No time? No worries. Australia's top chefs spill their secrets on their time-saving hacks for fast and easy meals that don't compromise on taste.
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 nonstick 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've 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.
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Amy Hamilton, Liberté
Walking into an aroma-filled house after a long day at work because you were organized enough to get tonight's dinner in the slow cooker that morning is a wonderfully smug feeling. When you aren't so organized, 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 up with any veggies and tinned legumes I have lying around. Once the veggies 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.
David Thompson, Long Chim
“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.”
Phil Wood, Point Leo Estate
In the warmer months, buy a good roast chicken and 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 a delicious salad.
Louis 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 ignore 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 favorite 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 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 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.
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Orazio d’Elia, Matteo
Stay away from your phone — it’s always a time-waster.
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. 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.
Another go-to ingredient for me when time is an issue is Angry Lady (Lao Gan Ma) chili 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. It's even better if you can cook everything in one pan that can be transferred to the oven. Need a quick dressing? Mix vinegar with Maille Dijonnaise and you have yourself a 10-second vinaigrette.
Teena Kearney-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. We love anything green, along with some grains, fermented bits, and leftover pickles from other dinners served with our favorite simple dressing of yogurt, tahini, and lemon.
We always have whole-grain 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.
Thi Le, Anchovy
Fish sauce is great, too, because it adds flavor — the much-sought-after umami. It seasons everything, replaces the need to use salt, and it’s versatile.
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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 chili, 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. Topping it with a dressing of lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and a sprinkle of Espelette pepper normally leaves me content.
This article was written by Harriet Davidson. For more, check out our sister site, Gourmet Traveller.