The secret to stress-free cooking and an enjoyable time in the kitchen is organisation. For me, the most important rule is: Clean As You Go! The first step is to fill the sink with hot, soapy water. I can’t bear having dirty hands, so this is the easiest way to keep rinsing them off between handling ingredients, plus you can instantly wash those funny little items that don’t fit in the dishwasher or only need a rinse because they aren’t actually dirty. The ideal situation to be in once the food is cooking itself is to be stacking the last item in the dishwasher and wiping the surfaces clean. This also keeps the flies away. If you live in Kommetjie, it seems that the crayfishing season coincides with a huge leap in the fly population, the reason for which we draw our own conclusions but probably relates in large part to bait that gets dumped on the rocks or in public bins.
Once the sink is filled, assemble your ingredients. There is nothing worse than being halfway through a recipe and finding that the bottle of red wine that was in the back of the cupboard is no longer there, or that someone put the last of the parmesan on their potato the night before. Try to train your family to tell you when they use the last teabag or ate the nachos you were keeping for the Chilli Con Carne.
If you are anything like me, I buy ingredients that get put on a high shelf and forget about them, so that by the time I think of using them and have climbed the kitchen stepladder to find them, they are already 5 years out of date! This hasn’t happened so frequently of late, as I have become much better in this department, mainly because after a really thorough baboon raid through the kitchen, you have to throw everything out and start again!
Unless you are making baked goods, I have never found it necessary to worry with exact measures. If you use a teacup to measure with, just ensure that everything goes into the recipe via the same cup and not a mug halfway through. Experience will very quickly teach you how to estimate everything with your eye and a couple of spoons! I would rather err on the generous side, particularly when making a sauce, as these can reduce to nothing very quickly if you have your temperatures too high.
The final important things to have handy are: the refuse bin to dispose of waste as it occurs, and a container with a lid for the vegetable waste to be separated for the compost heap or the porcupine (if you have one!) as you prepare your vegetables.
Next time I will talk about the tools and utensils that I can’t do without.