In a world where we consume anything and everything quickly: from adverts suggesting instant noodles allows to spend more time doing interesting things than cooking; or sitting through another cookery programme on tv that suggests we have all the time in the world to cook; where do you find the happy medium of quick, easy, and healthy, wholesome and frugal.
For the longest time ready made sauces have existed. A plethora of ragu for pasta, or cans of ‘cook-in’ sauce for chicken, stock pots, instant curries and dried chilli mixes. It is fair to say we are more than able to cheat and make something “quick”. On occasion even these methods are too slow calling for “the takeaway menu” or a dash for a “ding-a-ling” on the way home from the salt mines.
Increasingly the ‘cook-in’ bag method has gained popularity. Whether you buy a whole prepared chicken or fillet of fish, or use a combination sachet of bag & prepped spice mix, what you get is tasty low maintenance cooking.
Of course, anything that is ‘prepared’ comes at a premium. Costs of labour/machinery, or environmental impact associated with production, and extra use of non-biodegradable packaging; are all overheads in the pursuit of our ‘easy dinner’.
I often look at something that is prepared and then go away and produce my own version. It continues to be both, an interest and therapeutic. Last evening I went to the cupboard and spied a “Maggi Garlic Chicken So Tender” sachet. Comprising of 2 sections; the top holds the folded up bag and tie; whilst the lower section contains a mixture of spices.
Simple enough to use; adding potatoes, other vegetables, meat and the spice into the bag; seal with the tie; and roast in the oven for roughly an hour. Add some different steam veg to compliment this roast and you’ve a quick-ish, foolproof dinner cooking whilst you watch a soap or have a soak in the tub.
Roasting in tied parchment parcels is not new. This method of cooking allows for the flavours to remain within the food as the delicious steam is rehydrating the contents. The only other method of cooking I know that allowing this to happen, by use of a Middle Eastern tagine.
I did say I recreate or innovate – even copy; techniques and dishes I sample. To this end, anyone can make a “Maggi” without a “Maggi”! Good catering suppliers such as the one on the shores of the pond – wink! Sell these bags in multiples allowing anyone to add they own mixes of herbs and spices. You can source 24 bags for £2.69 as opposed to one bag and spice combo sachet for £1 each. Spice mixes can be sourced from £1. Therefore £5 worth of ingredients plus the 24 bags gives you change from eight quid as opposed to the same of amount of prepared bags at a cost of £24.
The moral of the story: even when cheating you can save, whether it is less packaging and processing for the environment, or money in your hand.