Taking the stress out of meals

I've previously written about eating and cooking during a flare-up and my last post was about foods to avoid, which got me thinking – even as a fairly competent cook, the stress of the kitchen can often get to me, especially when my psoriasis is mid flare-up. I have been lucky enough over the years to be invited into professional kitchens which has taught me a few things on how to prepare meals without the stress.

Don’t stretch yourself

You need to know your limits. Whilst I will always say it’s good to cook something new, don’t make a flare up the time you decide to experiment in the kitchen. Go for something tried and tested and maybe just add a twist to it, add a few squashed garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary to your roast potatoes. It doesn't change the cooking times and there’s no special skill required.

It also helps to keep things simple and let the ingredients do the talking. Source good quality ingredients and if you know the ingredients are good to start with, it adds confidence. I have sourced a great local and cost-effective butcher and enjoy a walk to the market every weekend for all my vegetable needs.

Good quality ingredients starts you on the right foot for a stunning meal.

Preparation

Every chef I have had the pleasure to work with tells me this: preparation is the key. I have lots of small dishes to put my chopped veg, spices and other ingredients in and, thinking of Christmas coming up, this is so important. Get everything ready before you start cooking! Obviously, you can have the turkey in while you’re doing everything else, but even then, I would advise to prepare everything the day before.

Potatoes can be peeled and par boiled, put in a roasting tray with goose fat (or other fat/oil of your choice), covered and left in the fridge until they need to go in the oven. All your other veg can be peeled and left in water overnight too. Leave yourself very little to do when it comes to cooking.

Any small ingredients, chopped herbs, spices etc. – get these portioned out into small bowls so all you have to do is add them in and you’re not searching the cupboards at a key point.

Slow cooking

I find there is no better stress free meal than a slow cooked meal. It’s so easy. You can go rustic too by roughly chopping veg and meat, putting it in a pot and letting it cook away for hours. No standing over the stove and if you use the right cut of meat then it’s unlikely you’ll overcook it.

Lamb stew

I love cooking lamb this way, especially lamb shanks and to prove how difficult it is to overcook, I left them in the oven longer than planned. The meat had almost fallen off the bone and so instead of serving up lamb shanks on the bone, we ended up with a very tasty lamb stew.

The great thing with this was the amount of gravy left over, which can be frozen and used for a shepherd’s pie or added to another red meat dish – stress free and frugal. Keeping it simple, I boiled some new potatoes and used my next tip…

Steaming

I bought a steamer years ago and it is very handy to have your veg cooking away in there out of the way. The one I have has three levels, so I can put quite a bit of veg in there, useful for Christmas Dinner! Steamed veg is also very good for you as it doesn't lose too much of its goodness, which happens when you boil vegetables. I find most veg tastes better this way too.

I still managed to makes things look nice by choosing a green cauliflower. The shape and look of the cauli is different and dresses the dish up a little – the good news is that it is a great-tasting vegetable, which links back nicely to what I said earlier about sourcing good quality ingredients.

Steamed vegetables

Timing

This comes hand-in-hand with preparation. If it helps, write down how long each element takes to cook and set alarms on your oven, phone or just make a note of the time. Thinking of Christmas Dinner, you can leave your turkey resting for about an hour if you put some foil over it to keep the warmth in. I would roast potatoes for about an hour in quite a high oven and I know most of the veg will take 15 to 20 minutes to steam. So it is turkey out, potatoes in and 40 minutes later, the veg goes on, which leaves plenty of time to make your gravy. Everything is then ready to serve up.

I hope this helps to relieve some of the stress of the kitchen for you. If you take out the stress, you will enjoy cooking more and the results will be better. If you’re enjoying yourself you may also find that psoriasis has left your mind for a while too!

UK/IE 2013/00058g; Date of preparation: October 2015

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