Sometimes people are too scared to stop and start something new

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Sometimes people are too scared to stop what they’re doing and start something new. They stress about how much extra time it will take to start over, or about the waste of time, or the waste of resources/ingredients. They stress over making a bad dish saveable but maybe they should take the leap and scrap it and start over.

But starting over takes courage.

While I’ve been watching Masterchef over the last month or so I’ve noticed that there are not too many contestants that are willing to make this leap, preferring to keep the middle ground, and trying their hardest to keep the dish from getting them into elimination. A few succeeded, a few didn’t. Most felt they could have done a better job.

But there has been two instances that are worth mentioning here. Around the beginning of the show Amy burnt her curry and had to start over, so her beef curry became a fish curry instead because she knew she couldn’t start the beef curry again in the time she had. For Amy it worked, and she developed confidence from it. For Sean, it didn’t work so well as his attempts at a pasta dough were dismal, and he turned the dough into a flatbread instead. It was creative thinking but it just wasn’t the type of meal where a flatbread worked and he was eliminated because of it. But he took the chance.

Sometimes you just have to take that chance too.

Sometimes it will pay off, other times it won’t. But you will have learnt a hell of a lot from that one experience. Imagine if you did it all the time? You’d have a lot of learning under your belt and you’d become a better home cook for it. And that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t have a mysterious journey into better cooking, I just started over and learnt new ways of cooking and learnt a hell of a lot about my own confidence in the process. And an added bonus is that my hubby is picking things up along the way as well!

So I’m thinking that we all need a collection of fast recipes that can be used for those times when things aren’t going our way, or when we’re in a Masterchef or My Kitchen Rules challenge. But they can’t just be fast, they have to show our creativity and some skill. And of course they need to be delicious.

So, which recipes could fall into this category?


Here’s what I’m thinking.

Beef salad (or a version of):
Cook beef, or change your protein to whatever you like, but if you can cook it well and slice the meat thinly, and give it a good flavour, then you’re set. Get creative and think differently about the vegetables for your salad. For instance:
  • Steam vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus or Chinese vegetables.
  • Dry roast some nuts or even caramalise them before adding them to a salad.
  • Dried fruit can be used too (Moroccan has a lot of fruit with meat so check out some Moroccan recipes for inspiration).
  • Don’t forget there are a myriad of soft cheeses you can add too (think goats cheese, feta, ricotta (try it baked), bocconcini and mozzarella, Brie and Camembert, etc). 
    This beautiful haloumi salad has candied (caramelised) walnuts in it. Yum!
  • Chop or eat raw vegetables you would usually eat as a whole (like finely slicing Brussels sprouts and using them as a coleslaw type salad rather than as their whole selves like we’re usually offered them).

Grilled fish:

  • It usually takes longer to defrost the fish than it does to cook it so if you buy fresh fish then you’re streets ahead already. You can fry the fish in a pan with butter and some spices and create any one of a hundred different meals by changing the spice mix each time.
  • Or grill a fillet as is and make it a crispy skin sensation (just like they do on Masterchef). It’s not as hard to do as you might imagine. Just keep the fish skin side down for most of the cooking before turning it over just a few minutes before the fish is fully cook. 
  • Stuff a whole fish with lemons and spices or even couscous and you’ve got something equally delicious yet fast and tasty. Couscous takes no time to cook and the whole fish probably won’t take more than 20 minutes in the oven (depending on size). 

Here’s my whole fish, which is stuffed with couscous and spices.
  • Cut the fish into pieces and make a fish curry or put chunks onto a stick and make fish and vegetable kebabs. Add some salad and you’ve got a meal in minutes on this one.

Salmon kebabs – easy and good looking too!

Tinned lentils/beans/chickpeas
  • Tinned pulses are fantastic because you don’t need to do any of the hard work. Always have a tin in the cupboard for moments like this where you need to start over.
  • Jazz up your rice with some cinnamon and kidney beans for a Jamaican inspired side dish with chicken. Or add red lentils and some Middle Eastern inspired spices to the rice instead and serve it with fish.
  • Add drained lentils to salads to make it a healthier and heartier meal and to add a little variety to your standard salads.
  • A can of chickpeas or a can of four bean mix can be turned into vegetarian burger patties with the addition of a few ingredients and almost no effort if you use your food processor. Check out Jamie Oliver’s Happy Cow Burgers.
So, are you going to be brave and start over next time?

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