I’m a lazy person. I love cooking well enough but I hate the hours of prep associated with it, the cleaning afterwards, hours and hours of attending to the nitty gritty. I am a lazy person and given the chance to be someone else, I would still be a lazy person because I’m just wired that way. And the best thing about a lazy person is that they will always find ways to do things more easily. And quickly.
Most people out there may already be doing these things that make life a whole lot easier, most may already be connoisseurs in life hacks but some may be completely clueless about these matters. And believe me when I say I have tried the long way out and hated it so I do feel the pain. Hence, it felt a tad selfish to hold these back.
Some of these I’ve discovered by accident, some of these taught by my mother, grandmother or other gorgeous women from the maternal side of my family (I may have mentioned before that I come from a large family of foodies, all of them grand and glorious females headstrong and larger than life who may be considered a handful to handle by the men who’ve known them) and some I may have even read up on the internet.
I don’t know why some of these work, but they just do and I haven’t really bothered to find out how (see note on “I’m a lazy person” above). The important thing is that they work – tried and tested, many times over.
So here goes….
1. To stop rotting or ripening too fast
- Bananas – Suffering from fast-rotting bananas? Try wrapping their stems with plastic wrap. I’ve found that separating each banana (stem intact) and wrapping them individually helps too.
- Tomatoes – When storing tomatoes (preferably in the fridge) store them stem-side down.
2. Boost the ripening
- Bananas – Toss them in a paper bag.
- Avocados – My mother tucks them in rice. It totally works!
3. Keep leaf vegetables fresh
Once back from the Sunday fair or right after plucking leaf vegetables from our rooftop garden my mother has a ritual. That is to wash all the gotukola, the kathurumurunga, the mugunuwenna and etc well, drain them, swab them in a clean, absorbent cloth, wrap them in a newspaper and put them in the fridge. They’ve been known to stay fresh for weeks! Only that we don’t keep them that long because we’ve got fresh supplies growing in our garden!
4. Stop cut up apples and pears from getting browned
This one is a no brainer. I’ve found that tossing cut apples or pears in some lime juice helps and that is a no brainer. Alternatively, mix one part honey in two parts water and toss them in the mixture. Works like magic.
If worst comes to worst, make an apple crumble like this!
5. Loosing the crunch and the beautiful green of the Kola mallum?
The secret is lesser stove time. 2 minutes is the ideal time and not more than 3. Also, never cover the pan with a lid when you are making mallum.
6. Don’t throw away dried out bread
Everybody hates dried out bread. But don’t throw them away! Simply dry it out even more (in the sun or in an oven), crumble it up and use it as breadcrumbs. You can use it for making cutlets, frying fish and etc later on.
7. Cook rice the easy way
I’ve learnt this from my Loku Amma, my mother’s eldest sister who was an absolute kitchen whizz. Use the pressure cooker! Place rice and water (add water exactly one phalange of the finger above the surface of the rice. We Sri Lankans are known to use water up to two phalanges but here you need less water) and place on medium heat. Wait for three whistles and take off heat. Wait until the vessel has cooled enough so that you can touch it before opening it. Don’t open the pressure cooker immediately because the steam has a way of exploding in your face and it has been known to be fatal.
8. Keep your cutlets (the Sri Lankan kind) without getting soggy
Soggy cutlets have been the bane of my life for quite a while and then I discovered this. I used to coat the cutlet in a beaten egg before rolling it in breadcrumbs but this was the reason why my cutlets have been going lifeless. Covering the cutlets in a thick batter of flour and water and then frying it creates a thick, strong outer coating that keeps stiff and crunchy for the longest time. This batter also prevents the cutlets from splitting as soon as they hit the oil.
9. Cutting board keeps slipping off those slick, slippery tiles?
Keep a damp towel under the cutting board for a firmer grip.
10. Pots keep boiling over?
Boiling milk, cooking rice, making stock and soups had been basically a kitchen nightmare before my mother taught me this neat little trick. Simple really. Keep a wooden spoon over the top of the pot! Apparently, the bubbles when they touch something that is below boiling point, the steam will become liquid once again and the bubbles will go down, reducing the liquid levels. No more scrubbing hardened milk or broth off the stove top!
11. Know when your eggs have gone bad
Submerge the eggs in a clear bowl filled with water. The eggs at the very bottom are your best. The eggs at the middle are ok to consume. Simply throw away the ones that float because they are rotten.
12. Hands still smell like onions or garlic?
Simply rub your hands on a stainless steel instrument under cold water. The cold water will help close your pores helping to squeeze the garlic oil out and the stainless steel apparently attracts the sulfuric compounds in onion and garlic and binds them to it, leaving your hands clean. I’ve found that lemon juice and baking soda also helps.
13. Too much salt in a soup or a curry?
Toss a whole potato in there. It soaks up the salt and you may even need to add more salt in the long run!
14. Love mashed potatoes but don’t like the elbow grease?
Simply push the well boiled potatoes through a mesh sieve. You will get a lovely smooth mash in no time!
15. Ever struggled to remove pieces of eggshell from a bowl of batter or eggs?
Scoop them out with a larger piece of eggshell. For some weird reason, the larger piece of eggshell acts as a magnet and draws the pieces towards it!
16. Easy delicious corn on the cob
I love corn in my salads but despise the amount of time it takes to boil them. This method saves me from the extra trouble. Cut off the wide end of the corn, microwave it for 3 minutes with the husk on and simply slip it out. The corn needs to be fresh for this to really work through.
17. Peel garlic with ease
Garlic is awesome in basically any savoury dish. But peeling it can be a pain. Well my mother has found an easy method. Separate the cloves. Split each clove in the middle with a knife. The skin slips right off.
Alternatively, if you are feeling especially angry, keep the clove on a surface and whack it with the side of a nice, heavy knife. It’s a fun way of getting all that anger out.
Try this method when you are trying this delicious Gratin Dauphinois or this scrumptious Nasi Goreng.
18. Peel boiled eggs faster
Add a dash of vinegar or baking soda to the water when boiling the eggs. Or simply prick the large end of an egg with a pushpin before boiling for an easy peel. The more messy but effective method for peeling large batches of eggs would be to put the eggs in a container with a tighly closing lid and shake it like you mean it. The eggs would not be round and perfect in this case of course, but this is alright if you mean to use the eggs in an egg salad or sandwiches.
19. Grate cheese and chocolate without the mess
I’ve found that freezing the cheese and chocolate before grating helps heaps. This will harden them and allow for less messy grated cheese and chocolate.
Also to get chocolate curls for cakes like this super chocolaty chocolate cake, I fridge my chocolate before making the curls with the knife. This gives out beautiful curls without breaking them.
20. Open hard-to-open jars
Mind you, this only works with glass jars with metal lids. Gently heat the metal lid for about 3 seconds and try opening it (with a dish towel wrapped around the lid as it may be hot) immediately afterwards. If it doesn’t open, heat it a little more and try opening.
21. Soften butter easily
This happens to me a lot. I suddenly get a craving for cake but couldn’t get making fast enough because the butter is still rock solid. In this case, flatten it with a rolling pin or grate it with a grater. That should get it softened in a jiffy.
22. Cut perfectly-edged brownies
I learned this the hard way. I know is hard to just sit around while there is a delicious looking brownie just out of the oven but practice patience and wait until it is cool to the touch prior to cutting it. Use a serrated knife for the purpose.
Try this method when you are making these awesomelicious blackbean brownies.
23. Reheat food without drying them out
I’ve had this problem, I’m sure you’ve had it too. When you reheat that last piece of that juicy pizza that you saved for the next day, to your utter dismay, it becomes dry and insipid. I’ve found that the best way to avoid this is to place a heatproof bowl of water alongside the dish while reheating it in the oven or in the microwave. Works well with roasted meat, pizza, etc.
24. Cool down drinks without diluting them
Tea – Make ice cubes out of tea and freeze them beforehand. Add them to the drinks later. Try this amazing iced tea recipe with this method.
Coffee – Same as iced tea, make coffee ice cubes to cool down your coffee.
Fruit drinks – Freeze grapes, cherries, strawberries and other small fruit like that and add them in to your fruit drinks for a bit of fanfare and well of course, taste
Have more ideas and neat tricks up your sleeve? Do share!