We’ve all heard that home cooking can be healthier, cheaper and tastier. It’s also widely accepted that the Mediterranean diet is one of the best in the world. And if you think about it, the Mediterranean diet is all about home cooking. Preparing food, with love, to share with family and friends.
And there’s a little secret we want to let you into. You see, people often make both home cooking and the Mediterranean diet sound complicated. Yet they’re not! Home cooked Mediterranean dishes can be deliciously simple to make.
Read on to find out a few top tips on home cooking, Mediterranean style. And if you want to know more about why the Mediterranean diet is so flipping brilliant, take a look at our earlier blog ‘11 Reasons to Love the Mediterranean Diet’.
Is home cooking really better for you? Yes! One of the reasons being the abundance of vegetables and natural, non-processed foods. But don’t go wild on the veg aisle right away. Take your time to plan for the week ahead to eliminate the risk of leftover veg going soggy in the salad drawer.
You don’t have to take meal planning to the extreme (unless you really want to). Forget the spreadsheets and calendars, but do have an idea of what you’ll prep that week. The beauty of many Mediterranean dishes is the versatility of ingredients – you can often leave one vegetable out or replace it with a family favourite.
Pick 5 dishes to pop on your weekly list. Pasta and veg-packed sauce, a roast, a vegetable stew, salad with grains or beans, and a Mezze style platter can all easily be adapted to include your family’s favourite flavours. Be sure to consider which veg you can use across multiple dishes before you shop. Planning a dish you can pack with almost any veg at the end of the week, such as a stew or risotto, is a great way to use up what’s left.
If you’ve always relied on pre-prepared dishes, moving to home cooked meals can be a huge (and scary) step. So start small. You don’t have to go to making your own pizza dough and sauce, but why not buy a pizza base, passata, and add your own toppings? It’s a tasty, healthier alternative to take-away. Or take a simple pot of ready-made tomato pasta sauce and add your own ingredients. Capers and olives instantly give sauces a whole new dimension.
Build your confidence, and your repertoire, as you go. Switch to homemade hummus, learn to love baking bread, find your go-to pasta sauce. Once you have the basics you can experiment more with flavour.
When we picture Mediterranean tables, overflowing with enticing food, it can seem an overwhelming task. But one pot roasts are an easy way to get home-cooked Mediterranean flavours. You can also get in your family’s 5-a-day without too much effort (or washing up).
Meat-lovers can roast anything from chicken to lamb to beef, and mixed roast vegetables are great for vegans and vegetarians. It’s all about adding Mediterranean flavour. There are plenty of recipes around. Mary Berry roasts chicken with courgettes, garlic and anchovy-filled olives here, whilst Betty Crocker makes slow-cooker beef with kalamata olives, garlic and pearl onions here. But you can easily create your own. Garlic and tomatoes are classic Mediterranean flavours, and don’t be afraid to be generous with your herbs. Fancy fish? White fish roasted with cherry tomatoes and green olives works really well too.
Another simple way to incorporate home cooking into your meals is with Mediterranean-inspired sides. You can make these in advance and add them to main meals, or even use them for a light lunch.
Whip up a Mediterranean salad with tomatoes, olives, cucumber and herbs, then keep some in the fridge to enjoy over the next few days. Not only will you be cutting plastic waste by not buying prepared salads, you can fill it with all your favourite flavours.
Marinated olives are another way to have a home cooked taste of the Mediterranean to hand. It’s such a wonderfully Mediterranean thing to do that we dedicated a whole blog to marinating olives recently (take a look here). Again, you get to add all your favourite flavours. Garlic, herbs, chilli, lemon… there are so many delicious options. And using chorizo-filled, anchovy-filled or seasoned olives can add a new depth of flavour too.
If you’re a budding baker or make your own bread, try incorporating new flavours into your loaves. Homemade olive and sundried tomato bread can turn a simple soup into an impressive meal.
It can be handy to have frozen veg on hand to bulk up your meals. But you can also freeze ingredients and meals ahead of time.
If prepping puts you off home cooking, then get ahead of the game by chopping a big batch of onions and freezing them in handy portion sizes. Herbs can be frozen in water in ice cube trays too. Having ready-prepped ingredients to hand can make home cooking less work after a long day.
You could also make a large panful of passata or pasta sauce and freeze portion sizes. A simple tomato sauce, perhaps with onions and garlic, creates a tasty standalone sauce or can be combined with other ingredients later. Whizz it up with Fragata piquillo peppers, pour over pan-fried chicken, or add a generous handful of olives to turn one simple sauce into multiple meals.
The benefits of home cooking are great. Many say it’s much better for you – healthier, cheaper and tastier. Some say it can have a positive impact on the planet by cutting waste. So go on, give Mediterranean home cooking a go. Because one thing’s for sure, whether or not home cooking changes the world, it can certainly change yours.