Calling all foodies hungry to cook…
…when you don’t know how.
When you don’t know how much or how little you know about how to recreate the flavours you love.
When you often find yourself burning macaroni cheese, undercooking chicken, and seriously contemplating cooking burgers in the toaster (< real story, that, within my family!)
Or maybe not even getting to that stage…
This one’s for you.
Because the reality is that it’s an adventure. You’re trying something new.
So treat it as such.
It’s the beginning of an adventure as soon as you start looking for a recipe to attempt – not when you get into the kitchen to start making it.
Pick one. Pick a recipe that appeals to you, but which is not too fast cooking or laborious/long in instructions – avoid egg-based recipes (omelettes, poached eggs, scrambled…) because they tend to require fast actions. I’d recommend a casserole or stew, or a basic pasta sauce.
The next part of the adventure is to draw up a list of ingredients and possibly kitchen equipment you might need (if you don’t already have it), and then go out hunting for it all.
Don’t make substitutes – if you can’t find the right ingredient exactly as listed in the recipe, don’t make a substitute, because by choosing a different ingredient, you’re changing the recipe and the actions you need to take to prepare it. For example, if the recipe calls for a Savoy cabbage, don’t buy a sweetheart/pointed cabbage instead, because a sweetheart cabbage has less fibres and a different taste to a Savoy, and is used to “melt” into the pot to create extra textures (like onions) rather than as a distinct vegetable that retains some shape and texture (which the Savoy does). Go to another shop and another until you get all the correct ingredients.
This in itself is an adventure – trekking across town in search of the Holy Grail right ingredients, especially if the sun is out, the farmers markets are on, and filling in what you can’t find there in specialist shops and supermarkets.
Come back home. Now’s a good time for a quick tea- or coffee-break if you need or want it – helps to calm down from time outside.
And when you’re ready, pop into the kitchen.
Prepare all the vegetables and meats before you start cooking – chop and slice everything you need to, place separate vegetables into separate bowls ready. Wash meat in cold water and dry with paper towels if you can: it’s especially worthwhile if you’re cooking poultry, it washes away any gunk and funk that’s accumulated before coming to your kitchen and makes it taste cleaner, less gamey.
Take your time. Relax into it. Follow the recipe. As long as the heat under the pots is low, it’s hard to overcook it – if anything, it’s better to keep it cooking another 5-10 minutes longer.
Smell what you’re cooking – if you begin to smell burning, take it off the heat and try to work out where in the pot it’s coming from – it is under the meat? Is it the sauce (if there is any?), is it emanating throughout the pot?
If you notice an unburned layer on top and a burnt layer closer to the bottom of the pot DO NOT STIR IT – just scrape top layers for eating and leave the rest to clean up later.
See what’s happening to your food as it’s cooking –
Listen to it all.
Taste it when it’s meant to be done according to the recipe. Does it taste good to you? Do you think it could do with cooking some more?
Pay attention if the recipe outlines how it’s meant to look, taste and smell when it’s complete, and compare that description with what you’ve got – does it match up?
Is it good to you? Good.
Now grab your favourite plates and bowls and cutlery.