When was the last time you cooked a meal from scratch in your microwave?
More often than not, the microwave is used only for defrosting or reheating.
However, vegetables, sauces, seafood and many meat dishes can be cooked in the microwave and in half the time required by conventional cooking methods. The kitchen remains cool, the power consumption is lower and there is less cleaning up.
Any dish is only as good as it tastes and many a reluctant vegetable eater has been won over by the flavour of vegetables cooked in the microwave.
And because they're cooked in minimal water in less time, the nutritional content is greater.
Recipes can also be prepared using less fat than conventional cooking. Stir-fries can be cooked using a teaspoon of oil or none at all.
Sauces should not go lumpy - but if they do, just beat well with a whisk.
If you make cheese sauce in a saucepan there is a strong chance it will catch and burn on the base and then the pot has to be soaked and scrubbed. Using a microwave-proof glass jug or bowl, cheese sauce takes five minutes to cook. The jug can be scraped clean then popped into the dishwasher.
In some cases a conventional oven can be a better choice. A casserole using 500g of stewing meat can take up to one hour to cook on low power in the microwave. In this case a conventional oven is the better choice, as vegetables can be baked at the same time as the meat is cooking.
It is best to undercook - you can always add a few extra seconds or minutes of cooking at the push of a button. However, if microwaved food is overcooked it is as bad as when it is overcooked by conventional means.
Check the wattage of your microwave. The higher the wattage the quicker it will cook food. These recipes were developed for a 1100-watt oven.
Some risotto lovers may throw up their hands in horror at the thought of cooking their favourite dish in the microwave. Risotto cooked in a frying pan takes about 30-40 minutes of stirring to incorporate the liquid into the rice. My version takes 15 minutes max. Cook it in an 8-10 cup microwave-proof jug or bowl.
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup (250g) Arborio rice
2 -2 & 1/2 cups fish or chicken stock
250g peeled and deveined raw prawns
6-8 shelled mussels
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 red pepper, diced
1-2 chorizo, sliced
1/4 cup grated each: parmesan cheese, chopped parsley
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Place onion, garlic and oil in a large microwave-proof bowl. Cover and microwave on high (100%) power for two minutes. Stir in rice then two cups of stock. Cover and microwave for 8-10 minutes, until rice is almost cooked. Stir well.
Add prawns, mussels, peas, pepper and chorizo. Mix well but gently. Cover and heat through for 2-3 minutes. Stand for a few minutes then stir in parmesan, half the parsley and lemon rind and the lemon juice.
Spoon into four serving bowls and garnish with the remaining parsley and lemon rind. If the mixture is a little solid, heat remaining stock and pour some over each serving. Serves 4.
SALMON STEAKS WITH TOMATO & CORIANDER
I place a silicone cover over the food in the microwave. Cling film is good for short cooking times. This recipe can be doubled. The cooking time will need to be doubled as well.
2 salmon steaks, about 250g
2 firm, ripe, small tomatoes, sliced
2-3 drops Tabasco or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tbsp chopped coriander
Corn (taco) chips
Place salmon in a microwave baking dish.
Top evenly with tomatoes. Sprinkle with the Tabasco, black pepper and coriander.
Cover and microwave on high (100%) power for 2-3 minutes. Stand for one minute before serving.
Place corn chips on side.
Great with a salad, sour cream and lemon wedges.
Cook rice to accompany the chicken in the microwave prior to cooking the chicken.
280g skinned and boned chicken
Grated rind and juice 1 lemon
2 tbsp water
1 tsp each: sugar, soy sauce, prepared mustard
2 tsp cornflour
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small red pepper (capsicum), seeded and diced
1 spring onion, diced
Garnish: finely chopped parsley
Cut chicken into 2cm cubes. Place in a shallow, round microwave baking dish. Combine lemon rind and juice, water, sugar, soy sauce, mustard, cornflour and garlic. Pour over chicken and mix well, ensuring pieces are coated in sauce.
Cover and microwave on medium-high power for two minutes. Stir well. Add pepper and spring onion. Cover and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes.
Serve sprinkled with parsley. Serves 4.
700g lean minced beef
1 packet dry onion soup mix
4 tbsp tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 spring onion, diced
1/4 cup rolled oats
Garnish: plain or smoked paprika
Place mince in a large bowl. Combine all the other ingredients except paprika. Mix into mince with your fingers or a fork. Pack into a 23cmx13cm loaf pan.
Sprinkle top with paprika.
Wrap ends of loaf pan in a small piece of foil. This will prevent meat at the ends from cooking too quickly.
Cover and microwave on half (50%) power for five minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook for another five minutes. Stand, covered, for 4-5 minutes before slicing.