Simple tips and tricks for newbie foodies…
You see top chefs on the telly speedily chop vegetables apparently effortlessly, but that’s because they’re top chefs. We normal folk will take a little while longer to dice something up. Simply make sure all of your ingredients are prepared beforehand, so when it comes to fry the onion, you won’t be furiously hacking away, with tears streaming down your face and your chicken burning in the oven. Just chop in advance, pop things into storage pots, and you’ll have everything ready to go – it’ll be a whole lot less stressful and leave you more time to concentrate on following the recipe.
Make sure that what you’re cooking with is good-quality stuff. I’m not saying re-mortgage and go and buy an entire range of top-of-the-range kitchen gadgets, but make sure you have at least one decent-sized pot and one large, sharp knife. With these two items, at a minimum, you’ll be able to do a multitude of cooking tasks. What’s more, not only will the better items last a lot longer than the cheaper stuff, but they’ll help you go at a quicker pace as you get more confident. Plus, a good non-stick pan will help when washing up too, as it’ll easily wipe clean in warm, soapy water.
If you’re planning to cook a recipe that serves four but are cooking solo, then don’t bother heading to the supermarket and buying the full amount of ingredients anyway. If it doesn’t turn out like you thought, you’ll either be left with a ton of odd-job ingredients or three servings of something the dog would pass by.
Instead, head to your local greengrocer or farmer’s market and buy just enough veg for one, rather than an entire bag or box’s worth. If the recipe calls for something obscure and it’s not a central element (think along the lines of oils; they’re often an offender for this kind of thing) substitute it for something similar you already have (or choose a simpler recipe to start with). Yes, you’ll lose on subtlety of flavour, but the overall experience will be the same, it’s cheaper and there won’t be any wastage.
Be brave and experiment with the amount of salt, pepper and other seasoning on your food. There’s nothing worse than slaving away for hours at the stove, only to produce a bland supper. As a rule of thumb, though, it’s best to be conservative, as you can add more seasoning if necessary, but not take it away. It takes a bit of trial and error, but once you’ve trained your palate you’ll be an expert seasoner in no time.
You’re starting out, so it’s okay if things go wrong or if you don’t know how to do something. Thankfully, these days we have the web to help us along – whatever the cooking dilemma, chances are there will be a tutorial out there to help you. And perhaps keep a frozen ready meal handy for when things do go wrong – we’ve all been there.