Let's just put this out there - North American society is all about instant gratification. We complain when our internet connection is slower than usual, we put up drive-thrus at convenience stores, we want everything just right in an instant. Once I started my own family I realized the importance of slowing down and turning mealtime into an experience, rather than quickly putting something of sustenance together to hold us over until the next meal. Cooking usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on whether it's lunch or dinner I'm making, but I find the end result to be more fresh and flavourful, and I always get a sense of accomplishment knowing I made it all myself. Here are my Top 10 favourite recipes to cook from scratch!
10. Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce
Start by boiling the pasta in a pot with some salt. In a frying pan/wok, combine olive oil, salt, spices like thyme, basil or oregano, grated onion and garlic, and let it cook down. Add crushed tomatoes (better if you do it yourself!) and tomato paste, let it reduce, add water to achieve desired consistency. Once the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and add it to the sauce mix. It's simple!
9. Shakshouka Cut potatoes into French fries, add them into a frying pan with a bit of olive oil and salt. Add chopped onions, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, let it cook through. Once the potatoes are fully cooked, mix in eggs, and season as you want. This is great served with bread.
8. Salad with Olive Oil Dressing
This is pretty straightforward. Chop your desired vegetables (I use lettuce, tomatoes and onions), then prepare your dressing: olive oil, vinegar and salt. Serve as a side to a chicken dish.
7. Kofta Meatballs Combine your preferred meat, mint and spices in a bowl. Roll into small balls, then place them in the oven or frying pan. This goes great with the previously mentioned spaghetti or salad. Serve with garlic bread.
6. Sweet Potato Casserole Boil, drain and mash sweet potatoes. Add sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla to the potatoes, mix well. Pour into a baking dish. For the topping, mix brown sugar, chopped pecans, flour and butter, then spoon over the potatoes, and cook in the oven. This is obviously a Thanksgiving favourite, but it's a fairly quick and easy dish to prepare for guests.
5. Baghrir Mix flour, semolina flour, a pinch of salt, water and yeast. Let it rise for approximately 30 min-1 hour. Ladle onto a flat pan. Cook only one side - it's finished when the top is no longer wet to the touch. There should be little bubble holes on the entire pancake. Serve with butter and sugar, honey, or other sweet topping.
4. French Fry and Egg Casserole Cut potatoes into french fries, add salt and a bit of olive oil. Place in the oven. When the potatoes are nearly cooked through, crack eggs and distribute evenly over them. You can also add cooked ground beef before the eggs. Put it back into the oven until the eggs are cooked. Cut into squares, serve with bread. Add Sriracha for some heat.
3. Spinach Dish Steam a bunch of spinach (note that you'll need a lot as it reduces down to nothing!). Chop and boil carrots and potatoes. In a frying pan, fry grated garlic, then add spinach, carrots and potatoes. Crack eggs over ingredients, then mix till cooked.
2. Spring Rolls
Prepare the shells (flour, cornstarch, salt and water) by hand on a flat pan. Sprinkle flour or put baking sheets between each shell to avoid them sticking together. When cooled, add your favourite filling (I use spinach, Kiri cheese and spices), roll and seal using a bit of flour+water mixed together, then fry.
1. Couscous with Soup:
I prepare my couscous by steaming it twice. Once it's finished I add salt and butter. To make the soup, I use the same base mentioned throughout this post (olive oil, salt, tomato paste, water), then add chicken or lamb, vegetables such as carrots and potatoes, and chickpeas at the end. I add ras el-hanout spice blend to the soup, then ladle just enough on the couscous for it to act as a topping (rather than mixing it all as one 'Mega Soup')
Cutting out prepackaged meals, while time consuming, can be beneficial to your health and wellbeing. You can have a better idea of where your ingredients come from, how well they are cooked and you can season it to your preference. You can feel proud knowing you put it all together by yourself; cooking from scratch is a great skill to have, and it allows you to slow down in a society where time is money and we can never seem to get enough. Stop cutting corners in your life - start taking pride in what you consume.