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!!

tigerlilygrr Thu 14-Feb-13 14:34:10

A great book for cooks of all levels is Lorraine Pascale's Fast Fresh and Easy food. It's written in a different style to all the other books I have - rather than having a list of ingredients which have been prepped eg chopped garlic, peeled veg, it has a simple list of ingredients (eg one head garlic, two carrots etc) and then the recipe instructions spell out exactly what to do in what order (literally at the level of "put the kettle on, and start chopping onions"). The recipes all take about half an hour and without exception are delicious! I think if your budget will stretch to another book for weekend or special meals, it will be well worth the investment.

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Thu 14-Feb-13 10:40:24

Ok. Amazon will be bringin Delia, river cottage veg and Jamie olivers one.

Useful to know about asda organic free range being ok. Asda is our closest supermarket but we have the bug now so will shop wherever!

We already make a chicken last but need some planning if we're going to pay double!

keely79 Thu 14-Feb-13 10:21:32

I would recommend the River Cottage Family Cookbook. As it is aimed at getting parents and kids together to cook, the recipes are nice and simple (and include things like nutritious snacks for kids) and clearly explained. Plus there's lots of background information about food aimed at giving you the tools to go forward and experiment yourself.

defineme Thu 14-Feb-13 10:16:03

I don't think it's where you shop so much as reading the label when it comes to meat.

I've had organic and/or British outdoor/free range meat from Asda and it's a lot cheaper than Waitrose- bigger Co-ops too. A whole free range chicken can do 2 meals and is a lot cheaper than free range chicken breasts, pack of free range drumsticks/thighs somewhere in between.

A good tip for me was read the label of something and if there's anything in it that you wouldn't find in your kitchen cupboard then don't buy it.

Some things I've demoted to treat status eg bacon is now a rare treat because processed meat is not good for you and not advised for young kids.

Pop your own popcorn as an alternative to crisps-then you control the salt you add?

Make your own ice cream so you know what's in it?

looseleaf Thu 14-Feb-13 10:10:08

Like Mrs Villiers Riverford has been revolutionary for us- I just love the positive change it's brought us, and we eat some much better. We're on quite a budget but order the combined meat and veg box often then I'll try to stretch the meat over different meals eg a bit of bacon on top on veg soup made from our chicken carcass. Also another one who finds slow cooker great.
So glad you're getting more interested in basics as the more you get the hang of it the more satisfying and I do think our whole family feels better for it!

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 14-Feb-13 10:03:15

If you want a nice recipe for meatballs.....

8oz each lean beef and pork mince
1/2 onion, chopped and fried
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
Plenty of salt and pepper

Mix all the above either by hand or using the dough hook/blade in a food processor. Knead and squash the mixture well and this makes the meat stick together. Then shape into walnut size meatballs using wet hands.

Heat some passata in a wide, shallow pan, add a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper and some more mixed herbs.

Place the meatballs on top of the sauce, put on a lid and simmer gently for about 20 - 25 minutes. Wait at least 10 minutes before stirring the dish very carefully. This gives the meatballs chance to hold together.

Serve over cooked pasta.

(The recipe makes enough for four people. If you make extra quantities of the finished raw meatballs they can be frozen for use another day. They will cook from frozen in the sauce when you need them. )

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Thu 14-Feb-13 07:26:02

Thanks Cogito - was my husband who heard it on the radio so I suspect some chinese whispers happened in between!

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 14-Feb-13 06:24:24

BTW... I don't think Waitrose's fresh mince is under question. They've withdrawn their beef meatballs because they were found to contain some pork.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 14-Feb-13 06:23:06

There are lots of interesting things you can eat as snacks. Dried/fresh fruit, nuts, seeds,... really easy to make your own cereal bars and fruit cakes, for example. Crispbreads and crackers are a good base for simple savoury toppings. Dips like hummus are good with raw veg crudites. All kinds

But the occasional packet of crisps or bar of chocolate is fine too. 'There are no bad foods, only bad diets' so if the majority of what you eat is unprocessed and home-prepared, a few convenience foods or things containing a lot of salt or sugar are not going to do you any harm.

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Wed 13-Feb-13 23:31:07

And thanks for the ideas Trucks!

I heard today that even Waitrose mince is dodgy....

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

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!

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!

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.

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

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!

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.

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!)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 !

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.

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