Some people swear to high-heaven they cannot cook and, I must confess, it always left me baffled.
How is that possible? You just… you know… put tasty things together? Everyone wins!
Luckily, I have always loved cooking. Thank you Mum. I love chopping, dicing, tasting, adding, thickening, thinning, baking, you name it! If an evening involves kitchen utensils, edible goods, music playing and perhaps some guests, I am a happy camper!
After witnessing some genuine (and hilarious!) incompetence first hand; friends with no idea what to do if a sauce is too thick, or what temperature to put the oven on, I realize cooking is just like everything else; for some it comes naturally, others may have to study up a bit.
But have no fear, like anything worth learning – practice makes perfect! And you can actually eat the homework.
Here are some easy tips anyone can implement and hopefully be inspired by. There are so many ways to learn how to cook and about a million brilliant cook books out there. All you need is a willingness to learn and some great music to crank 😉
Start to Learn about Food
When you are in the supermarket, start to look at different fruits, vegetables, sauces, spices… all of it. Be curious about what you can do and activate the part of your brain that thinks about what tastes good together. Think about what you have seen together on menus a lot; Pumpkin and sage? Tomato and Basil? Banana and Cinnamon? Have you discovered marinated artichokes yet? You should! Even just on a slice of bread with a layer of hummus – these babies make the perfect lunchtime pleasure.
Look at the herbs and give them a smell…. Start to get familiar with food and form a relationship with it in its pure state (a basil plant, a whole pumpkin…). Think about how you can make that pumpkin into a soup – what do you like with pumpkin? Coconut? Curry powder? Chives? Smell things, look at things, feel them. It sounds weird, but I promise, you need to know food if you want to love it!
Invest in Some Great Staples
This may sound overwhelming if starting from scratch – but a crucial part of becoming a good cook is having a pantry of great staples. You want to be able to just “whip something up” when the mood strikes and that’s only possible if you have the ingredients!
It’s worth spending money to have have good quality (organic if you can) oils, spices, herbs, grains and tinned vegetables in your home. You’ll be healthier, of course, but you’ll also be more inspired and excited to use the products. Hopefully no one gets excited to use a cheap tin of packaged soup! Buy good foods. Buy delicious foods. You’ll be more likely to stay on this wagon!
Here are a few, yummy (vegan) staple suggestions! You will of course build up a bountiful pantry over time to include everything you like. Buying all this in one go would be expensive for most people!
Organic Olive oil (for dressings, serving bread, baking, a butter replacement, general deliciousness)
Organic Sunflower Oil (for heating, sauteing and roasting vegetables)
Organic Coconut Oil (for baking)
Wholesome Peanut Butter. Try for one that contains NOTHING but peanuts. (An obvious kitchen staple)
Tahini (I use tahini in EVERYTHING! If you aren’t a huge fan, it is still useful for making home made hummus, salad dressings and sauces.)
Organic Tinned Tomatoes (For making pastas, ratatouille, lasagnes etc)
Tinned Beans and/or Pulses (I would get some chickpeas, black beans and lentils. Whatever floats your boat. You don’t need to get everything first up, but beans/pulses are great.)
Oats and Grains (Brown rice is a great staple; cheap, versatile and healthy! Organic oats are fantastic for breakfasts and baking. If you want to go full-ninja healthy: Quinoa and Freekeh are amazing whole grains, rich in protein, minerals and genuinely delicious.)
Fresh Herbs (For a beginner – at least get some Basil and Rosemary. There is a WEALTH of amazing herbs out there – but Basil will be crucial for any Italian style dishes and Rosemary is perfect for oven-roasting vegetables.)
Onions, Garlic and Ginger (Just get ’em. Most recipes will call for one or all of these things!)
Spices (See what recipes you are drawn to and if any spices are recurring. For a beginner, I would say have some curry powder, cumin and cinnamon in your pantry.)
Fruits and Veggies! (Obviously get as many of your favorites as you like and will want to cook with, but don’t go overboard so things get wasted. Buy fresh produce for the next few days. Bananas keep for quite a long time and we should eat them when they have some black spots (this is when they’re ripe). I would highly recommend having some avocados, tomatoes, lemons, potatoes and greens in your kitchen. You will always be a healthy, ninja, kitchen goddess!)
Nuts and Seeds (Almonds and Brazil nuts are my favorites; super rich in protein, calcium and bloody delicious! If you haven’t yet roasted almonds in the oven, get ready to have your life changed. Pine nuts are a good staple for lots of recipes including pesto! You know you’ll want to make pesto soon, right? Seeds like chia, flax, pumpkin and sunflower are amazing to have in the house for salads or smoothies, but if that sounds a little overwhelming right now, don’t stress. Fruits and vegetables are the most important thing! Start with some almonds 😉
Buy Cute Things You’ll WANT to Use.
Some people like shoes (I like those too), some people like stationary. I love kitchen accessories.
Walking into a kitchen store is my idea of heaven. The cutest measuring scales… the most darling wooden spoon…. Collecting jars to keep things in. What can I say? I love my kitchen.
Get on the “Jar Wagon?”
I collect jars. It’s just environmentally friendly, okay? They’re also cute as hell and make EVERYTHING – even my porridge oats look cute. Give some of your Staples their own personal jar/container – like rice, oats, nuts, spices…. it’ll look super cute and you’ll be begging your friends to open your pantry doors before you know it!
AT LEAST ONE Good Quality Knife, Board and Pan!
Just get at least ONE good quality knife. You don’t need to spend millions on a giant set, but have at least one good-quality chopping knife. Also, buy (at least one!) great non-stick frying pan from a brand that isn’t harmful. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about which companies are good/bad, do your own research and make sure you invest. It’s not worth buying cheap stuff that is genuinely harmful!
Some good reading on the subject: http://accidental-greenie.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/non-stick-cookware-cautionary-tale.html
What’s your Favorite meal?
What is the best meal that you have had? Get Googling and see if it’s a recipe you want to tackle. Learning just one recipe is a great way to start with the basics and see what makes sense and what doesn’t. Stick to the recipe at first and then you can start to think – hmm maybe some rosemary could go in this?! Before you know it, you’ll be diverting off it so much and creating your own!
It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated.
Avocado and tomato on toast is one of my favorite meals. Oven Roasted Vegetables is another! These meals are simple to make – the key is: GOOD INGREDIENTS WELL PREPARED. That really is the secret. Invest in yummy foods and don’t overcook them. Add the right herb to your veggies…. or the perfect pinch of salt to your tomato – that is all it takes.
You Do Have “Instincts”.
You! Yes, you! Even if you think you cannot cook, I promise you do have instincts buried in there and even the most professional cooks occasionally over spice or over flavor their food. It’s not the end of the world. If you make something a little too spicy because you got excited and diverted from the recipe, you can still balance out the dish by adding something to counter the chilli. Some lemon juice perhaps? Tinned tomatoes? Soy/Coconut milk? Sometimes things go beyond repair, but if you’re making a savory dish, usually it can be rectified with the right herbs, seasoning and balance.
And from my Mother – the best cook I know – “don’t forget to put flour/rice/pasta etc in freezer for 24 hrs to stop any creepy things from growing in there!”
She’s the best.
Well, that’s it friends! It’s time to have a crack. Think about a lovely, simple dish you want to make for dinner tonight. Maybe start with just a giant medley of oven-roasted vegetables? Throw all the veggies you like into an oven roasting try with some sunflower oil, Thyme, Rosemary, salt and pepper? It couldn’t be simpler. Serve with some salad and perhaps a lovely thick hummus?
A lovely addition to any meal is buying a nice loaf of bread and having a bit of an indulge.
Enjoy 🙂 xx