Lack of inspiration is one of the key issues people say they face in the kitchen… And don’t worry, some days I feel it too! It happens to all of us. The good news is that there are some tools which can help you with this:
- A meal doesn’t have to have a ‘title’. Rather than thinking, ‘have I got all the ingredients for a Spaghetti Bolognaise or Fish Pie?’, it’s useful to remember that some of the best meals are ingredients-led. Look in your kitchen and see what you have got, rather than what you haven’t. Check the whole kitchen – your fridge, cupboards, freezer, herb garden or veggie garden if you have one, and the fruit bowl. Is there something there, anything, that you could use to make a meal? An onion, some garlic, and a tin of tomatoes can make a basic tomato sauce which you can then ‘layer’ with other ingredients. Have you got a carrot? Or some lentils? Or spinach? Or a courgette? Or some brown rice? And some spices?… Maybe tumeric, coriander and/or cumin? Suddenly you have a delicious nutritious and substantial meal.
- Along the same lines, a meal can be made up of a core of different flavours and textures which combined create your ‘plate’. It can be a combination of healthful ingredients which will fuel your body. For instance, a vegetarian combination could be some green lentils (which you can cook in bulk at the beginning of the week and keep in a bowl in the fridge), some roasted cherry tomatoes, a baked Portobello mushroom, some feta and a flavoured yoghurt with cucumber, garlic and lemon. Put these assorted ingredients together on a plate and you have a meal. These elements can then be used the next day as well… if you have any leftovers, make a salad with some leaves, the tomatoes,the flavoured yoghurt, an avocado and some bread and you have a whole new meal.
- You don’t have to use whole ingredients. This was a bit of a revelation to me when I was quite far into my cooking journey. A chef I worked with would use a third of a courgette and put the rest back in the fridge. I thought, how strange not to use the whole thing. Actually, it was genius and I have very much taken it on board. Why use a whole vegetable if you don’t need it? I now have a bag of vegetable bits in my fridge which I pull out when I need just a bit of flavour or texture. It saves on my food bill as I keep the weekly vegetables going for longer, and I have more ‘bits of ingredients’ for inspiration when I come to cook.
Ultimately, don’t be scared of not creating a meal with a ‘title’. When I apologise to my husband and say, ‘sorry, tonight’s dinner is a bit random’. He always comes back with ‘No worries (he is South African), your random is always best!’ Be confident that there isn’t really a right or wrong, experiment with what you know and layer your own meal instead of heading out to the shops to cook a meal with a ‘title’. You’ll slowly build up your confidence of what goes with what and may even surprise yourself. And you’ll certainly save a time and money.