By Alan Lugton, Cookery Manager
You can’t escape the French influence on modern cookery today – many of the cooking terms are derived from classic French cuisine, and if you walk into any professional, well organised kitchen, the phrase you will hear the most is Mise en place ( Pronounced: Meez-ahn-plahs) which means ‘to put in place’.
Mise en place is the key to smooth and fast cooking – remember Delia when she showed you all the ingredients you need to make her recipes – all chopped up in their own little bowls? Taking the time to do this makes cooking a more enjoyable experience and you are less likely to forget an essential ingredient, skip a step of the recipe or burn something while you are busy chopping something else.
Step one – Planning: Make sure you have all of the ingredients and equipment called for in a recipe before you get started. There is no better way to ensure that you have all the ingredients you need to make a recipe, than to have a meal plan. Meal planning is the first stage of Mise en place and arguably the most important for a smooth, stress free kitchen. Meal planning helps to save time, stress and money because you’ve already pre-planned what you’ll be cooking for the week. If you are new to meal planning check out these 9 Top Tips
Step two – organising: Make sure you have all of the ingredients prepared before you start cooking.
If you have seen any TV cooking show, you will have seen the results of the behind-the-scenes organisation that has taken place – all those little bowls of ingredients, pre-prepped and ready to go for the chef. All the chef has to do is talk you through the recipe as he/she adds each perfectly prepped and measured ingredient. Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of behind the scenes preparations so best just get on with it. You could try training up some little junior chefs if you have any lying about. Children are always keen to get involved with food.
1. Collect all the ingredients you will need and any equipment. Also get some bowls or tubs to put your ingredients in once you have prepared them.
2. Prepare your ingredients as required. Dice, slice, chop, grate, mince, etc.
3. If the recipes say you can add some ingredients together at the same time, you can group them in the same bowl to save precious space.
4. Clean as you go – you have given yourself the time to prepare so there is no excuse for a messy kitchen – it will save time later on.
5. Consider putting some time aside after the weekly shop to do some Mise en place for the week ahead. By pre-cutting and marinating meats; chopping veggies, such as lettuce for quick and easy salads; making and freezing key ingredients (or meals) that can be defrosted later for quicker meal assembly, you will make your life a lot easier. The ideas for prepping in advance are endless; it will help reduce your time in the kitchen during the rest of week, so you can still provide healthy home cooked meals even on the busiest of days.
Remember Mise en place isn’t just for professional chefs and restaurateurs; it’s a proven technique that can help everyone to cook more efficiently and enjoy it.