I always relish the idea of cooking for my family. You know, like our mums used to and their mums before that and so on and so on. However, the reality is somewhat different. Nowadays we are all so busy holding down jobs and juggling childcare that no-one really has the time to spend all day cooking a nice roast. The problem is that we also don’t want to live off frozen ready meals or pasta with stir through sauces. So where is the middle ground? Fresh food needn’t take all day to cook. There are several meats which can be cooked in a relatively short period of time and provide a win-win situation, you are eating proper nutritious foods, but it isn’t cutting into precious free time that is close to non-existent.
Family meals are the best…
Number one on my list of the quickest meats to cook would have to be mince. Now this can be any kind of mince, beef, turkey or lamb. Now the amazing thing about mince, aside from how quickly it cooks, is how versatile it is. Personally I tend to opt for minced beef but, as I said, it really is down to personal preference. You can also purchase mince as lean or fatty as you wish. I always feel I am doing well buying extra lean mince as it tastes just as nice and I feel I can give myself a gold star for good behaviour!
Anyway, you can’t go wrong with a good plate of mince and potatoes (or mince and tatties for the Scots amongst us!) This really is a family meal that even the children will enjoy and it can be ready in a flash. Brown your mince in a pan, which only takes a few minutes. That is basically your mince cooked; everything else is just window dressing. You can add onions and carrots into the mix and then add your stock or gravy and allow it to simmer and thicken. Just put your potatoes on to boil at the same time and your meal will be ready within 15-20 minutes. If you have a little longer you could add your mince to a tray, add some seasoning, top with your mashed potatoes and pop it into the oven to create a shepherds/cottage pie (depending on your meat variety).
Show me a meat that looks good uncooked
Mince is also good for lasagne which only takes 40 minutes or for spaghetti bolognese. If you want to get even more creative you can make meatballs by adding some olive oil, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. These will cook in 5-10 minutes. You can even get the children involved in rolling them; they are sure to love it and won’t see it as a chore at all!
Moving on, another quick and easy meat to cook is chicken. Now, it is worth pointing out at this juncture that cooking meat fast does not mean under-cooking it. Always ensure that your meat is cooked properly before you eat it or you could end up with some rather nasty food poisoning.
I find that the quickest way to cook chicken, and most other meats for that matter, is stir-frying. Just slice up your raw chicken breasts or thigh meat (or buy it that way to save yourself even more time!) and add it to a hot pan with some oil. Chuck in loads of vegetables and cook through. Add a sauce and allow it to simmer for around ten minutes and serve with some rice or noodles. You can also use this concoction in fajitas.
However, another quick and easy way to cook chicken breasts or sliced chicken is by using a healthy food grill, such as a George Foreman Grill. Just last weekend I popped some sliced chicken in the George Grill while I toasted some ciabatta bread under the grill with melted cheese. Within five minutes I had a sandwich that a high-end café would have charged around £8 for, result!
Steak can also be cooked quickly, but I guess that is just down to how you like it cooked. If, like my husband, you prefer yours practically raw then it will take next to no time at all. My husband always says to waiters in restaurants to basically just wipe both sides of the steak on the pan and then serve it up. I like mine slightly less raw than that, but it still takes very little time and you can just fry up some onions and mushrooms at the same time. Just add the sauce of your choice and you are done!
Steak, can be cooked ‘fighting back!’
Ham is another meat which can be cooked when you are in a hurry. In particular I am thinking of bacon or gammon steaks. Even if you like your bacon crispy it still only takes around 5-10 minutes to cook and is delicious as a lunchtime snack on toasted wholemeal bread with lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise, which is why the BLT is a classic. Gammon steaks are also easily cooked, under the grill and make a very satisfying meal for all when topped with a fried egg, my personal favourite, or a couple of pineapple rings.
I am combining my final choices for quick meats to cook and they may be controversial as I know that haggis and black pudding are not liked by everyone, but you shouldn’t write them off. I doubt that much haggis is eaten outside of Scotland, but I think it should be. It really is absolutely delicious and it just requires boiling in its skin and it is ready to serve with potatoes and vegetables. Black pudding is another personal favourite as it is so delicious and can be cooked in a variety of ways, frying, grilling or pop it in a baking tray in the oven. All of these can be done in a very short space of time. Pop it on a roll for Sunday brunch with some tomato sauce and you won’t be sorry. Minimum effort for maximum output!
You don’t eat it dessert
So I guess the conclusion from this is that cooking fresh meat needn’t be time consuming, but it will most definitely be satisfying.