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I have to admit that I’m somewhat saddened when I hear people complaining about how they just have no time to cook and therefore rely on frozen and fast food.
I can understand having to resort to this once or twice a week when your schedule gets particularly hectic. Hell, even I’m partial to some decent takeaway fish and chips or wood-fired pizza. But I just can’t imagine existing on nothing but food that others have prepared for me.
One of the reasons for this might be the fact that in our family, the matriarchs have always prided themselves on cooking from scratch. Stemming from a combination of growing up in post-war Korea and coming from agricultural backgrounds, the only “fast food” that existed were those dishes that they had carefully prepared beforehand with this in mind.
In fact, my paternal grandmother continued making her own “songpyon” (a type of sweet Korean rice cakes served in cultural ceremonies) into her 80s, her knobbled and arthritic fingers deftly working their way around the rice dough.
When it comes to homemade, there really is no such thing as “fast”. Even the simplest sandwich takes a few minutes to prepare – and that’s just if you happen to have all your ingredients ready to go in the kitchen! But a little thought and planning means that you can have a fast, fresh and tasty meal available in the same time that it takes for you to actually go and get a takeaway meal.
Let’s take the humble burger, for example.
Sure, you can go all gourmet and get marble score 5 Wagyu beef and hand-grind it with your Kitchenaid attachment, making your own brioche rolls and even condiments…
but let’s be honest for a minute and admit that the average full-time worker or student just hasn’t got the time or energy to go to that effort on a regular basis.
No, I’m taking about a simple, tasty, no-frills burger. Good quality lean beef mince from the local butcher, fresh, crusty wholewheat buns from the bakery, a couple of veggies and a pickle to boot.
This sort of burger won’t win any Michelin stars, but it’ll feed a family of 5 quickly and with very little fuss.
You see, homemade burgers are one of the “trashy” food items that our entire family will enjoy, but in order to make sure that I can actually sit down to the meal with everyone and don’t stay stuck in the kitchen, I need to make sure that I have everything ready to go.
This usually means a checklist the night before to make sure that I have everything that’s needed, as well as spending about 30 minutes to an hour in the kitchen preparing the burger patties. The instructions are below, but basically you can make them whenever you have a quiet moment (I like to do it on a quiet weeknight as I sit down to zone out with a TV show on the idiot box), they can stay in your freezer for up to a month once they’re tightly wrapped in cling film.
Just transfer them from the freezer to the fridge the night before you want to serve them, then the next day you’ll be able to cook up and assemble your burgers in a veritable flash!
At the very least, enough preparation will mean that these don’t take any longer than having to go get it from your local burger chain
600g good quality lean beef, minced (ask your butcher to mince it for you)
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves
1 large egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
Serving suggestions (just to get you started!)
Capsicum (fresh or roasted)
1.Mix together the mince with the onion, egg, breadcrumbs and spices and bring it all together till well combined.
2. Using your hands or one of these AWESOME burger shaping tools, shape out your patties and set them aside on some non-stick baking paper.
3. Once they’re laid out, you can store them in an airtight container if they’re all going to be used the next day…but if not, then it’s very easy to freeze them into single portions. Cut a length of plastic wrap, and wrap the patties either individually or in pairs, making sure they do not touch so they can be removed easily later.
HINT: Poke them in the middle with your knuckle before freezing or cooking them. This will stop them from “bunching up” in the middle as they cook and keep them nice and flat.
4. Once the burger patties are tightly wrapped, they can be frozen and stored for up to a month! Whenever you need them, either defrost overnight or in the microwave, then cook in a frying pan with a splash of oil.
TIP: The best way to cook burgers is on a grill, but failing that they can be done to perfection on a cast iron frying pan over low heat. Only flip them once, and place the cheese on them about 3-4 minutes before they’re ready to come off the pan!
So what short cuts do you like to use in your own kitchen to cut down on cooking time? Do you have any tried and tested methods which make weekday meal preparation a breeze?
On a final note, in case you missed the link at the top of the post – my blog has been nominated for a 2011 Blogster Award from Pedestrian TV If you’ve enjoyed my haphazard writing or the recipes that I’ve published then please take the time to click the link and vote for your one and only Kitchen Wench