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James Tanner's top cooking tips

James Tanner

We caught up with celebrity chef James Tanner when he worked with Heinz to create a collection of exclusive recipes inspired by the new Heinz Special Edition Soups range. We wanted to find out all his tips and ideas for creating cheap, quick and easy meals - just how we like them...

What are your tips for making cheap, family meals?

A tip for making cheap family meals is to limit yourself to five ingredients. It’s best not to overcomplicate things with a massive shopping list filled with items that you’ll only use a tiny amount of. One of my favourite dishes is toad in the hole as it reminds me of my childhood. Served hot with peas, mashed potato and thick onion gravy, it’s the ideal evening meal as the cold weather approaches.

What are your tips for making speedy family meals?

A common misconception is that speedy family meals have to be unhealthy, but there are plenty of healthy dishes you can make quickly. When cooking fish, I’d make sure it is already scaled and boned. Fish is a great food to cook if you’re in a rush. With a medium-sized fish fillet you just have to cook it for two to three minutes both sides and it's done.

What are you easy tips for making healthy dinners?

I always make sure I have a balance of all the food groups in the meal to ensure I get my five portions of vegetables a day, as well as the necessary protein and carbohydrates.

What are your store cupboard essentials?

It’s always a good idea to keep salt and pepper in the cupboard to add a hint of flavour as well as a bottle of olive oil.

How would you cook to get kids to eat their greens?

Kids are often put off by greens when they’re put in front of them, so a good trick for parents is to chop them up really small and disguise them in a sauce. The kids won’t notice but you will be safe in the knowledge that they are getting a portion or two their five a day.

What essential kitchen skills do you need to be a good at-home cook?

You definitely need patience. Cooking is a skill that you have to develop over time with practice. You also need to be passionate about cooking. It’s best to start with simple recipes and then as you gain more experience you’ll get the confidence to try something a little more adventurous.

What meals do you love to make at the weekends?

I love roast dinners, my biggest tip for making a roast dinner is time management. The meat and potatoes take the longest time to cook and the vegetables take the least amount of time. You don’t want to cook everything at the same time or the vegetables will overcook, meaning that you’ll lose most of the nutrients and the flavour.

What equipment do you think you need to make family meals?

Every kitchen should be stocked with frying pans, saucepans, a selection of decent knives to cut with, a steamer and a good quality chopping board. Your cooker should be able to conduct heat effectively to cook great food.

What food is good to cook in bulk and freeze?

Mince meat in a bolognese sauce is always a good food to cook in bulk and freeze because you can re-use it in a number of other dishes. For example, you can re-heat it for lasagne or add some chilli powder and kidney beans and serve with rice as a chilli dish.

What is your ultimate tip that’s good to know?

My top tip is to look for inspiration and to not be afraid to experiment when cooking. Use the internet, magazines and cookery books to research some recipes that you can try at home. The more you practice, the better at cooking you’ll become and the more you’ll enjoy it.

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