Part of it is about painlessly getting ahead by creating a store of ready-prepared ingredients. If I'm cooking rice or potatoes for supper I try to remember to cook extra so that I have the foundation of another meal under my belt. If I'm making pastry I make a double quantity and freeze the extra. I cook up bowls of lentils to store in the fridge for salads or stews. Unlike dried beans lentils are quick to cook and don't require soaking.. My answer to the 'oh but I can never remember to soak and cook dried beans' is to soak and cook a whole packet at a time and freeze them (or buy tinned). Vegetables can be prepared ahead, Tamar Adler has a lot to say about roasting vegetables ahead to use in the week. I find this works better with some veg than others, peppers and courgettes are good as are squashes and roots but roast cauliflower and broccoli did not work for me (or the rest of my family).
Another part of the kitchen relay lies in making use of the ends of things. I've long been a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles (and incidentally trifle is an excellent way of using up broken or stale cake, the ends of jars of jam and overripe fruit). I save gravy, leftover veg, crusts of bread, I religiously make the remains of every chicken I roast into stock, I pour drippings from any roast into little jars, use up the last bit of whipped cream in a sauce and if I were ever to have such a thing as leftover wine you can be sure I would throw it in my stew.
This week has been a fairly typical example of a kitchen relay.
I'd bought a squeaky bunch of curly parsley from the farm shop with vague thoughts of fish pie. I stood it in a Cornishware jug and admired it for several days before realising that it needed using up fast and fish pie was not going to take care of all of it. I made it into pesto with olive oil, garlic, walnuts and a heel of Shropshire blue.
I put the stalks into my stock pot along with the bony remains of our Sunday chicken.
The pesto was delicious on toast with a bowl of leftover fish-stew-without-the-fish. I often find myself eating leftover stews minus the meaty bits for my lunch.
I think I've said before that these days there is never much chicken left after a roast. Teenagers. There was enough, however, to make a pasty filling. I used the chicken fat saved from roasting to make a roux with flour, added a little of the chicken stock and the remains of a carton of single cream plus a splash of vermouth. This made a delicious sauce to which I added cooked leeks, the leftover chicken, some dried out grated parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley.
The rest of the chicken stock was poured into plastic tubs and put in the freezer.
We ate it with a big dish of croutons made from leftover crusts which I tossed with bacon (bacon is my secret weapon for getting kids to eat things they think they don't like).
The kitchen relay works for me, it works because I like to cook with what I have. I'm not good at sticking to meal plans, or at finding recipes and buying ingredients to make those recipes. I find the necessary task of feeding people as creative and fulfilling as any artistic endeavour. For that reason I favour cookery books which suggest ideas, allow flexibility and encourage thrift. Books of recipes have been replaced on my shelves by books like An Everlasting Meal and The New English Kitchen, The Thrifty Cookbook by Kate Colquhoun, The Modern Cook's Manual by Lynda Brown, Food From Plenty by Diana Henry and Appetite by Nigel Slater, these all demonstrate how to cook with creativity, economy and grace.