If you’re an absolute slave to recipes, you’ll know just how amazing it would be to know how to cook without a recipe. When you’re a recipe slave, you end up with a heap of random ingredients. They either go off or languish in the back corner of your cupboard or fridge, making all this food waste. Or, you end up eating the saaame thing over and over again (because you don’t have time to learn 365 recipes to keep things different every night of the week).

To free yourself from this tyranny, we created a series on what’s truly worked on our own journey to feed ourselves like a total boss, rather than let recipes boss us around. And if you’d rather be trying this out with some mates, check out Cookluck Club!

Last post, we looked at how to tweak recipe ingredients, but being able to tweak the method can also make your cooking faster, taste better, healthier, and save energy and waste. Here are a few questions to ask of your recipe method to see where you can save some time.

Do you really have to boil it? In that much water?

Boiling water takes a lot of time and energy to heat (more than most substances). Then when you boil vegetables, you’re saying goodbye to a lot of flavour and nutrients which end up in the water (that usually then just gets poured down the drain, after you spent all that time and energy heating up). Unless you’re making a soup, or boiling pasta or carbs, you should always get your questioning face on if a recipe asks you to boil vegetables. Because really, you want to cook your food, not a heap of water that’s getting poured out anyway.

A faster alternative to boiling veggies

In a frypan or saucepan, add your veggies, and just enough water that it comes about 5mm up the side of the pan. Lid your pan, and heat until the veggies are cooked but still a little crunchy, adding water only if the pan dries out. Keep in mind your veggies will keep cooking a little even once they’re out of the pan, so it’s ok if they’re a teensy bit under cooked.

A faster way to get your dry pasta cooked

You really only need enough water to just immerse your pasta. Once it boils rapidly, add your pasta, put the lid on and slightly tilted, and turn the heat down to low. Stir every few minutes to minimise sticking.

Does everything need to be in such large chunks?

Whether you’re roasting, stir frying or *shudder* boiling, see if there are opportunities for you to cut your veggies smaller so they cook faster. This applies to curries or soups too. Plus, if you’re making a pureed soup, grate the veggies so you don’t have to simmer for ages.

Don’t forget meat too – instead of roasting a whole chicken, break it up into pieces to cook in the same time it takes to cook your veggies, and simply pop on top of the veggies, or nestle them.

Cooking faster

Does everything need to be cooked?

Often we associate certain ingredients with being cooked into submission – but often they can be pretty good raw. Pumpkin and lots of root vegetables like beetroot for example can be grated into a salad rather than roasted.

Does everything need to be cooked separately?

If your ingredients are all ending up on the same plate, there’s a good chance it can share a pan too. A classic example: if you’re boiling pasta or potatoes and you need to cook some veg, rather than cooking them in a separate pan, you can chuck your broccoli on top of your pasta in the last few minutes of cooking to half-boil, half-steam it.

Do you really have to peel it?

Most of the time, you don’t need to peel a vegetable or fruit for the end result to still taste good. The skins of most fruit and veg are also where most of the nutrients and fibre are too. Leaving them in your food is one of those rare, precious times where laziness is actually better for you! Sure, there are some recipes, like potato gnocchi, where you’ll probably want to peel your potatoes for your gnocchi to stay together. But if you’re making mash for example, just cut your potato into tiny cubes (bonus: tiny cubes also cook faster). Here are a few things to try with skins on:

  • root veges (like carrots, beetroot, or sweet potato) – especially if they’re cooked
  • roasted tomatoes or peppers
  • fruit in your baking

Do you really have to de-stem your herbs?

The answer entirely depends on how “woody” or tough the stems of your herbs are. If you can easily break the stem with your fingernails, there’s a good chance your teeth will be totally fine.

Bonus advice

  • Upcycling leftovers means half the work is done for you.
  • Make the most out of all your ingredients by eating the leaves, stalks, or skins, and you’ll save grocery trips for more ingredients.
  • If you’re cooking something time consuming but also versatile (eg. rice, large-shaped pasta, or roasted whole potatoes), cook 2-3 meals’ worth and you’ll be half way to dinner the next day without even trying.

What’s next?

Well, actually, this is the last post in our series! Now that you’re a pro at cooking with what you’ve got, why not save some time sourcing your veg by getting an Ooooby Sydney veggie and fruit box delivered? Ooooby supports local sustainable farmers (many of them organic), and provides whatever is actually growing on the farm, meaning you’re eating truly seasonally (a major plus for being able to cook with what you’ve got!). Use code OOOOBYFM and you’ll be supporting YFM’s work with every box you get delivered, which is pretty damn sweet.

Image credit: Nikki To, Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo is the National Communications Manager and will basically never shut up about vegetables.