The truth is I don’t ever cook with a recipe. Collecting new ingredients and precisely following instructions is a complete bore to me as I prefer to use what I have in the house and see how I go, this also makes it difficult to create precise meal plans for you, eternal apologises. My cravings dictate my meals and I always keep everything simple and for the most part economical.
Instead of feeling stressed & strained with my overloaded schedule I find a way to create nourishing meals that fit seamlessly into the day-to-day madness that is my life. The secret? A “no recipe” approach to assembling beautiful meals.
All you need is to set aside a few hours to shop every fortnight (and then prep your food in advance. (I proclaim Sunday morning as “kitchen day” – good coffee and music, washing and sorting my vegetables for the week). When you arrive home exhausted, hungry and ready to eat throughout the week, all your food is waiting for you to be thrown together into a bowl or layered on the latest sexy ceramic plate, I have my eye on these by Lune Ceramics. You’ll never have to wonder, “what’s for dinner” again and Deliveroo will be erased forever! Saving money is cool, especially living in Sydney. This is no joke.
It really is as simple as the steps below. Invest in 10-12 good quality stackable plastic containers with those click lids for airtight storage in 2 sizes (large size to fit whole raw vegetables and 1 for your prepared portioned vegetables) and 1L glass jars for making pickles and organising your grains and pulses. Every successful cook needs an organised kitchen.
When deciding how to prepare your vegetables write a list of the flavours and combo's you like this will help you decide swiftly what the menu will be. An example of this could be Broccoli with Miso Tahini and Toasted Sesame Seeds or Cauliflower with Lemon, Nigella Seeds and Mint. Its amazing how a list can do all the thinking for a tired brain (trust me, my daughter didn't sleep for longer than 3 hours in 2.5 years!).
Lay your vegetables out and decide what you are going to steam, saute, eat raw (grated or shaved) or roast. I always trim the ends of my greens and soak in the kitchen sink filled with cold water for a few hours, this brings them back to life and adds to their fridge life (realistically for me this happens on Sunday morning). Kale should be thoroughly dried before storing.
Here’s my simple guide to building balanced, nourishing and delicious meals that will be your saving grace:
Bowls are like the “little black dress” of meal planning. Your bowl is filled with staples like whole grains, protein, healthy fats and tons of vegetables and herbs. Then you add a few key “accessories” to spice it up and add a point of difference. My bowls tend to be based around a few firm favourites and I rotate cuisines so I'm never bored. One week might be Japanese, the next week might be Middle Eastern, the one after that modern Australian. Right now I'm happy with any type of noodles with tamari and sesame oil, bunches of greens and heavy on the shallots. I mostly never eat breakfast but have a super size me salad for lunch, this is sometimes eaten in a few sessions throughout the afternoon. In my fridge now I have two types of pickles - spanish onion + beetroot (bright purple) and turmeric, ginger + zucchini (iridescent yellow). Toasted sesame seeds and some kind of fermented chilli sauce make noodle slaying easy. Whatever the season brings having these handy helpers on hand makes cooking a breeze. Slice it up!
To make sure that the bowls are balanced in flavor, texture and nutrition, choose at least one ingredient from each category. (Bonus points for going heavy on the plants)
How to build a meal in a bowl : Fridge-to-face in 7 steps
Start with a base of Leafy Greens:
In Spring/Summer this could be raw spinach, iceberg, wild rocket, watercress, or cos lettuce. In Autumn/Winter it could be steamed or lightly sautéed kale, shredded brussels sprouts, swiss chard, mustard greens, bok choy, pea shoots or silver beet. Be generous!
Add unlimited raw, roasted, steamed or grilled Vegetables:
Carrots, capsicums, beets, roasted eggplant, asparagus, brussels, broccoli, cauliflower, bean sprouts, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, onion etc.
Incorporate a Grain or Starch:
Pearl barley, lentils, chia, amaranth, millet, kamut, black rice, freekeh, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, faro, buckwheat, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, soba (buckwheat) noodles, cous cous (Israeli is a favourite in our house) sometimes a few good old fashioned steamed kipfler potatoes make for a fulfilling alternative.
Miracle Supermarket at World Square is my go-to for noodle hunting. They have every type of fresh noodle and tofu and kim-chi in big tubs. Their selection of quality sushi rice and brown rice is also extensive.
Chickpeas, tofu, black beans, lentils, salmon, tuna, grilled or poached chicken (I like to marinate flattened thighs in tamari and quickly pan fry or grill), edamame, soft-boiled eggs (I sometimes boil half a dozen at a time to eat over a few days). Cheeses like Haloumi, Feta, Goats Cheese or Curd are also really great options to have in your fridge to satisfy those cheesy cravings and they are so versatile. A good quality Parmesan or Grana Padano is handy in Winter to shave over pumpkin or silver beet.
If you are feeling adventurous make some labneh, its easy, cheap and you can roll it into balls and preserve in olive oil. Here is a recipe!
Don't forget the healthy fats:
Seeds, nuts (soaking them for an hour or so in water and then drying and roasting them slowly in the oven will help your body digest all the goodness found in them), avocado, drizzle of pumpkin, coconut, hazelnut or extra virgin olive oil - preferably cold pressed.
Top it off with a dressing or sauce:
Hummus, lemon/lime squeeze & olive oil, black or white tahini, salsa, pesto, miso ginger sauce, tamari. Check these recipes.
Extra points for some nutritional boosts:
Fresh herbs, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, seaweed, lacto fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, pickles, nigella seeds, bonito, wakame, mung bean sprouts, anything sprouted is good for you but just like everything else only in moderation.
This is healthy eating in a nutshell. Once you figure out what it is you like and you start creating positive habits (like buying a bounty from us every week!) you will have your wholefoods culinary repertoire down pat in no time. Promise!
I'm also a massive fan of dhals and fresh curries. I love using spices and couldn't live without ginger. Curries are also a perfect way to clean out your fridge. I always make big batches to freeze and make my own stock (mostly chicken but I also like to make pork for fresh pho). I get all my bones from Handlers Wholesale Butcher in Rushcutters Bay.