes up hardly any space and only costs about $50.

19. single use utensils

Apple corer, egg frying rings, lemon juicer, nut cracker, strawberry dehuller (no- I didn’t fall for that one) there are thousand upon thousands of little kitchen gadgets that may make life a little easier every now and then but in the scheme of things aren’t worth the clutter. Although confession time… I do own a garlic press that I love and use all the time.

20. electric carving knife

OK so I used to have one and it did come in handy. But then I started keeping my cooks knife sharp and found that I usually couldn’t be bothered digging through the drawer to find the blades and the base and put it all together. So I got rid of it.

21. mandoline

OK I’m not about to throw out my mandoline because I do use it frequently. But is it essential? definitely not – a sharp knife and a bit of patience will usually do just as good a job.

22. kitchen blowtorch

Here’s another one that I actually have access to because my Irishman loves his gadgets. If you adore creme brulee it might be worth your money and space. If you are going to invest go for a for a real ‘blokey’, full-strength blow torch rather than a dainty kitchen model.

23. bamboo steamers

They were cheap. I used them exactly twice during my pork bun steaming frenzy in 2003. And I haven’t missed them since they were donated to charity.

24. multiple sizes of wine glasses

Sure, it can be nicer to drink white wine from a smaller glass, or even go crazy with different shapes for different grape varieties, but I prefer to keep it simple at home.

25. paella pans

They look so cute, but seriously, unless you are Spanish or desperately trying to become so, a large frying pan will do the trick.

26. tajine dishes

I used to have a few tajine dishes from a trip to Morocco. The theory is they allow steam to swirl in the conical lid and condense back into the tajine. It’s a subtle difference I can’t detect. So I now make my tajines in a cast iron pot.

8 ‘Minimal Effort’ Cooking Techniques.

Like most things in life, the amount of energy and time you spend cooking is really up to you. And how you approach it.

Here are my favourite ways to ‘cook smarter not harder’…

1. Outsource the Prep.

There are no prizes for preparing every morsel of food from scratch. Unless of course that how you want to spend your time (then go for it!).

But for the rest of us, outsourcing some of the prep work can mean the difference between a home cooked meal OR not!

Some of my favourite examples are:

* Prewashed salad leaves

* Frozen peas (no podding!)

* BBQ chicken

* Grilled veg from the deli / supermarket

* Sauces such as pesto, mayo, hummus.

* Scrubbed potatoes

* Frozen greens such as spinach – no washing or chopping.

* minced (ground) meat or prechopped meat.

2. Avoid / Minimize the prep.

OK so if you do need to prep an ingredient, ask yourself ‘is there a way to avoid or minimize this prep?’

One of my biggest time and energy savers is that I don’t peel things. A quick scrub or rinse and my carrots, beets or spuds are good to go.

A bonus of this is the extra nutrients often found in or close to the skins. Plus less waste!

The only exception is onions. I’ve tried not peeling them and even in slow cooked dishes the papery skins remain, well, papery!

3. Use small pieces

The smaller the piece of food, generally the quicker it will cook. So sometimes if I’m in a hurry, I’ll spend a few extra minutes chopping my meat or veg into bite sized pieces so I save time in the cooking process.

Other favourites options here are to use minced (or ground) meat or to ‘bash’ out my meat or chicken into thinner pieces so it gets tenderized and cooks quicker.

4. Try ‘Un-cooking’

Un-cooking? Huh?

Not all meals need heat to be delicious.

Especially in the warmer months, think of ways to toss together a salad using raw or precooked ingredients instead of having to cook.

5. Pan Frying

The closer you are to the heat, the quicker things cook. We’re talking physics here but don’t be afraid. Food science can be your secret weapon. Check out the recipes in module 4 – a flash in the pan for loads of minimal effort examples.

6. Stir Frying

Similar to pan frying but worthy of a special mention because rather than letting the food sit and turning, you’re keeping it on the move.

7. Roasting

Cooking food in the oven is a favourite of mine because you don’t need to constantly keep an eye on it. I love the concept of ‘doing other things while dinner makes itself‘ and am really excited about sharing the recipes in this module which all fit that description.

If you work away from home, a slow cooker with a timer can be a good, safe alternative. And you might like to checkout the ‘slow’ cooking short course here at the SVCS.

But personally I prefer the flavour of food cooked in the oven.

8. Bulk it.

It’s not very often that doubling or even tripling a recipe will take double or triple the amount of time. It’s usually only a tiny bit of extra work for a LOT of benefit.

If you only take away one technique from this training, this it the one to keep. I’m always on the lookout for ways to cook in bulk because I know how much time and effort it saves down the track.

What Next?

It’s ‘homework’ time!

Do you have a ‘guilty’ kitchen equipment obession? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

I read and respond to ALL the comments. I really want to hear from YOU!

Module 3. Recipes
DO OTHER THINGS WHILE DINNER COOKS ITSELF

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Stone June 15, 2017

I couldn’t agree with you more about most of these items. I use my microwave for reheating leftovers (I cook for two and often use 4-serving recipes). I do have a set of pots & pans, and use all of them. I also have 2 reamers and 2 other lemon squeezers – I use all of them regularly. About the rice cooker, cooking rice on the stove top is so easy, I see no point in having a rice cooker. I think we have to evaluate the list based on what we use and how much space we have (or don’t have).

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jules June 22, 2017

Thanks for sharing Susan!

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Tangela Hogue November 8, 2015

I like your audio AND text option. I opened 2 windows, one for audio and one for reading – and then I listen to you while reading the material. That works for me. (btw, I also use closed caption on Netflix – I just “get it” better when I can read along as I tend to listen “slow” but read fast.) Thanks!

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jules November 12, 2015

Thanks for sharing Tangela! So glad both options help you 🙂

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