one-pot meals part 1 – pantry basics

I’m sure many of our new year’s resolution is to eat healthier or better – but that’s not quite possible if one eats out every meal. Cooking your own is not only cheaper but multiple times healthier. Being a typical busy person (once architecture student, now working full time), I do prepare meals nearly daily. My daily cooking is simply anything in the fridge cooked in a single pot. 10 – 15mins prep + 5-10mins heating + 20-30mins eating + 10mins cleaning =  1 hour, about the same time as going to a food court, queuing, ordering, waiting, finding a seat and eating.

Here’s a series of 3 posts as a starter’s guide to one-pot meals, the easiest way to make hot meals, using a worked-with-what-I-had version of miso udon soup as example. No previous kitchen experience needed!

One-pot meals are all about 3 basic principles – Pantry basics, combining flavours and textures and cooking times.

This first post is generic pantry & food prep basics:

–  Go for ingredients that needs minimal preparation and low cooking time – I usually just rinse and cut or even break with hands. Some from my list are tomatoes, string beans, okra, tofu, tempeh, seitan, dried beans, broccoli, snow peas, beansprouts, leafy greens with soft stems (without roots). No peeling, de-seeding, multiple washing needed for them! Here, spring onions are a great topping as you simply need to wash and cut it.
Balance – Every meal should have carbs (rice, noodles, quinoa, bread), protein (tofu, tempeh, seitan, legumes, nuts) and vitamins (mushrooms, veggies, fruit). To retain nutrients in veggies, best is to add them at the last stage of cooking then turn off heat – which sacrifices flavour sometimes.
Pre-cooking or soaking in bulk. The soaking water of cleaned dried mushrooms is a gem as a broth base. I also steam/boil a couple of starchy plants like potato, yam, sweet potato and take them from the fridge when needed. For lentils and beans I soak and boil them in bulk, then portion and freeze them in small bags. Of course canned legumes, being pre-cooked, are the quickest, but they are more expensive! For this miso udon I used pre-cooked red lentils for protein and few pieces of pre-steamed taro to thicken the soup.
Frozen foods are a good time saver. My usual are edamame, peas, carrots and corn. They just need 2-3 minutes cooking to be done.
Condiments, sauces and spices should be always present in a well-stocked pantry. They give taste immediately and can take anything up to another level. Here, miso is the main condiment with white pepper and sesame oil as supporting flavours.

Here’s an overview of the basic food groups from my pantry. Bought all of them at the usual supermarkets and wet markets.

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Having 1-2 items from each group can guarantee you satisfying and nutritious meals! Have fun mixing and matching.

Next post > basics of flavours & textures

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2 comments

    1. For kelp – vegetarian grocery shops, dried goods stall and some TCM shops. Red lentils are in most indian grocery shops and sometimes the organic section of NTUC carries.

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