Sunday, 12 July 2015

Tips for Easier/Faster Cooking

As a "newly" married wife, my cooking schedule has changed from my single, living alone days. I mostly ate out, or got stuff that i could easily microwave or occasionally cooked at the bf's place or ate snacks, you get my drift. 
I did not cook alot.
How did i cope having to now switch to making 1-3 meals daily with variety? Hubby didn't cook much either and we know in this country na the woman dey bother about food so i had to up my game. In his defence sha, he has also stepped up his cooking game a bit, with a lot of 'prodding' from me.
I already had knowledge of the basics but major thanks goes to the internet. Google, Youtube, Pinterest, Blogs especially DooneysKitchen (yupp i'm a proud Triber). I still consider myself an amateur at cooking although i'm wayyyyy better at it now; as in my mum eats my soups and food now and is like wow! 'i still can't believe u made this' *insert smirk and big grin*. My mum kept saying when i was younger that i will not disgrace her with my lacking cooking skills and that she pities my future husband; i had zero interest in being in the kitchen except it involved baking, now she's happily eating her words and dare i say i'm a better cook than
I mean when i was younger i once washed rice with OMO (detergent)!!! lol. Read post here.
Click here, here, here and here if you are a total newbie to cooking and check out the other links in this post, they will really help.
Luckily my wedding gifts basically stocked my kitchen.
Here are the tips that have helped me keep my sanity and enjoy cooking; i will update as more come up:
  • A Freezer is your best friend! Especially if you live in Nigeria and light supply isn't constant, its the only thing that can preserve your food. A Fridge also comes in handy for things that just need light cooling to be preserved.
  • Modern Technology and Gadgets are your friend- Best believe! Get out your cash and invest in those gadgets (Food Processor (It makes yummy pounded yam from yam tuber, cuts up your okro, dices food, slices veggies for coleslaw, peels potatoes and slices them for chips, grates, and more), Blender, Hand mixer makes smooth 'fele' amala and cakes/pastry mix, Microwave for defrosting, Deep Fryer for bulk frying, Blender, Juicer, Toaster, Waffle maker, etc.). Check out Dooney's blog for more details.
  • Variety is the spice of life- Find new recipes and try them out (My Recommendations from DooneysKitchen - sweet chilli beef sauce, chicken teriyaki sauce, gizdodo, plantain moimoi, 2 vegetable egusi)
  • Don't be afraid to experiment
  • The internet is your friend, honestly, just search for any recipe you wanna try out on Google, Youtube and the likes. e.g 
  • Prepare your ingredients way before cooking time (even a day before if possible); Prepping ingredients is most times the most stressful part of cooking- i dice/slice down my veggies and protein hours or a day before cooking time. It is so much fun to just throw in everything already prepped into the pot and have your meal ready in minutes. Truth is, its prepping the ingredients that consumes the most time and energy.

  • Listen to your favorite high tempo music while cooking, i don't focus so much on the time when i can nod and move to my fave jams
  • Rest as needed, if the kitchen is too hot and stuffy for you, take trips to get some cool AC air from the living room
  • If you feel overwhelmed by all the cooking you have to do just step out of the kitchen to somewhere cool, take a seat and prioritize cooking the meal that will be eaten that day or foodstuff that will go bad quickly. Once those are sorted, pack up whatever is left and store properly, you can decide to cook them later in the day or the next day without overworking yourself
  • When buying peppers, buy the ones that already look clean, this will reduce your workload when washing them at home.
  • Use a small knife to remove the seed and stem of peppers (Bell Peppers a.k.a Tatashe) away from water before blending 
  • Wear gloves or improvise by wearing a nylon over your hand and holding it in place at your wrist with a rubber band to wash peppers so your hands don't 'burn'.
  • Use a light foamy sponge dipped in salt and a bit of water to wash very dirty peppers
  • If you already washed peppers with your bare hands and it is burning, apply a little palm oil to kill the burning sensation
  • For smaller peppers (Scotch bonnet a.k.a Rodo), you can put them in salty water for a bit to loosen up the dirt on them and make it easier to wash. There's no point removing the seed in these peppers 'cos that will be quite the chore as the peppers are small in size. However i slice them open after rinsing to be sure they are good and not harboring any insects or dirt (like in the pic below), remove the stem and blend.
  • Wear gloves while grating to avoid grating your knuckles
  • Make a list of new recipes you want to try and read up on them in your spare time
  • Go through your recipes, decide what you want to cook and make a list of items you need to buy way before heading to the market
  • Make your market runs earlier in the week or a day before when you are working with perishable items that can't be stored for long 
  • You should have a customer(s) you buy stuff from, this will shorten your market runs and you get bargains faster.
  • Ask questions if you are not sure of something, even if it is embarrassing, you get the info you need. Preferably ask a friend before asking a stranger.
  • One pot dishes are ur friend! (Jollof rice/Spaghetti, Porridge(yam,sweet potato,irish potato, plantain or a mix of ur choice,etc)
  • Buy perishable items that cannot be cooked immediately or stored in a freezer/fridge in small quantity.
  • Rice, Beans, Oils, Garri, Semovita, Poundo yam flour, Plantain flour, Bean flour, Wheat flour, Yam and Sweet Potatoes are good to have in d pantry or cupboards 'cos they v a decent shelf life, keep them away from heat in a cool dry place.
  • Irish potatoes and onions are also good to have in the pantry and need to be stored in a cool ventilated space else dey'll go bad.
  • Check best before/expiry dates whenever buying food, spices, etc.
  • Corned beef,sardine,baked beans,cereals,custard,oats and the likes are easy eats n good to v on hand.
  • Marinate ur meats/poultry for a better well seasoned taste
  • Have a dedicated sharp cooking scissors for quick cutting of soft veggies (spring onions,etc)
  • Shapen ur knives when blunt
  • Explore spices, seasoning, condiments and their benefits
  • Buy more green plantain n fewer ripe ones so dey dnt go bad at the same time n u can space out eating it
  • Put the entire plantain in a plastic bag overnight for quick ripening
  • Peg open packaged food or store in airtight containers and in a cool dry place
  • Use measurements indicated in recipes or on the food packaging till u r good enough to wing it with eye measurements.
  • There are 3 popular classes of Frozen Chicken in the Nigerian market-that i know of anyway-{Hard chicken (cooks longer and doesn't break apart and is usually regular sized), Orobo chicken (Its like a slightly bigger version of the hard chicken), Soft chicken(breaks apart easily after cooking so its better for peppersoup or meals that you don't need it in one piece)}. For Live Chicken- I believe the 2 major classes are Local and Agric before you venture into the other classes-broiler, etc. I have never bought live chicken though. You can ask a friend that is well versed with buying livestock so you know what to look for or she can recommend someone u can buy from in the market.
  • Try to have sides available to spice up plain meals e.g. salad, gizdodo, etc.
  • To help ur salad last longer store the veggies (carrot, lettuce, cabbage) in the cooling part of the fridge in separate plates lined with paper towels and covered wit cling film. This will prevent them from turning black (oxidizing) quickly and the bottom part will be dry. You just assemble the veggies whenever you are ready to eat and u can make ur salad a proper meal and more savory by adding sauteed sausages, grilled chicken or fried diced plantain to it.
  • Seat down-yup, you don't have to stand over the sink or table to from start to finish, take a seat when possible
  • Use a knife to break eggs open, if you are as clumsy as i am, do it gently and you will not have shells in your egg. We all know how hard it can be to fish them out.
  • Wash your dirty sweet potatoes with water and use a potato peeler to take off the skin
  • Use ameat tenderiser spice to cook your gizzard to reduce the cooking time
  • Put some oil/butter (drops/teaspoon depending on the quantity of what u'r cooking) in Rice/Spaghetti (preferably coconut or sesame oil) when cooking so it doesn't stick together. {I read that if u parboil ur rice and add coconut oil after for the final cooking, it reduces the calories in it!}
  • For making solids/swallow from flour without lumps-Mix the flour with water to a pasty consistency in a bowl, add ur mixture to very lil hot water in a pot on fire and stir, till it thickens. Add hot water as needed till you are ok with how soft/hard it can poke it with ur finger to check. This is how i keep out lumps. This technique doesn't work for some brands of yam flour though,'cos they soak up all the water fast; instead start with a lil hot water in a pot on fire, add flour to it and stir well then just keep alternating between  addn water n flour in small quantities till u reach ur desired quantity/texture.
  • There are different types of cookware materials and different types of pots/pans for different functions, use appropriately for the best results- Stainless, Non-stick, Cast iron, Aluminium, etc. Click here and here to learn more about these
  • There are different types of yam, it helps to tell the person you are buying from what you want to make and he can recommend the best type of yam to suit your purpose. the types of yam i know are-Paper, Jalingo/Taraba (Archie's fave for all purposes), Water (it usually has hairlike strands on it-good for making ojojo(fried yam balls), ikokore or dishes that require very soft yam), Onitsha (recommended for pounded yam), White (supposedly good for boiled yam dishes).                              
  • Sort out ur foodstuff wen  you get back from the market into bowls n trays and keep whatever nids to remain frozen in d freezer till u'r ready to use it
  • Clean out ur sink to use as a bowl to wash ur chicken n veg (after soaking in water n salt to remove sand/debris) under running water 
  • To wash 'fresh' smoked fish, use salt and water to wash the body of the fish (of oil, dirt) then you can go ahead to open and debone the fish as you like
  • Soak vegetables (ugwu, waterleaf, greens,etc.) in water with salt for about 2 minutes then strain and wash in a sieve under running water to remove sand and dirt. squeeze out any left over water
  • When using with waterleaf, do not wash till you are almost ready to use it so it does not release more water while resting and become a mushy mess. 
  • Cut veggies (carrots and the likes) n freeze in batches using bowls or freezer bags, for ready use as needed. You can also keep vegs in the fridge,covered with cling film to prevent oxidizing (turning black).

Day old 'Ugwu' veg. stored in bowl with paper towel base & cling film cover
side view of storage of Day old 'Ugwu' veg.
Day old 'Ugwu' veg. looking fresh & green
  • Use left over vegs to make a stirfry/sauce (Manchurian sauce, Schezwan sauce, etc.)
  • Blend, Boil and store your tomato & peppers mix in the freezer or just roast and blend. The mix always comes in handy for stews, sauces, etc. Check here for more info on easier ways to make and store your pepper mix.
  • Blend your peppers for the pepper mix above at home if possible, the grinders at the market are quite grimy and all sorts pass through them; also the water they use for the grinding process, one cannot vouch that it's from a clean source. All you need is a good brand blender with sharp blades and you can control the ratio of items you are blending, quantity and texture. You can also half time if you have a lot to blend by using two blenders at once 
  • Use a pressure cooker to cook beans and save time, when the beans has softened considerably, remove the lid and only then should u add ur palm oil, spices and other ingredients and cook through without the lid.
  • Cook and freeze food, just defrost as needed (Chicken, Meat, Soups, Chicken/Beef stock, vegetables, etc) Check here for more details.
  • Bring out frozen vegetables (ugwu, efirin, etc.) only when u are ready to add them to the cooking pot, especially if you are not using the entire thing so they don't start to defrost, release water and get soggy.
  • If you have the smell of food (shrimp, iru, etc.) on ur hands and fingers use a stainless steel spoon and rub ur fingers and palms with it to get rid of the smell. works like magic
  • Explore healthy cooking options (Grilling/Roasting instead of frying, use of healthy oils, use of 'fresh' ingredients, etc.)
  • Make a food timetable. Check here (you can edit accordingly & very helpful for wives that do ALL the cooking)
  • Check out food/cooking hacks like this that make you look like a pro in the kitchen
  • Check out my Pinterest Chopaholic Board for some inspiration
  • Practice makes perfect
I hope this post comes in handy to someone out there. :D

Please Share it! :)


  1. Replies
    1. my pleasure! :) hope they came in handy.

  2. Hey! This is fab!
    I know local chicken is sweeter sha. I love Dooney's kitchen! She is an amazing cook/chef.

    Ok, so for something like white rice and stew, Sesame/Coconut oil is good to add to it so it doesn't stick together? Funny, but I think it'll give a good flavour sef. Are we talking drops or teaspoons?

    Oh, there's Jalingo or Taraba yam. And to be that's th most amazing so far! it's white and fantastic for pounding, boiling or frying

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Oya how do you buy ur local chicken?i'm looking to switch sides. Dooney is just the best!!especially for we wey no too get experience.

    I use drops to bout 1teaspoon depending on the quantity of white rice i'm cooking. I even read that if u parboil and add coconut oil after, it reduces the calories in it!

    Maybe na Jalingo yam, my yam guy tell me wey i no hear properly oo,tnx dear i'll correct that.
    glad u enjoyed it ;)


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