1. Shop even smarter
Sorry prepared veggies, there’s a new time-saver in town. You already know that buying pre-washed and pre-chopped veggies is a surefire way to speed things up, but reach even new heights of efficiency with Woolies’ new range of fresh sauces. With products such as spicy tomato sauce and fresh béchamel sauce, you’ll have a delicious dinner on the table in even less time. Use the sauce for quick pastas, hearty casseroles, a fiery shakshuka or combine them in the ultimate warming lasagne. No one will know you didn’t make it from scratch.
2. Cut down on prep time
There’s often no need to peel veggies, and sometimes there’s even no need to do the prep yourself. Peeled baby carrots and sweet potatoes are prime candidates. Ottolenghi purportedly no longer peels butternut – and neither, it seems, does Abigail! Simply roast in the skins with the seeds, or pick up some ready-chopped butternut instead. If you’re making a smooth mash you might want to peel potatoes. If you do this, save the peelings in a bowl of water overnight. The next day, pat them dry and make oven chips.
3. Invest in good gadgets
- The most important thing you can invest in to save time is a good knife. Buy just one good knife, and keep it sharp. That will speed up chopping, and make it a whole lot more pleasant, too!
- You can also use a grater or mandoline to speed up chopping and ensure that pieces are the same size, which ensures even cooking.
- The microwave is your friend. Use it to par-cook potatoes, or speed up the cooking time on other veggies.
- A Nutribullet is amazing for making dressings and pastes and keeping vibrant colour.
- A food processor is better for chopping more chunky items. You can even chop onions in there. Bonus: no tears!
- A julienne peeler is great for Asian salads and slaws.
- Rice pots and instant pots are great for hands-off rice. Abigail swears by her Instant Pot!
4. Cut down on stirring time
“I’m a massive fan of roasting,” says Hannah Lewry. While your oven builds flavour, you can get on with other tasks, without having to worry about stirring a pot. For example, make a roast tomato sauce in the oven, and use for Bolognese or pasta sauce. Here’s a smart oven-roast tomato sauce recipe.
5. Speed up cooking times
Crank up the heat to help caramelisation, and chop veggies smaller to shorten the roasting time. Spatchcock chicken will cook faster than a normal bird and here’s a quick guide to spatchcocking a chicken yourself! As with readymade soups and sauces, we also won’t ever judge you for picking up a pre-spatchcocked chicken, but you could also buy chicken portions.
6. Keep it clean
- Keep a bowl on the counter to collect food scraps and veggie peelings, to keep your workspace tidy and cut down on all those short trips to the bin.
- Clean as you go! Keep hot water and soap in the sink to wash items as you go, that way, you won’t have clutter slowing you down, and cleaning up later will be a much less onerous task.
- If gets food stuck on your griddle pan, a fast way to clean it is to put it back on the heat with water and washing up liquid. The food will lift off and make cleaning much easier.
7. Go readymade, but add garnishes to make special
There’s no shame in buying a readymade soup or ready meal if you’re in a rush. But if you want to keep things interesting, add your own garnishes. Or, use quality readymade components to speed things up to a finished result that still feel homemade. Some of our favourites are:
- Chilli oil: buy it or make your own. To make your own, heat ¼ cup neutral oil or cooking olive oil, remove from the heat and add garlic (optional) then add ½t paprika, and chilli flakes, to taste. Great on baked chickpeas or on readymade soup.
- Pickled red onion
- Readymade basil pesto and red pepper pesto, to add quick flavour or start the base of a tomato sauce
- Crushed roasted salted peanuts (great over Asian dishes)
- Crispy onion bits
- Fresh herbs: chop and sprinkle over salad, stir through corn or over soup, to take it up a notch
- Cheese is always great – grate a generous amount over the final dish to serve.
- Add a toasted wrap and anything becomes a meal
- A swirl of olive oil also makes everything look that bit more considered.
8. Cook once, eat twice
Making polenta? Make a double batch. Allow half to set and cut into chips to fry and eat another night. The same goes for Bolognese, stew, soup and curry – all of which only improve by being left in the fridge or freezer. Doubling up on cheese sauce is also a great idea, as you can toss cooked pasta through it or use it top savoury bakes for a speedy dinner, or spoon it over grilled bread to make fancy toast.
Hannah’s ideas for fast suppers
Buy a cube of crushed garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric from Woolies and fry that in a pot. Throw in good quality chicken stock, chopped chicken breasts, and some chopped veg. Once cooked, top with Woolies crispy onion sprinkles, and finish with a squeeze of lemon. Alternatively make a veggie version, with vegetable stock, tofu or miso-fried brinjals and noodles.
Fried eggs on good quality bread. Fry the eggs in chilli oil to make them a little bit special
Make an omelette as normal, but stir in chopped spring onions, herbs, grated baby marrow and baby spinach before cooking. Add feta and fold over.
Top with tomatoes and Worcester sauce and heat under the grill. Bonus points if you use cheese sauce saved from the night before.
Puttanesca-baked fish – anchovies add instant salt, capers add acidity. Fry them with chilli and garlic, add tomato sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes. Throw in frozen hake fillets. Grate Parmesan on top. Here’s a recipe, if you want more details! Looking for something even faster? Use a storebough tomato sauce instead.
Sausage bean bake
This sausage recipe is a team favourite! You could also make this a vegetarian version with cream, garlic and onion or coconut milk. Serve with roti or toast.
Heat Woolies readymade Peri-peri sauce, shred leftover cooked chicken into it. Fry some baby marrow and baby spinach and serve with lemon juice and olive oil on the side.
Quick sweet potato mash
Leave the skins on and roast. Mash with crème fraîche and lime zest.
Looking for more inspiration for bechamel sauce? Find 5 of our favourite recipes using it here.
There’s no shame in picking up quality prepared products to help speed things along – especially when they’re made just as well as you would at home. Spare your sanity and be sure to pop these into your shopping basket the next time you’re dashing through the shops.