Cooking at home is so often a stressful and expensive activity, but Breville strongly believes that it doesn’t have to be, and that great home cooking is also about having fun in the kitchen. With a bit of organisation and planning everyone can enjoy getting stuck into making fantastic meals at home without too much hassle. Here we can offer some top tips to help make your home cooking a success.
Instead of buying expensive ready meals, there are many simple ways that you can speed up the preparation of home cooking to make it both enjoyable, save you money and produce delicious results.
- Plan and make meals in advance: Fill the freezer with soups, stews and curries. Our tasty recipes for Sausage Casserole, Chicken with Pancetta and Basic Ragu are all perfect for making a large batch and then freezing.
- Buy cheaper cuts of meat and then cook them in some wine or stock in a slow cooker or alternatively in a casserole dish in a very low oven setting. The meat will be extremely tender and full of flavour.
- Use your leftovers. Instead of feeding the bin, try turning cooked vegetables and meat bones into soups and stocks; cooked meat into pies and risottos; and left over bread into bread and butter pudding or croutons.
- Try to have a “no shop” meal, where you make something from the ingredients left in your cupboards. Meals like omelettes, rice dishes, potato bakes and pasta can all be created from leftovers and store cupboard ingredients.
- Keep a track of what is in your cupboard. Many people buy something and then it goes unseen and unused until it is spoiled and then it has to be thrown away.
- Try freezing vegetables ready chopped. Things like peppers, onions and mushrooms can be put into bags and then thrown into a pan straight from the freezer for a quick stir fry.
Cooking at home will not seem worthwhile if you do not have the right equipment, and a lot of time and effort can be saved with a few extra kitchen essentials.
Having a well stocked store cupboard can enable you to turn a few basic ingredients into something special and takes the stress out of repeated shopping for every new dish.
The following list may seem a little daunting but remember you don’t have to buy these things all in one go; just contribute to your cupboard when you can. It will be economical in the long term as many of them have a long shelf life.
Here are a few suggestions that will help you build up your stores.
- Vegetable oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Olive Oil, Groundnut and Sesame Seed Oil
- Ground Coriander and Coriander Seeds, Medium Curry Powder, Ground Cumin and Cumin Seeds, Turmeric, Paprika, Garam Massala, Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, Cardamom Pods, Fenugreek, Cinnamon Sticks, Cloves, Nutmeg, Saffron, Chilli Powder, Cayenne Pepper.
- Dried Bay Leaves, Sage, Thyme, Mixed Italian Herbs
- Tomato Puree, Worcester sauce, Soy Sauce, Sweet Chilli Sauce, Tabasco, Tahini, Thai Fish Sauce.
- Mustard Powder, Dijon, Wholegrain, English Mustard
- Chicken, Beef and Vegetable Stock Cubes.
- Plain, Self Raising and Corn flour. Baking powder and Bicarbonate of Soda. Cocoa Powder (70% Cocoa). Vanilla and Almond Extracts.
- Granulated, Castor and Icing Sugar.
- White Wine, Red Wine and Balsamic Vinegar. Sherry
- Salt and Peppercorns with a pepper grinder.
- Canned Tomatoes, Red Kidney Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas.
- Pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, sesame seeds, dried fruits, ground almonds
- Dried spaghetti, pasta (tagliatelle, penne etc), lasagne sheets, couscous.
- Long grain, short grain, pudding rice and Arborio (Risotto) rice
- Sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, Chutneys, Honey, Jams
- Foil, cling film, greaseproof paper, baking parchment.
Frozen food maintains its freshness and its flavour, and allows you to cook a large batch of homemade food and use it as your own healthier and cheaper ready meal as and when you need it.
- Do not ever freeze food that isn’t fresh.
- Wait for food to be completely cooled before freezing as it will raise the temperature of the freezer.
- Always wrap the food well in cling film, freezer bags or store it in a plastic container to avoid tainting the other foods or developing freezer burn, which damages the flavour of the food.
- Things like cream, mayonnaise and milk are not always suitable for freezing as they can separate and curdle.
- Make sure your freezer is running at -18°C.
- If food has been frozen and then defrosted it shouldn’t be refrozen again whilst it is raw, however once it is cooked you can re-freeze it. Nevertheless when the cooked food is thawed you cannot refreeze it again.
- Chillies, fresh herbs and ginger all can be frozen and used when you need them. Try washing and chopping up the herbs and freezing them in ice cube trays.
- Fresh stock can reduced down until it is concentrated and then also stored in ice cube trays. When you need them just add to your dish and cook.
- If necessary, food should always be completely defrosted before it is heated. This is vital with raw meat and fish as when they are cooked they may never reach a safe temperature.
- Try to do one big shop. You don’t only save on travelling costs but the more shopping trips equals the more opportunities to buy items you don’t need.
- Plan your meals in advance and write shopping lists. This allows you time to pick the cheaper options and shop around for bargains. When you are planning what to cook in the supermarket you will be more likely to be distracted by what you are craving at the time.
- Many own brands are the same or similar to the more premium ranges, although they are cheaper. Try substituting a few named brands for cheaper options.
- Know your store. Each shop will have a specific day and time when they display reduced items that are nearing their best before date.
- Be supermarket savvy. Supermarkets are designed to make you spend money. More expensive brands will be positioned at eye level and what seems like a good offer may not always be the cheapest option. Remember an offer is only a good one if you need or can use the ingredients.
- When taking part in offers assess whether you will be able to use the product or whether it will have a long shelf life.
- Food that is beyond its best before date does not necessarily mean it is ruined, however use by dates relate to foods that are more likely to hold a higher microbial activity for example meat, dairy and fish.
- Paying attention to what is in season means that you will not be paying for food that has not travelled around the world and therefore will be less expensive. Seasonal spring foods are.
This is a must-have for any kitchen as it saves you considerable amounts of time, meaning you can get on with the cooking faster. It also means that you don’t have all those utensils to wash. With a food processor you can chop vegetables, nuts, herbs and fruit; whisk egg whites and cream; mix cakes, batters and dough’s, grate, slice, mince meat for burgers or meat balls; and crumble biscuits and breadcrumbs. You will wonder how you ever managed without one!
For any person wanting to create healthy and nutritious dishes, a blender is a necessity. Fruits and vegetables become meals in themselves when they are turned into smoothies and soups. A blender can also used to chop nuts for cakes and nut roasts, easily mixes dressings, sauces, dips and pesto; and makes creamy milkshakes.
There is nothing that creates more mess and work for you than transferring food around into another bowl in order to blend or puree it. With a hand blender the dish can be created in one bowl or pan and then blended or pureed straightaway. Perfect for soups, smoothies, sauces and milkshakes. A hand blender with a whisk and chopping attachment will make those food preparation jobs even simpler.
Bread is always a staple of most people’s diets and we consume considerable amounts every day. Making your own bread can be cheaper as the cost of the ingredients is less than the equivalent price of the same amount of loaves it yields. Homemade bread has always been more delicious than store bought however the work that goes into it has been off putting. Owning a good bread maker means you can add the ingredients and then leave it to do the work. It will make white, brown, seeded, sweet, French and specialty.
When you are combining a busy day with a home cooked meal in the evening it can sometimes be a difficult and tiring task. However a slow cooker enables you to quickly prepare the meal in the morning and then let it cook slowly all day, so it is ready when you need it in the evening. Slow cooking can save you money as you can make a large batch of food and then freeze half for another meal. As cooking the meat slowly makes it incredibly tender you can use cheaper cuts of beef instead of more expensive varieties.
Steamers and Rice Cookers
Steamers have a wide variety of contributions to a modern kitchen. They allow for healthier cooking, as they do not cause so many of the vitamins and nutrients to be lost as in other cooking methods. They also allow meat and fish to be cooked free from oil. Due to their large capacity and layers, a whole meal can be prepared in the one appliance, saving you cleaning and cooking time.
Steaming is not only for the health conscious. It holds the flavour of the vegetables, cooks steamed sweet and savoury puddings, makes incredibly fluffy rice and allows for spices and herbs to infuse the other foods creating beautifully fragrant food.
Hand and Stand Mixer
Especially for those with the desire for creating sweet treats, a mixer is a must for whisking egg whites for meringues, whipping cream, making pancake batter, mixing cakes and sauces. A hand mixer allows for the dish to be mixed in whatever jug, bowl or pan it was made in. They are easy to clean and allow you a good deal of control over the amount of mixing.
Sometimes it is difficult to eat all the fruits and vegetables you know you should do. However by juicing them you can combine a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins from different foods into one glass. Try making thirst quenching drinks in the summer served over ice or juicing seasonal fruit and then heating it with some warming spices for those colder days.