I've been an advocate for home cooking my whole adult life, but I also occasionally murder a box of nuggets.
This position should not be seen as inconsistent or hypocritical.
Home cooking is fabulous. I think we could solve a lot of our problems and live better lives simply by cooking more at home. We could save money, eat tastier, healthier food, learn new skills and connect better with our families.
I also like nuggets.
An odd perspective that's persisted for too long is that home cooking is wholesome and virtuous and good, and getting takeaway is bad and terrible and a moral failing; but also that going out to a fancy restaurant is the pinnacle of the food experience, where you must pray at the altar of the genius chef (and pay hundreds of dollars) in return for tiny morsels of exquisite food.
One of the good things about this pandemic is that a lot of the high snobbery around food has been exposed as just that. Cooks at local takeaways and top chefs alike have mucked in to keep us fed. A total stranger will ride a bicycle through pouring rain to get your dinner to you while dining rooms are closed and you can't handle yet another trip to the shops after a day of working from home.
We've seen how important our local joints – and yes, even the big chains – are to our lives, and perhaps even felt a little guilty about looking down our noses at our neighbourhood restaurants in principle, even while we order their food.
Home cooking. Takeaway. Fancy restaurants. They each play their part in how we eat, and perhaps it's time for us to give each the credit they're due without trying to play them off against each other.
Takeaway rarely makes it into the pages of food publications, or at least, it didn't until big name restaurants started doing it, and more's the pity.
I would love to know whether my go-to pizza delivery place is really the pick of the bunch in my area. And I know I'm not the only parent to over-order dinnertime pizza so that breakfast for the kids the next morning is taken care of.
So, as an ode to the underappreciated takeaway places we all love like part of the furniture, here are some tips for bridging the gap between takeaway and home cooking.
Reheating soggy chips in the oven never quite works, and while deep-frying them again is the best approach, that can often be too much trouble. The solution is… stir-frying.
Put a good ¼ cup of vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the soggy chips until they're crisp. You'll need to season them with a bit more salt afterwards, but they'll be almost as good as freshly fried.
I'm borrowing an excellent tip from Terry Durack's review of Chatswood's Amah here. Most people with rice cookers are probably cooking their own rice to save a few bucks when they order Asian takeaway, but those who aren't quite as comfortable cooking their own should consider ordering extra.
A few left over servings of steamed rice sets the stage for fried rice the next day, where day-old refrigerated rice is key. (Here are 16 extra-special fried rice recipes.)
Pick up some fresh naan bread from your local Indian takeaway, and use it as lids for these quick butter chicken pot pies (recipe here). Photo: Katrina Meynink
Freeze your naan
Naan (and most other breads) freeze exceptionally well. If you're ordering Indian takeaway, a few extra naan can be frozen and served with your own homemade curry down the track.
Reheat them in a dry frying pan or on the barbecue and brush them with melted butter.
As more restaurants offer takeaway options, it's not just completed dishes on the menu.
Sydney's Golden Century sells its signature XO sauce, and the city's various Chat Thai outlets can add frozen Northern Thai sai oua sausage to your order. Melbourne's Hardware Club can send you a tin of Don Bocarte anchovies with Old Bay butter, and Lagoon Dining in Carlton bottles its own hot sauce, just to name a few.
Even if it's not listed you can always ask. You never know, your local pizza place might be happy to sell you a kilo of raw dough for you to use at home.
You'd be surprised just how many of the things you're used to throwing out can be turned into something else.
Leftover roast chicken bones can become stock, but you can also chop leftover roast vegetables and even chips into the post-roast classic, bubble and squeak (or try my cheesy vegetable hash). Turn leftover garlic bread into chicken stuffing. Think outside the box.
Remember those nuggets I mentioned earlier? Any leftover sauces can be served with frozen supermarket nuggets or fried bits of chicken dredged in seasoned flour, and young kids will be genuinely ecstatic.
And don't you even think about getting judgemental about that.