Cooking healthy, simple food brings people together. For me, cooking doesn't have to be an elaborate, time-consuming chore. As a foodie, I want to cook and eat delicious food, but I may not always want to spend hours putting a meal together. That's why it's important to spend time where it matters to get the best results and flavours... and it helps to know a few tricks too! Here are my top eight tips for simple, healthy cooking.
I like to use fresh ingredients when I can. That's one rule that works almost everywhere in the kitchen. With fresh ingredients, you simply get a better flavour, even if it means you have to put in a little more effort or pay a little more. For instance, when I drink coffee, I grind the beans myself. It makes a difference!
Prepare things well and you'll get the most impact out of them. But feel free to use shortcuts to accomplish this! For example, when I use garlic, I throw the cloves in a hand blender, which saves time but gets the most juice and flavour out of it. Just make sure you're not sacrificing quality for the sake of saving a few minutes. (And don't buy the garlic in a jar - that's one example of a terrible shortcut!)
Except for some spices like cumin, which I find enjoys time in the pan with the other ingredients, I like to add spices and herbs right at the end of cooking because the flavour experience is raw and gives you more of a kick. Try adding sumac on top of lettuce and tomatoes that have been doused in olive oil just before serving. It’s like sprinkling fresh lemon juice on top!
Everybody knows salads are easy and healthy, but you've got to make them appetizing or nobody will want to eat them. I drown my simple salads with a peppery, premium quality Italian extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
Sometimes, the fewer ingredients, the better. Quality makes much more of a difference than quantity (that's why I care so much about premium spices). When you employ simplicity in the kitchen, you can taste the flavours of each unique ingredient. Sometimes, when you add too many things to a dish, their individual flavours can become muddled and less impactful.
This is one of my mother's cooking secrets. Acidity plays a huge part in flavour and it can enhance the taste of many foods. It's often used to help cut the fat and richness of a dish to give it more balance. The combination of garlic, vinegar, and lemon juice will give your sauces and soups so much more depth, nuance, and flavour. Trust me.
Miso mixed with soy sauce is an incredible flavour enhancer, and it gives a balancing sweetness and saltiness to any bland dish. These fermented products are packed with that incredible umami flavour. You can also try blending rice vinegar and sesame oil together for an amazing salad dressing. If you don't already cook with these sorts of ingredients, get out of your comfort zone and try them! They elevate even the most basic ingredients.
Stuck for ideas and need something simple and healthy? Chop up some spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and halloumi cheese, and mix that all together with some cooked bulgar wheat. This whole grain salad might remind you a little of tabbouleh. It's quick, easy, and full of flavour!
Since it's Global Entrepreneurship Week, I thought I'd explain exactly how the idea for Zest & Zing came about. I learned to cook some years ago back when I was living in France simply because I was so inspired by the quality of the truly fresh produce available there...