Set up for success
Maša Ofei shares her winning tips on how to set up your kitchen and create a routine that will support and sustain your plant-based lifestyle.
One of the best ways to upgrade your wellbeing is through healthy plant-based cooking at home. If you want to make cooking quick and effortless, you’ll need to set up your kitchen and create a routine to support this. Here’s how to become a confident cook, without the chaos.
ESSENTIAL APPLIANCES ONLY
While it’s essential to have the right cooking tools, owning too many appliances can really clutter up your space and make cooking more of a challenge. Most of us only need a small selection of essential tools to make food preparation effortless.
Good quality knives – a small paring knife for peeling and cutting, a medium-sized chef’s knife for chopping vegetables, and a bread knife for slicing fresh sourdough is enough for most cooks.
Wooden chopping board – one small and one large will do the trick.
Cast iron frying pan – also known as a skillet, this is the pan you’ll use for almost everything, whether frying tofu, sautéing greens, cooking falafels, or flipping pancakes.
Heavy base pots – you’ll use these almost every day to cook stews, curries, soups, grains, beans or for heating up leftovers.
Baking trays and dishes – how many and what sizes will depend on what you plan to bake. A baking tray, a loaf tin, and a large baking dish will cover the basics.
Food processor – this is easily the most versatile kitchen tool. You can use it for easy chopping, grating, whisking, blending, beating, and more.
High-speed blender – a decent high-speed blender is a must if you want silky smooth smoothies, sauces, raw cakes, or nut milks.
Mixing bowls – these will be the first thing you pull out of the cupboard whether you’re baking a cake or making a salad. Two bowls of different sizes will be plenty to start with.
Measuring tools – if you want to follow recipes accurately, you’ll need a set of measuring spoons and cups, and possibly kitchen scales. Baking recipes in particular need to be precisely weighed out.
Utensils – you’ll need mixing spoons, serving utensils, and silicone spatulas for mixing up, plating up, or getting every last bit of goodness out of the blender.
Metal strainer – make draining and straining a clean simple process with one of these. They’re also useful for sifting ingredients.
Salad spinner – this makes washing and drying salad and other leafy greens a breeze.
STOCK THAT PANTRY
A well-stocked vegan-friendly pantry will be the foundation of many future kitchen triumphs. It can be the difference between being able to quickly put together a delicious meal, or not.
Let’s say you haven’t had time to go shopping (it happens to the best of us!). You open the fridge and all you find is a capsicum and a head of broccoli staring blankly back at you. If your pantry is bare, you’re likely to call for a take-away at this point. But, with a few pantry essentials, you can create a delicious meal in no time. For example, you could stir-fry the vegetables in tamari sauce, add some noodles and cashews, and voila! Alternatively, you could blitz up a vegan ‘cheese’ sauce to create cheesy baked broccoli or perhaps you could stuff the capsicums with rice, broccoli, chickpeas, and spices. You get the idea. You want your pantry to include herbs, spices, and long-life ingredients based on the recipes you love to make.
Legumes and beans – endlessly useful, whether canned or dried. Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and black beans are all super versatile.
Grains – pantry staples, whatever your preference, from rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats to pastas, flours, breads, etc.
Nuts and seeds – whether added whole or chopped, toasted or raw, in a sauce or burger base, these will add texture, protein, and healthy fats to your dishes.
Condiments – basics include tamari or soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, nutritional yeast, herbs and spices, vegetable stock, salt and pepper.
Dairy alternatives – think milks and creams, such as almond milk, oat milk, coconut cream, or even whipped soy cream for a treat.
Vegetables – keep a small supply of canned or frozen veggies on hand, such as diced tomatoes, peas, and corn.
Fruits – dried fruits are great for making energy balls or adding to muesli, while frozen fruits are perfect for smoothies, chia puddings, porridge and crumbles.
BE A MEAL PLAN PRO
Meal planning takes the stress out of the eternal question: what’s for dinner? It can help you eat healthier as there’ll be less impulse take-aways.
Plan what meals you’ll make for the week, and when. Perhaps you can batch cook some meals at the weekend, saving time throughout the week or freeze some for a later date. Planning your meals like this also means you’ll shop to a list and buy only what you need. No more filling the fridge with food you might not eat and therefore end up wasting.
Setting yourself up for success in the kitchen makes cooking plant-based meals at home as effortless as possible. With a bit of initial groundwork and a weekly meal plan, you’ll be saving time and money while reducing food waste. Cooking will become second nature to you, a pleasure, and you might just produce a masterpiece here and there.