Nelson's chef Jamie Hertz ends his three part series on healthy eating with tips on making quick nutritious meals at home.

Happy Cooking from a Nelson chef

Nelson's chef Jamie Hertz offers some ideas on quick and healthy eating.

With all of the food scares out there it is hard to avoid all of the bad things. It’s up to you to make the smart choices when it comes to eating and what you serve to your families and friends. Like I said before, it is hard to make a meal that takes an entire day. Think simple and fresh and then build your meal from what you have.

One of the best things I loved about running Fusion here in the summertime was the availability of fresh produce. I liked building my weekly and even daily menus from what I found at the local markets. As a chef I love to be creative and having a set menu for long periods of time never made sense to me when things are changing daily.

When it comes to simplifying food I look at the methods used and see how the process looks. Being in the restaurant business for 20 years, I have had the privilege of working with some of the best chefs in the country and seeing their secrets on how to make life in the kitchen easier.

Let’s take rice for example and how easy it can be to make basmati rice. First off, measure out your water and rice which is two-to-one. Don’t forget to clean your rice which is something often overlooked as well. Simply cover the rice with cold water and rub it around with your fingers and strain carefully and repeat until the water is no longer cloudy. Now that you have clean rice and the right amount of water, put them into a pot and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn off the heat, cover the pot tightly with aluminium foil and press a lid on top to make an air tight seal. That’s it! You have perfect rice after about 15 minutes of it sitting there with no burning or undercooked rice.

Now some key things to do that will make your rice perfect. First off, make sure that you add salt to your water prior to cooking it. One of my favourite things to add to my rice is a whole stock of lemongrass. If you don’t have lemongrass then simply add a couple of slices of lemon instead. To finish it off, add some chopped cilantro, dill, or even mint once finished. This will give the rice a beautiful aroma and will be packed with flavour.

It can be the little simple steps that you can organize when you plan your meals that make your life in the kitchen so much better, not to mention better meals. If you know in advance that you want to have some chicken for dinner, then toss it in a simple marinade like curry and garlic the night before. When you come home from work you can cook the rice, toss the chicken in the oven and together with a simple green salad, it will be a perfect simple meal. It makes a great work lunch as well.

All it takes from you is some simple meal planning which can be done while watching your favourite TV show or while sitting down with your whole family to see who wants what. Once you know what you will be eating most nights you can then plan out the steps which it will take you to make your meals. Prepping things ahead of time when you have a few spare minutes can make the actual cooking times drop.

Also remember that these are just suggestions to inspire you to have better eating habits and enjoy better food more often. Change ingredients around to change things up as I am sure it will seem like a completely different meal. One night curry garlic chicken and lemongrass, cilantro rice and the next rice with almonds and dried cranberries with dill marinated chicken.

Eating, cooking and shopping for your food should be something you enjoy, not a chore like replacing the gutters around your house. The better you plan ahead, the better the meals. Also remember that some days you will be in blah moods, so plan for that, as well as always make a little extra of your favourite dishes and freeze.

Chef Jamie Hertz

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