help me learn about good simple food. . .

(35 Posts)
CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Tue 12-Feb-13 12:35:29

Just wondering if anyone can recommend any basic cookery book? Or help with questions below?

Basically I didn't have a great childhood and didn't learn cooking by osmosis as a child. I can bake well (not exactly healthy though!) I can follow a recipe and haven't bought ready-meals but do rely on quite a bit of processed stuff I think. I always used to think the main guiding factor was price - so would buy asda basics mince etc and cook the same few meals (mince based, roast chicken, risotto,).

I've been recently getting bored of what I eat and craving fresh food and more variety but don't know where to start. In light of recent horse news I've also got more urge to buy 'well' . Not so worried about eating horse as much as not knowing what's in anything and want to be more careful what I eat.

Any ideas where to start? Or how to educate myself?

Also - should I buy from a butcher, or wait,rose? Or gr supermarket meat ok if its British or finest or organic? I honestly don't know where to start. We normally get the 3 for 10 quid, chicken mince and bacon.

I'd like not to eat crisps and other junk too - and just eat more interesting food. And know what's in it all.

Sorry its so rambly!! I overeat and overeat crap and really want to change!!

dreamingofsun Tue 12-Feb-13 13:12:49

i'd get a decent student cookbook as these are pretty straightforward - order a few from the library and see which are best before buying.

the rest depends on your budget. i buy food at morrisons - but only whole chunks of meat. i buy sausages and mince at waitrose as i trust the brand more. morrisons meat seems fine, and quite a lot of interesting cuts. there fish is very good. read up on the different signs - tractor isn't great - this is about as low as i will go. buy british as that usually means its ok.

set yourself a target of trying a different recipe once a week, or working through the book maybe. or trying a different meat.

do you have a slow cooker. they are fab

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Tue 12-Feb-13 13:18:03

Thanks. Haven't used a slow cooker and never really cooked much meat before other than chicken!

From googling Jamie olivers ministry of food has come up, and the 30minute meals. I'm kind of wanting to undertamd the principles /theory too rather than just recipes.

So better supermarkets really do do better meat? Happy now to spend more if it means I can trust it. Was thinking of butcher/ farmer market near us as they'll obviously know where its all from and it will be real meat but then that could bf a bit knee jerky if some supermarket meat is ok. I really don't know how to tell the difference!!

Jamie's Ministryof Food got my widowed father from cheese on toast to hosting dinner parties!

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Tue 12-Feb-13 13:23:28

Well that sounds good! Amazon it is . . .

Waitrose often says its meat is 'outdoor reared from farmers who share our values' which I think is a decent starting point if you don't have a good local butcher. When I lived in the UK I would rather buy a small amount of cheaper cuts but good meat and make it into a casserole or stew with lots of veg.
Stews and casseroles are easy and good at this time of year.

You brown chunks of meat in a frying pan in some oil on a medium heat, then lift it out with a spoon and pat dry with kitchen towel. You chop an onion and put it in a big saucepan with some butter and the lid on, on a low heat until it sweats and goes soft and juicy.

You add chopped up potato, carrot, swede and a teaspoon of mixed herbs. Chopped to the size of a mouthful- sized chunk, not tiny bits You put the meat in. You mix it and add salt and pepper. Then you pour in liquid - a stock cube and boiling water mixed up, or wine, or cider or draft beer- until it covers the meat and veg. You bring it to the bubble and then turn the heat down until it goes blop, blop every ten seconds and let it cook on a low-medium heat for a couple of hours. You can also add a tin of lentils, or some shredded ham or left over cooked sausage.

Eat with bread or rice or just as it is. Extra liquid - it's a soup.

dreamingofsun Tue 12-Feb-13 13:41:23

reason i suggested a student book is because many do explain the basics - aimed at people who have never cooked before. Jamie's 30 min book is hidden in my cupboard but the hairy bikers diet one is brilliant - but it might not teach you principles. do you have a local library?

butchers are variable - find a good one and you are laughing as they can recommend cheap cuts of meat and tell you how to cook them. our local one sources their meat from farms in the area. On the other hand my husband worked in one as a student and its put him off butchers for life.

JamNan Tue 12-Feb-13 13:45:32

I am not veggie but I do like Hugh F-W's
River Cottage Veg Every Day!.

and his River Cottage Everyday includes lots of easy to follow basic family meals.

Ottolenghi is also very inspirational so is Jamie Oliver.

thestringcheesemassacre Tue 12-Feb-13 13:51:24

Delia is also a good start for very good basics. She does very good recipes and how to dos.

sb6699 Tue 12-Feb-13 13:59:20

I would definately get hold of ministry of food - another mn'er recommended this to me and my cooking has been revolutionised. In fact I rarely buy processed food these days and I really didn't have a clue.

30 minute meals is fairly easy to follow but has lots of expensive ingredients and doesnt teach you how to cook just gives you recipes.

I'm also a huge nigella fan - how to be a domestic goddess is another great book for beginners.

JamNan Tue 12-Feb-13 14:06:51

Yes I forgot Delia. Her recipes are good.

Also another fan of a slow cooker here - £10 from Tesco. They save a huge amount of time and are very energy efficient. I can't think why I didn't get one before. recipes here.

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Tue 12-Feb-13 14:13:05

Thanks for all the replies.

Looks like a vote in favour of Jamie then!

I do have one of Delia's books (make my spag bog from her recipes) but wondered about the cookery course.... I think my Grandpa did that. Presumably Jamie might cook more curries and things that I might fancy.

I've never made a stew or a casserole (other than a sausage one!). I'm happy to buy better meat and make it go further - any particular meat to buy?

To date I have only bought beef mince and whole chickens!

Completely see the point about waitrose - would it be cheaper than a butcher? Would sainsburies be as good (much closer!). I'm still trying to work out the food hierarchy !

dreamingofsun Tue 12-Feb-13 14:22:27

sainsbury's is nearly as good as waitrose but is cheaper. read the labels - ideally you want free range, definately british, and at least the tractor. steer clear of basic ranges except in waitrose.

dreamingofsun Tue 12-Feb-13 14:31:30

try and watch some of the cookery programmes on TV. You might find that helpful. not the ones with professional cooks competing against each other though.

dinkystinky Tue 12-Feb-13 14:33:30

Nigel Slater's Real Food is a good book - inspired me to want to cook more.

I'm loving Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's 3 good things cookbook DH got - basically 3 lovely fresh ingredients and make a meal out of it with some spices and other bits and bobs.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 12-Feb-13 14:42:31

I'd recommend Delia's 'Complete Cookery Course' but I'd suggest you go through it like a text book - a course - rather than dipping in and out for the odd recipe. Read all the chapters start to finish so that you can understand the techniques and the 'science' of why particular foods behave in a particular way. Then you actually learn how ingredients work and react under different conditions, not just how to rustle up Chilli con Carne.

Stewing steak is sold by the packet on supermarkets and is a good start. You could also use lamb, mutton, venison, or pork - ask a butcher what they have in that's good for stews. It's the tougher cuts that benefit from long slow cooking and they are cheaper. When the veg is soft the meat should be tender.

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Tue 12-Feb-13 15:21:31

Delia and Jamie purchased from Amazon....

Now need to actually make the time to cook properly and plan and shop and all that. I assume once you get into the habit of it all it doesn't seem so overwhelming?

I'm slowly learning - butter is better than spread (manufactured)... anything else like that I should know? I'm slowly trying to go unprocessed! Meat is the biggie though - I've never really cooked meat before. (Goes to add Hugh FW to the list!)

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 12-Feb-13 15:51:19

'Cooking properly' can be anything from whipping up an omelette to a complicated dish with lots of stages.... so it's only as overwhelming as you make it.

What I do during the week are the quicker things.... salads, omelettes, pasta dishes, stir-fries, grills.... and at the weekend when I've got more time I'll do something that takes a bit longer or is a bit trickier. Also at weekends I'll cook extra portions of favourites like bolognese sauce or chilli con carne, freeze them in tubs and then when life gets really busy, I can just defrost one and add to a bit of cooked pasta or cooked rice. My latest thing (I work from home) is to make a pan of soup on a Monday and have that as a hot lunch for the next three or four days. Cook once... eat lots of times!

Can I recommend another little book? It's about how to differentiate 'real food' from 'edible food-like substances'. Look up Michael Pollan 'In Defence of Food' It's a cracking read and he has some really handy, easy-to-remember tips for making good choices, looking at ingredients lists etc. For example... avoid any food making health claims on the packet. Really healthy food like a cauliflower is not allowed to say 'lower in fat!!' or 'higher in fibre!!' because it's a natural thing that can't be reformulated.

I used to do a batch cooking session on either Sat or Sunday so that covered at least two meals late in the week. Once I got into the swing of it it all got quite easy.
So for example... Weekly shopping list

1 chicken
Bag chicken wings
Pork chops
Mince
stewing beef or lamb
Bag carrots
bag potatoes
Bag onions
Broccoli
2 leeks
cheese
Pasta, tortilla wraps, bread, noodles in cupboard
Hummus made by whizz ing chickpeas,oil, galic, lemon zest or bought from store

Saturday - make spag Bol sauce and beef and lentil/veg stew. Fridge overnight, freeze on Sunday. Lunch something quick like pork chop, broccoli and potato wedges.

Sunday - roast chicken with roast pots and veg. make stock with bones of chicken and a few wings if I can be arsed. Fridge overnight for the stock.

Monday - chicken fajitas or chicken curry with leftover chicken. Put chicken stock in ice cube tray and freeze, or use as base of chicken soup with noodles and left over Sunday carrots, leeks, broccoli.

Tuesday - Veg soup with bread and cheese. Using whatever veg is around. Possibly add crumbled fried slice of bacon to soup.

Wednesday - Spag Bol from freezer

Thursday - Chilli lime chicken wings ( shake wings in bag with chilli and lime and oil,put in baking tray and bake until golden) raw broccoli and carrot florets dipped in hummus.

Friday - beef stew from freezer

Sat - big breakfast omelette brunch, skip lunch or pick up snack at farmers market, off to grocer, butcher and supermarket to start again!

I have only been really
cooking a year or so, and I like Jamie, but I personally find hfw better for teaching understanding of flavours and methods. I found Jamie hit and miss when learning and couldn't get on with his theory that chilli goes with everythinggrin
I also think that Nigel Slater kitchen diaries would inspire anyone to cook. It's a lovely read and a great cookbook.

I buy meat at Sainsbury or the butcher. Mince only at the butcher. And fish at the market or Morrison s. But then I have the choice. Not everyone has.

I also buy organic milk. But only because it tastes sooo much better. The support of farmers is secondarygrin

mrsvilliers Tue 12-Feb-13 21:31:38

I'd suggest getting a vegbox. We find it forces you to be a bit more experimental with what you cook plus you can often get your meat/dairy produce through them. We use Riverford and although it is more effort, I wouldn't go back. With recipes Hugh FW, Nigel Slater and Delia are my fail safes.

mrsvilliers Tue 12-Feb-13 21:35:48

Oh also important to bear in mind is that if you follow a recipe to the letter it should work. If it doesn't it is probably a 'bad' recipe. Annoyingly there are quite a few out there!

VirtualAssistant2011 Wed 13-Feb-13 09:45:22

I have Jamie Ministry of Food and it is great! Also Jamies Dinners. I am trying to source local products and cut out pre-packaged food and take aways too so am watching this post with interest!

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Wed 13-Feb-13 23:30:12

Thanks - all ordered.

Really thinking about the amount of "processed" in my diet. I didn't really think of myself that way as I don't buy thsoe microwave meals - but we had a packaged pizza at my dads (even though it's tesco's finest, its still very processed with unidentifiable meat). I've also eaten half a milky way and half a packet of crisps. Not exactly my best day but very processed without even thinking about it!

I do need to think of interesting snacks as well as the main meals.

All comments above very welcome. Thank-you mumsnet smile

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