THE BLOG

Five Fundamentals a Beginner Homecook Needs to Know

11/11/2014 10:44 GMT | Updated 10/01/2015 10:59 GMT

The cooking world loves a beginner! Every chef from Heston Blumenthal to Marco Pierre White started their cooking careers as beginners! They all made the mistakes but still wanted to keep learning. The benefits of learning to cook are so good for you and your family and once you get on board, you get to join a global club that between us could change the face of food insecurity, obesity and food waste. So come on in and learn my 5 rules.

Rule 1:- Health

One of the main reasons why people learn to cook is because it's better for their healthy. And therefore, in my opinion there is no point learning to cook (for yourself and family) unless the majority of the food you cook is healthy! Therefore, start by following these guidelines:

  • Limit oil, salt, sugar, cream and saturated fat/proteins. They definitely make food extra delicious but they need to be limited.
  • Regularly choose recipes using whole grains, loads of fresh vegetables, healthy spices and herbs. Keep the richer ingredients for entertaining and special occasions.
  • Get familiar with the Eatwell Plate or the simpler My Plate and portion sizes.
  • Practice healthier cooking methods i.e. grill, steam, roast. Avoid deep fat frying!

Rule 2:- Recipes

Baking is a science; cooking an art.

Baking recipes need to be followed exactly until you become more confident and familiar with the science involved in the baking process.

All other recipes are guidelines as there are so many variants involved e.g. different brands of ingredients, sizes of vegetables, heat sources of hobs and ovens etc. Read every new recipe twice or three times to familiarize with the order of cooking and get that right. But don't get hung up that your recipe doesn't turn out exactly like the picture in the recipe book. As long as it tastes good and you've presented it well, it will give you enough of a buzz to move on.

Tip: When I try out a new recipe I jot down a few observations and what I could change in a notebook.

Rule 3:- Equipment

Slowly build up a collection of basic equipment! You'll be wandering around home stores on your weekend with joy before long, but to start, purchase 3 good knives quite early on:

  • A vegetable parer;
  • 15 centimetre knife or if you feel you can handle a big knife, choose a 20 centimetre cook's knife;
  • Serrated knife.

I'd also recommend getting a set of chopping boards too:

  • A small one for onions and garlic;
  • One for raw meat and fish;
  • One for everything else.

Good knives not only speed up boring time taking jobs like peeling vegetables, chopping and trimming foods, but they are also safer to use (store properly though). They also make you feel like a professional (fake it 'til you make it). Isn't that enough of a motive to move you onto the next level. Check out my list of essential kitchen equipment for serious home cooks.

Rule 4:- Taste

If the food you cook doesn't taste good, you won't eat it, which would tend to defeat the reason you got involved in the first place. Taste, alter, taste, alter and taste again before serving up. And this is the case for both familiar and unfamiliar recipes. Here's my cheat sheet on how to make food taste that much better with the addition of one or small ingredients.

Rule 5:- Presentation

Don't slap the food onto plates once you've taken precious time to cook it and expect everyone to say wahey! Warm the plates if the food is to be served hot and plate the food with the love you made the food with: colour, a little height, clean lines, off centre and not too much on a plate (they can always go back for extra) does more for their palate and your confidence as you'll see your diners eyes smiling and drop open mouths.

Let me know how you get on.