Chefs’ kitchen hacks

No time? No worries. Leading chefs dish on how to cut corners without compromise.
Chefs’ kitchen hacks

Lorraine Godsmark, Lorraine’s Patisserie

If I’m really stuck for time but want to serve dessert, I cut strawberries in half, sauté them in a non-stick pan with a couple of spoons of sugar and cook them until they release their juices, creating a beautiful sauce. Then, I season them with crushed black peppercorns and serve them with a dollop of crème fraîche, or Maggie Beer’s ice-cream – it’s the best.

Charlie Carrington, Atlas Dining

Place a wet cloth under your chopping board so it doesn’t move while you’re cutting; it’s safer and means you can prep faster. And I’m yet to find a vegetable that tahini, seasoned with, say, olive oil and lemon juice, doesn’t taste incredible with, and it’s super-easy to make.

Charlie Carrington from Atlas Dining.

Amy Hamilton, Liberté

Walking into an aroma-filled house after a long day at work because you were organised enough to get tonight’s dinner in the slow-cooker that morning is a wonderfully smug feeling. When you aren’t so organised, the local Asian grocer is a cornucopia of tasty time-saving delight. In 15 minutes you can have pot-stickers, wok-tossed greens and steamed rice on the table. Golden curry is another winner if you want a meat-free dinner. I bulk it out with any vegies and tinned legumes I have lying around. Once the vegies are swimming in that tasty, umami-laden curry sauce, even the most dedicated meat lover won’t notice their precious animal protein ain’t there.

“I never cook at home, and that’s my tip: have others cook for you. It’s fast, certainly easy and a great hack as well as a lovely lazy lark.” – David Thompson, Long Chim

Phil Wood, Point Leo Estate

In the warmer months, buy a good roast chicken, tear it up, then, using a mandolin, shave fresh vegetables and throw in a few torn herbs, a bit of lettuce and dressing with Kewpie mayo – it makes delicious salad. And this might sound like heresy but my girlfriend recently introduced me to these amazing pre-packaged grains made by a Melbourne company called From Basque with Love. They require minimal preparation, are all natural, and are absolutely delicious. Our favourites are the Indial Dahl and Indian Pilau Rice. We add greens and tomatoes from the garden, and a little coconut cream.

Louise Couttoupes, Bar Rochford

Invest in decent knives and take care of them. Whether it’s one knife or a set, good sharp knives make your prep easier and faster. A mandolin is great for saving time on larger jobs, too. It’s hard to go past burrata as a delicious ready-made snack. It needs no prep and goes with pretty much everything. Tomato, basil and olive oil is the obvious classic. I used to serve one at the restaurant with cucumbers pickled in gin, wakame oil and nori salt. Or asparagus tossed in sesame and mirin with coriander flowers. At home, I like just a little honey, toasted walnuts and some sage or rosemary. Make sure you have good bread on hand.

Pierre Roelofs, dessert consultant

My favourite speedy recipe is a fruit crumble. I make large batches of the crumble mix and freeze it. When it’s time to make a crumble, simply preheat the oven to 180°C, chop and combine the fruits of your choice (sweetened with a little sugar), pour the mixture into a baking dish, top with the crumble and bake for 25 minutes. I keep my crumble topping simple – sweet, buttery and slightly salty.

“Stay away from your phone – it’s always a time-waster.” – Orazio d’Elia, Matteo

Peter Gunn, Ides

A go-to fast dish for me is to take a couple of tablespoons of mint sauce and rub it all over lamb chops, season them and grill them on a barbecue. While they’re getting crisp, quarter a cabbage, slice it and mix it with Kewpie mayonnaise, and once the slaw is made, the chops are done. Since I was a young cook I’ve made countless versions of mayonnaise and none of them have been better than Kewpie. I’m pretty sure I like it because of the MSG. Another go-to ingredient for me when time is an issue is Angry Lady (Lao Gan Ma) chilli sauce – one day this just showed up in the Ides kitchen for a staff meal and the jar has always been replenished ever since. Mixed with a whole bunch of sliced spring onions, Angry Lady is the ultimate condiment for any dish.

Ben Greeno, Hotel Centennial

Getting your ingredients prepped and laid out in front of you before you start cooking is always a big help with saving time. Even better if you can cook everything in one pan that can be transferred to the oven. Need a quick dressing? Mix vinegar through Maille Dijonnaise and you have yourself a 10-second vinaigrette.

Ben Greeno from Hotel Centennial.

Teena Wise, Sweet Envy

After working with sugary, buttery pastries and sweets all day we like to have something quick, easy and fresh to end the day so a salad is our go-to dish. Anything green, along with some grains, hit the jars of fermenty bits, leftover pickles from other dinners, served with our favourite simple dressing of yoghurt, tahini and lemon. We always have wholegrain noodles (out of a packet, ready to use) in the pantry; they can be transformed into a multitude of dishes – noodle salad, spicy noodles with Asian greens, noodle soups. You name it we’ve done it! Now, that’s how you use your noodle.

“Fish sauce is great, too, because it adds flavour – the much sought-after umami. It seasons everything, replaces the need to use salt and it’s versatile.” – Thi Le, Anchovy

Guy Grossi, Grossi

My go-to time-saver dish is my Midnight Spaghetti – it’s the ultimate fast food. I always have canned tomato, spaghetti and olive oil on hand, plus a little garlic and chilli so by the time the water has boiled, I’ve prepared my other ingredients in the pan. Having the tomato on hand gives you a fresh, almost instant sauce. Drop the pasta in and in a few minutes dinner is served. Ecco!

Jordan Toft, Bert’s

When I’m short on time I usually turn to grilled protein and a side salad. A hanger steak seasoned and grilled rare before being rested goes well with a crunchy wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with grated hard-boiled egg, tarragon, chives and a dressing of lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard and a sprinkle of Espelette pepper normally leaves me content.

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