My idea of minimalist cooking means a short cooking time, using little ingredients and maximising nutrition.
As a university student, cooking is one of the most taxing things to do after a long day of classes. So, borrowing from the Asian tradition of steamboat, I’ve found myself a minimalist way of cooking. Basically, all the ingredients are cut thinly to be quickly cooked in a big pot. As such, steamboat is also known as ‘hot pot’. I’ll use this practice as the inspiration for a minimalist cooking method.
1) Discriminate between fresh and must-cook ingredients.
Usually, a steamboat will have 5-10 ingredients. You could incorporate leaf vegetables, mushrooms, prawns and other seafood, sliced meats, and just about any vegetable for variety. Also, you could use different types of noodles (vermicelli or udon) or rice as the main source of carbohydrates.
Before we start cooking, it’s important to check your list of ingredients and decide which items need to be cooked and which can be eaten fresh. Most ingredients (especially fruits and vegetables) are better eaten fresh because the nutrition is not lost in the cooking process.
For example, my staples menu consists of rice, meat/fish, spinach and tomato for dinner. I would only need to cook meat/fish and spinach. I know I shouldn’t cook spinach but I cannot stand eating spinach in its original form. Minimalists must learn to compromise; some spinach is better than no spinach, right? Allow for some flexibility and remember that if you mostly eat healthy, everything will be okay!
2) Ration out food for the week.
After you have gathered the ingredients you want to eat for the week, divide your ingredients into daily portions. One way you could do this is to separate the portions into containers for each day. I use a container from Ikea which has dividers in it so each container can be divided into must-cook and fresh ingredients for one dinner. Make sure you slice your meat and fish thinly so they take a short time to cook. When it comes to cooking, I empty the whole box without any calculation.
If I just have to cover the basics, this is what my daily dinner portions will look like:
2) Cooking in a pot.
The last step of cooking is the easiest – the perk of minimalist cooking! Get a pot that will fit your ingredients. Boil water in it. You can add your ingredients now if you don’t mind eating plainly or you can add chicken broth (not sure how much – add while you taste) before you add your ingredients. It’s a bit of a guess to know whether the ingredients are cooked but usually it takes about five minutes as long as your meats are sliced and your vegetables aren’t too bulky.
The best thing about boiling and eating fresh is at the end of it all, you just have one pot to wash, as opposed to scrubbing pans full of oil and burnt bits. It takes no time at all and with all things, cooking minimally becomes a healthy habit when it is practised every day. If you eat healthy ninety per cent of the time, eating out with friends once in a while won’t have a big impact at all. I hope this cuts the stress of not knowing what to cook for some of you out there.