Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cooking Without A Kitchen

I've been meaning to write about this for a little while now, but since it's not actually a recipe, I was holding off. But I think it's an interesting topic. I mentioned in our blog description that Beans and Barley is about being able to cook delicious, cheap, healthy meals even in a messy sharehouse kitchen. I used to live in a messy sharehouse. Now I live in a very small unit - without a kitchen! A lot of units these days only have kitchenettes and I wanted to show you that it is possible to cook well with these types of facilities - you do not need to resort to take away.

I have, in place of a kitchen, a bench equipped with a cooktop/oven unit thing (2 electric burners, a small electric oven), a mortar and pestle (invaluable!), a toasted sandwich maker, a hand blender, and a jug full of utensils. I have a small fridge, but no freezer (no packaged frozen meals for me!). On top of the fridge is a toaster and a kettle. I keep all my crockery, cooking stuff (pots, pans etc) and shelf foods in IKEA storage racks. The bathroom sink very large and stainless steel, to double as a kitchen sink, and is equipped for washing up dishes etc.

In this small space, I've made bread, meals for friends, curries from scratch and lots of other things that usually take a bit of space and effort. If I ever think it is tricky, I remind myself of my Nana impressing my Grandpa during their courtship in post-war London and making him a five course meal on one burner during food rationing (note to self: was Grandpa exaggerating?). My parents, who are currently living in a one bedroom unit in Rovigo, Italy, have only a small kitchenette to make do with. However, that has not stopped their inclination to throw dinner parties, garnering them the reputation amongst their co-workers as having 'The best restaurant in Rovigo'! I've found that you don't need a beautiful, well equipped kitchen with an island bench to get into cooking. You just need (a bit of) patience and (lots of) enthusiasm.

Here are some tips for small cooking spaces I have come up with:

* A mortar and pestle makes less mess and takes up less room than getting out and setting up a blender. It's also easier to clean. Flavours are richer if you bash instead of cut the ingredients as well.

* A dishwasher is a great way to keep the kitchen from getting cluttered up whilst you are cooking, because the dirty dishes are hidden. If you don't have one, which you probably don't in a small kitchen, get a plastic tub from IKEA and find a niche for it (ie under the bench). If you put all your dirty dishes in it whilst you are cooking, it keeps the benches free. Then just carry the tub to the sink when you are ready to wash up.

* The fewer items of cooking equipment you own, the less washing up. You may need to rewash them more frequently than you like, but you will be thankful when the final wash up never takes more than 5 minutes.

* Toasted sandwich makers can double as an extra cooking plate, if the others are full.

* Don't waste space (and money) on ridiculous single-function implements. Eg. - Apple corers look fun at the shop but they aren't really that useful (usually cutting an apple into pieces will suffice) and you have to store them somewhere.

* If you have decorative cooking utensils (eg a tagine dish), consider storing them elsewhere in the house as items to look at, freeing up more kitchen space. They may collect more dust this way so make sure to rinse them before you use them again!

If you are reading this and have any good 'small kitchen tips', I would love to hear them. Happy cooking!


Cindy said...

Good on you for taking such care with your cooking given your limited resources! I reckon it'll make you a more confident and creative cook than most. :-)

You might enjoy this article, written by Mark Bittman last year.

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna said...

Thanks Cindy! And may I say, I've been enjoying your comments - I have been reading your blog for months now! Makes me proud to see you reading mine :-) (I removed my previous comment due to a silly typo!)