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Speedy Suppers - Speedy Suppers

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

Speedy Suppers

Time is everything, especially when you are home late from work, or cooking for a family. Preparing something quick shouldn’t mean it’s not tasty, good food—simply choose cuts of meat and fish that require little attention and minimal cooking. Along with some quick-prep vegetables, you can have a meal made from scratch in minutes.


Psst…

To speed things up in the kitchen, marinate your meat the night before cooking. Even a simple combination of olive oil and lemon juice will add that extra edge to your dish. Always remember to season your meat, too.


Keeping meat fresh

Look at the color of the flesh, as this is the best indication of freshness. It should be bright, and have no odor at all. It’s important to be careful when storing raw meat, in order to avoid food poisoning. Keep it well sealed so that it doesn’t drip, either securely wrapped in plastic wrap or in a sealed container, and store it in the bottom of the refrigerator, away from other foods, particularly cooked meats. Use before the use-by date.


Keeping fish fresh

Look for fish that is ultra fresh. The flesh should be firm, and it should have no “fishy” smell. Ideally use fish on the day of purchase, but it will store in the refrigerator for 1–2 days, depending on its sell-by date. Wrap in foil or wax paper, and store away from other foods in the refrigerator.


Quick-cook veg

Low maintenance vegetables, like the ones listed here, add flavor, color, and texture.


Peas

Cook fresh from the pod, or cook from frozen, for about 3 minutes. Mix with fresh mint, tarragon, or chives before serving. Shelled fresh peas are also great raw, in salads.


Spinach

Baby or young spinach can be eaten raw, tossed with other vegetables such as scallions and radishes. Older spinach should be cooked for a minute or two in a pan, with a little water, or steamed. Try seasoning with nutmeg, or stir-frying with garlic.


Broccoli

Versatile, and available all year round, broccoli responds well to high heat and quick cooking such as stir-frying, or it can be cooked for a few minutes in boiling salted water, or steamed. Try purple sprouting broccoli when it’s in season.


Mushrooms

Available in several varieties, from the button mushroom to the earthy crimini mushroom, which adds depth of flavor to a dish. Slice, chop, or grate, and serve raw, or cook in a little melted butter.


Carrots

Extremely good value, and full of vitamins. Can be eaten raw, if peeled and sliced or grated, in a salad. To cook, sauté in a little melted butter, or steam.


Asparagus

A delicious spring vegetable that livens up any dish. It’s delicate, though, and can easily be overcooked. Trim, toss in oil, season, and cook in a hot frying pan; or steam for 4 minutes.


Beans

All beans, from French to fava beans, can be cooked quickly in a pan of boiling salted water (or steamed) for 3–4 minutes. Delicious served alone, or tossed with a piquant dressing.


Zucchini

These require no peeling. Just trim the ends, and slice or dice. They are best pan-fried in a little olive oil, salt and black pepper, and cooked until they soften and turn golden.


Leeks

A member of the onion family, with a more subtle taste. Cut off the root end and trim away the outer leaves, and wash well . To cook, slice thinly and pan-fry in a little olive oil or butter until soft.


Fennel

This vegetable has a slight anise-like taste that complements fish well. It can be shredded and eaten raw, or sliced/quartered, tossed in olive oil, and cooked in a hot frying pan, or under a hot broiler.


Speedy cooking

Four essential quick cooking methods.


Pan-fry

This quick cooking method is best suited to lean cuts of meat, fish, or tender vegetables. We’ve used a fish fillet here because it best illustrates the technique. With meat and vegetables, follow the same basic steps. Use a shallow frying pan, preferably non-stick, and a little oil or butter.

Pat two fish fillets dry with paper towels, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat 11/2 teaspoons of olive oil or sunflower oil in a nonstick frying pan until hot, but not smoking. Carefully add the fish, skin-side down, and leave to cook for 2–3 minutes, depending on thickness .

Turn the fish over using a metal spatula, and cook the other side for another 2–3 minutes, or longer if the fish fillet is thick. Keep the heat at medium-high.

Turn the fish over again, to serve. It should be an even golden color. To check if the fish is cooked, use a fork or knife to gently move the flesh away from the bone down the middle at the thickest part; if cooked, it will come away with ease.


Stir-fry

Stir-frying is a quick and healthy cooking method, and can be used to cook meat and fish, as well as vegetables (demonstrated here): in all cases, chop your ingredients to the same size, keep the heat high, stir constantly, and use very little oil. If you don’t have a wok, use a large frying pan.

When stir-frying, you need to prepare everything ahead of time, so it can be added to the pan in an instant. If you prepare as you go, the time between adding ingredients will mean those already cooking in the pan will cook for too long. Slice or dice your vegetables to a similar size, and thinly slice the chile, fresh ginger, and garlic (if using).

Heat the wok over medium-high heat, then add 11/2 teaspoons of vegetable or sunflower oil. Heat until hot and sizzling. Add the spices first, and stir-fry vigorously for a minute, making sure they don’t brown. If you want to add meat or seafood to your stir-fry, add it to the pan now.

Add the vegetables in order of firmness (firmest first), adding the garlic last, as it burns easily. Continue stirring all the time so the vegetables don’t stick to the wok, and burn. Stir-fry for 4–5 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked. Season well, and serve immediately.


Grill

This is a fast and low-fat cooking method. Use a heavy ridged cast-iron pan (this type of pan gets very hot), and add oil to the ingredient, not the pan. Grill vegetables and meaty fish using this technique (demonstrated here with pork), brushing with oil before adding to the pan.

Brush 2–3 pork steaks with a little olive oil, and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Retain the fat on the meat, as this will add flavor when cooking. You can always remove it before eating.

Heat the grill pan on high heat until it’s very hot and begins to smoke. Add the oiled pork steaks, leaving room between them in the pan, and cook undisturbed for 2–3 minutes, depending on thickness .

Once the underside is cooked it will move freely when you try to turn it over. Turn it, and cook the other side for 2–3 minutes, depending on thickness, until it is golden and cooked through. Pierce with a sharp knife, and if no pink is visible, it is cooked through. Let it rest for a couple of minutes before serving.


Broiler

The fierce direct heat of the broiler is a fast way of cooking, and is particularly healthy, as there is no addition of oil, unless it is added to the ingredient. For meat and fish, follow steps 1 and 2, and make sure they are cooked through before removing from the broiler.

Line the broiler pan with aluminum foil, then replace the wire rack. Turn the broiler to high. Brush the peppers evenly with olive oil, and sit them on the rack.

Cook the peppers under the hot broiler for 5–8 minutes, until they begin to blacken slightly, and the skin starts to blister. Carefully turn, and cook for another 5–8 minutes, until blistered all over.

Remove the peppers from the heat and put them in a plastic bag. Seal, and leave to cool. The steam will help the removal of the skins. To prepare, remove the peppers from the bag, pull away the stem, remove the seeds, and peel away the skin.

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