learn to cook series: dirty dishes

It might seem strange that the first post in my 'learn to cook' series is focused on the part that actually comes after the cooking and eating has been done. That is, the unrelenting task of tidying up.

I steadfastly believe that if you’re the one who cooked, you shouldn’t have to wash up. It’s a family rule at my place, and one I smugly remember whenever I cook. But, as someone who was once a diabolically messy cook in the kitchen, I have been forced to learn how to clean up as I go. There were too many near washing-up mutinies as those who I cooked for were left reeling at the vast trail of pots and pans left behind.

Anyone who has worked in a professional kitchen learns this lesson fast. There’s just no room for messy cooks in there - imagine what Gordon Ramsay would say!

Here’s how to minimise that pile of dishes in the sink, and keep the kitchen peace.

  • Learn the beauty of the one-pot meal. Where possible, bring the dish you cooked in to the table, and serve straight out from it. I – If this means investing in a decent decent-looking baking dish or a smart salad bowl, so be it.
  • Use your time efficiently. If the soup has to simmer to 20 minutes, use that time to wash the boards, knives, and anything else you used. Now is not the time to check your emails.
  • Get a decent knife. You really need one sharp knife that fits your hand, that’s sharp and works for chopping and slicing. This saves you using a different knife for every ingredient in the recipe.
  • Rinse measuring cups, spoons and mixing bowls as you cook. This means you use the same one-cup measure a few times when baking a cake, instead of using one for the sugar and then another one for the buttermilk or whatever.
  • Wipe the benches as you go. A clear bench makes for a clear head, and you’ll find it a lot easier to remember what step you’re at in a recipe. It also means you can jump from marinating chicken to starting on dessert without worrying about food contamination.