5 tips for beginner cooks

This isn’t a very me post but there are a few things I’ve learnt about cooking which make it far less scary and far more enjoyable. I know a lot of people reading these sorts of blogs like the recipes and want to give them a try but don’t think of themselves as good cooks and so the whole thing just seems quite daunting. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that encouraged experimenting with flavour but I remember times when I’ve tried to follow recipes word for word and everything has gone horribly wrong. There was one time I cooked a duck and lovingly stroked it every fifteen minutes for two hours with rosemary sticks dipped in olive oil and obviously the duck turned out overcooked and underseasoned. Stuff goes wrong all the time. Just yesterday, I was experimenting with bulgur wheat and it all went tits up. The grain was cooked but there was far too much stock still left in the pan. I know how to deal with this stuff now, it’s a pretty easy fix, just whack up the heat and quickly boil the stock off, but in the beginning I probably would have thrown it away and started all over again. Anyway, these are my tips to make cooking a little more fun and recipes a lot more achievable.

1.Use your common sense. It’s all very well to follow recipes but often there will be factors which you can’t account for. Your oven might be a bit hotter than the author’s, your idea of a medium flame might be different, who really knows how much salt is in a pinch? People make mistakes, even cookbook writers, if you think L is meant to read ML you could very well be right. If you think something doesn’t seems off, it probably is.

2. Constantly check your food. Unfortunately unless you’ve put something in a sous vide machine, cooking is a hands on job. If you’re roasting a rack of lamb in the oven, give it a prod every couple of minutes. If you’re making a pasta sauce, check the seasoning every so often.

3. Don’t be afraid to turn off the heat. Sometimes when you’re cooking for a large group or you’ve just made a little timing error, one element of a meal might be ready before another. At this point you either start again from scratch if you have time and you’re in crazy perfectionist mode, or just turn off the heat and warm it up prior to serving. It’s not ideal but it’s better than cooking all the life out of your food.

4. Keep your bin close and your binemies closer. The last bit of that sentence is gibberish but the first bit is probably the most useful thing I’ve learnt to do this year. A bin nearby is a friend indeed. Keeping a clean kitchen improves your cooking. You just get less stressed, everything flows better, nothing seems as frantic and a great way of achieving this is having a bin on hand.

5. Taste every ingredient if it’s new to you or you haven’t used it in a while. This is SO important. I was making something with my sister the other day and hadn’t used buttermilk in ages. It’s a confusing one because you think it’s going to be rich and creamy but in reality it’s more sour creamy. Because I am in good habits with stuff like this, I made us do a shot of it before we thought about putting it in our quiche. Bullet dodged. I cannot stress how vital it is to know what you’re cooking with. If you have any top tips please comment below!

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