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To feel depressed because I can't cook

(69 Posts)
Olivetti Wed 17-Aug-11 08:51:25

The fast food baby thread prompted this, but it's not really a thread about a thread - more a plea for help.

I can't cook! In my 20s, I was a singleton/party girl, and basically survived on chardonnay, silk cut and crackers grin Fast-forward to my 30s, and I am married, have a 9 month old DD, and am getting more and more worried. My DH is an excellent cook, so I became even more complacent in some ways when I married him.

Don't worry - I'm not giving DD junk. So far, I've managed to get by with weetabix, fruit and veg (I can cook those), bolognaise/stew/chicken that DH has made, yoghurt, and I have turned to Ella's kitchen on occasion.

But I know that I have to get competent for the future. It is meat I am terrified of, to the extent that I can't even do a chicken stir-fry, because I feel so under-confident about knowing when it is cooked etc. I've looked into cookery courses, but they all seem to be either quite advanced, or too narrow (i.e. based around a menu). What I really want, is a course on meat safety grin. I just wish I felt confident about preparing meat, deforsting/reheating, different ways of cooking it e.g. frying, grilling. I can stick things in the oven if I know the timings, and serve with veg, but anything beyond that and I feel worried.

I'm paranoid about giving DD food poisoning. Can anyone give any tips on what I could do? I would pay someone to give me a few one-to-one lessons on meat.

faverolles Wed 17-Aug-11 08:55:52

Couldn't your Dh show you?
Even if he could just show you some basics, it might mean you are confident enough to try some simple recipes.
FWIW, I never know instinctively when chicken is cooked, so get some out of the pan and chop it in two - if it's White with no trace of pink, it's cooked.

youmeatsix Wed 17-Aug-11 08:57:12

have you looked locally, at community based programmes
in our village there are courses, one is called something like Healthy eating on a budget, its quite basic, but i know someone who went, they were asked to give ideas of what they wanted to cook and lessons based around that
there are a lot of initiatives around, and they are funded, so you only pay a couple of pounds for ingredients

it CAN be scary, and since your worry is meat, you really would benefit from instruction in person rather than recommendations of easy recipies
i would ask at your local library, they usually have lists of all thats going on and whats available locally

good luck!

Olivetti Wed 17-Aug-11 08:58:12

I know that seems the obvious solution, but he is a really bad teacher! And also, tbh, he's less careful than I would like - he has a stomach of iron, so he's always reheating things a few times or eating stuff that is 10 days past its use-by date. Obviously he is far more careful with DD, but I just feel I would like someone else to give me some really clear instructions.

CMOTdibbler Wed 17-Aug-11 08:58:15

What you need is a really good basic cookery book - I think its hard to beat the Delia smith complete cookery course.

Have you looked at your local evening class list ? there are often basic cookery courses available that way

hobnobsaremyfave Wed 17-Aug-11 09:00:52

Buy a couple of simple basic cook book and start with one or two straightforward dishes. Jamie Oliver's ministry of food book is a pretty good one to start off. The BBC food website has tons of recipes and will give you an idea of how tricky they are.
Where in the country (roughly ) are you OP? Most councils run evening/day classes covering the basics, as do some surestart centers.

VeronicaCake Wed 17-Aug-11 09:01:18

Could you not just do a food safety course rather than a cookery course? Your local council will run loads of these pretty cheaply and they'll run you through the basics of hygienic food preparation and keeping your kitchen clean.

This website looks useful too.

Other than that safe meat preparation really isn't that hard. To kill off bacteria you need to get the internal temp of your meat up to 70 degrees centigrade. You can buy a meat thermometer to test this but it is only going to be an issue with roast, grilled or stir-fried meats. If you make a beef stew and simmer it for a couple of hours you can be pretty confident it is safe!

Lonnie Wed 17-Aug-11 09:02:03

Start with vegetarian meals you say you can cook vegetables so start with vegetable stir fry then casseroles then move on to cakes and flapjacks..

Bit by bit as your confidence builds start to talk to dh about when the meat is done as he cooks (explain to him what you are doing and expect him to be supportive - that way he will be laughs) Build it up slowly don't attempt big gourmet meals but perhaps start of with a basic cook book.

I am a good cook but even now at age 40 there are times where I burn stuff over salts/under spice I think itis that way for everyone so dont worry to much about that it is part of the experience.

And good luck cooking si fun and as your dd gets older you can get her involved.

(tip for christmas /birthday tell dh you would like a introduction to cooking course - make him do the ground work as for what ones are a good starter)

Olivetti Wed 17-Aug-11 09:02:15

Great idea about the library. I had googled local cookery classes, but got directed to really expensive gourmet stuff. I'm sure there must be others. Thanks for the Delia recommendation. Someone bought me Gordon Ransay's wife's book (can't remember her name), but I haven't found it very practical, tbh.

hobnobsaremyfave Wed 17-Aug-11 09:04:34

Do you have a friend who is a good cook? Could you meet up in the day and prepare some meals side by side. You copy her and learn some basic techniques and then you can reheat the meal later in the day for your dinner. As you get more confident start experimenting a bit yourself.

hobnobsaremyfave Wed 17-Aug-11 09:05:30

Oh and a meat thermometer is a good buy. They cost about a tenner and you can make sure that any food you reheat is heated to a safe temperature.

sugarandspite Wed 17-Aug-11 09:07:41

I had to delurk for this thread (first time ever!) as I'm in a very similar situation to you. Planning to start weaning DD in a couple of weeks so I bought The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook and it's awesome!

Loads of very very straightforward recipes, easy to follow and not too many ingredients (unlike say Jamie Oliver). It has recipes for really basic stuff as well as more interesting things and even tells you how to roast meat / cook veg etc and gives some tips on reusing leftovers.

I'm feeling so much more confident about cooking for DD in general and even if you're not going down the BLW it might be a good place to start?

geraldinetheluckygoat Wed 17-Aug-11 09:10:18

What about a cookbook aimed at teens or younger people, who would be starting from scratch? Dont take that the wrong way, I was just like you before I had kids, to be honest, I learned from scratch starting with purees from the Annabel Karmel book lol! Infact you could get her baby and toddler book as even if you aren't doing purees, there are very simple (but nice tasting) meals in the toddler sections which are a good place to start.

It is daunting, my dh is very good at cooking so I took a back seat like you. You just have to start from very very basics and work up. good luck!

DamselInDisarray Wed 17-Aug-11 09:12:05

I'd say that you should get a good basic cookbook and try some recipes in that (or use the 'easy' recipes on the BBC good food website, which have been tested so they will work if you follow the instructions). Avoid chicken and other meats for the moment and work on learning one good vegetarian meal.

Once you've learned how to make one interesting and tasty meal, you can start to gradually learn more. You'll start to get more of a feel for cooking and will (I promise you) become much more confident about it. Then you can start to learn to cook meat, starting with meats that are fine to eat rare (like beef) and working towards meats you're more worried about. As favarolles says, you can take chicken out and cut it open to check if it's cooked.

Becoming a good cook is all about practice really, so all you can do is get cooking. Over time you will learn to tell whether something is cooked or how much seasoning you need. You'll also build up a repertoire of meals that you're good at cooking and enjoy eating.

As you're learning, you will have some absolute disasters; everyone does (even very good and experienced cooks) and it's perfectly fine. You can always whip up beans on toast as an emergency backup if it all goes inedibly wrong. It's all part of the learning process.

As you get more experience your food will get better and you'll find that you're able to experiment more and that you understand how flavours and textures work. In a few years you'll look back and realise that you have become a decent cook, perhaps even better than your DH.

Tanif Wed 17-Aug-11 09:12:39

Two simple words: slow cooker.

My mum bought me one a couple of years ago, along with a slow cooker recipe book. You can't go wrong. The stuff in it has been cooked for hours it's literally impossible to undercook the meat.

cryhavoc Wed 17-Aug-11 09:14:14

YANBU at all. I second the Delia recommendation, and I also really like the River Cottage books.

I used to be dreadful, but I love watching cooking programmes. Over time I have seen so many that there aren't many ingredients that flummox me now.

The only way to grow in confidence is to practice. The more you handle food the more aware you'll be. And taste as you go.

LadyFlumpalot Wed 17-Aug-11 09:20:28

I used to be no good at cooking while OH is fantastic. We once had the following conversation over the phone.

Him - Lady, will you cook tea tonight?
Me - Ok, what flavour Pot Noodle do you want?

However, I started watching him while he cooked, asking about ingredients etc and most of all experimenting! I now have quite a good catalouge. The best meals are deceptively simple I find.

My favourite is nicked and adapted from a restaurant I went to - literally just salmon fried and flaked in butter, loads of chopped tomatoes and basil - mix in a bit of cream at the end and pour over pasta. 'Tis very very yummy!

Good luck!

noblegiraffe Wed 17-Aug-11 09:22:47

I decided to start learning to cook at the new year. Jamie Oliver's Ministery of Food is the only book that's ever given me the confidence to have a go. It's got pictures of all the stages and the instructions are straightforward, and I've heard of all of the ingredients. It has stuff like soups and stews and roasts, but I started with omelette. And scrambled egg. I was that bad! But I've done loads now, the more you try the more confident you get.

Fuzzywuzzywozabear Wed 17-Aug-11 09:22:52

Ugh I hated that Tana Ramsey book - load of twaddle. Start with Delia's "how to cook" series. She starts right from basics of how to cook an egg

springydaffs Wed 17-Aug-11 09:32:33

I'd second that - practise makes perfect. I didn't used to be able to cook - I also didn't have a husband who could cook brilliantly, either - but now people come from far and wide for my food <proud icon>. I'm still not the best cook because 1. I don't taste as I go along 2. I'm more concerned with the look of the dish on the plate and 3. I'm more interested in the social side of eating than the food. Delia has been my saviour - particularly her Christmas book! I heart Delia! - and I would recommend her. She sees to every detail eg "careful you don't burn your hand because there will be an escape of steam when you take the lid off". 'proper' cooks snobby cooks don't like her but she's fantastic as far as I'm concerned.

With chicken and pork there has to be no pink juices. If you are roasting a chicken, pierce the leg and if clear juice runs out it's cooked. With beef and lamb it doesn't matter if it's still a bit bloody - apart from burgers etc which are better cooked through. I always test fish to see if it's cooked by sticking a sharp knife in and if it goes through like butter then it's cooked. I rarely re-heat chicken tbh, not worth the worry. I also rarely cook pork - don't like it (apart from bacon).

I have a friend whose husband does all the cooking and tbh he's a bit controlling (not that every bloke who does the cooking is controlling, mind). Actually, he's a lot controlling. Cooking is traditionally seen as the woman's domain and maybe you feel you're crap as a woman because you can't do it (yet..)?

Maiavan Wed 17-Aug-11 09:50:48

I had the exact same problem Olivetti, I couldnt even boil an egg. I tried box cakes (which are supposed to be flop proof - not true!).

I eventually did a stew (simple Irish stew), invested in simple cooking books and made the family eat whatever came out the kitchen blush. I am never going to be a master chef thats for sure - but I can make decent food for my family and put on a dinner for friends.

A couple of things I did that helped were things like:

Get a slow cooker. You dont have to worry to much about timing or about burning it.

Make a meal then googled leftover pork/mince/sausage, etc and made that the second night.

If in doubt, do sausage/chop, etc with mashed potato and veg (my family were known to eat the same thing but with a different meat for quite a few days in a row)

Google is your friend. There is soooo much info and loads of step by step videos to watch.

Get your DH to help the first few times but dont allow him to take the lead. He must just answer your questions and follow instructions.

Dont stress to much about not having enough flavour to start with. As you do more, you will find you buy more herbs, spices and things. To start with you will not have much in the way of pantry storage so just buy as you can. If in doubt - add more salt and pepper for flavour till you get stocked.

As you make things - discuss with your DH and the both of you decide what it needs more of or less of or what would add to it. Write your changes on the recipe and file it. The more you cook it the better it will become and it will evolve into your own recipe.

Dont know if this is helpful but it worked for me. Good luck smile

Elemental Wed 17-Aug-11 09:59:09

A friend has started this website, which has easy recipes on it, and they do classes at kids groups too. Maybe there is something in your area?

Maiavan Wed 17-Aug-11 10:05:39

I was just thinking that there is a real need for a basic cooking book that all of us who didnt have a clue could use. A "from scratch, the book for people starting out". With a say, 3 month plan and literally starting with basics like rice, how to handle/cook basic meats, timing of food, etc. Even "how to cook carrots, etc" (I didnt know how blush )

Then we could all buy them for everyone leaving home/getting married, etc. I could certainly have done with one of those!

BaronessBomburst Wed 17-Aug-11 10:07:36

I second buying a slow cooker! They are great and the meat will be so tender that your DD will be able to chew it. As a quick fix, whilst you are learning and looking for cookery books, try using Quorn and soya mince. You can throw these into a vegetable stew or stir-fry and it's done when it's hot so you won't have to worry about poisoning the family.

RoseC Wed 17-Aug-11 10:12:13

I really highly recommend Delia's 'How to Cook', followed by the 'Complete Cookery Course' when you're a little bit more confident. The How to Cook starts with boiling an egg and works upwards.

If it makes you feel any better: my grandmother was an appalling cook and DM had to learn from scratch in her late twenties. I can honestly say she's the best cook ever and some of my fondest childhood memories centre around her food and sometimes I get her to post me jam tarts. She's never really moved away from Delia (who also doesn't mess around with exotic ingredients unless necessary).

Re: meat - don't be afraid just to pull a bit of chicken/meat out of the dish and cut it in half on a little plate to check (I still do this sometimes). Soon you'll recognise what meat looks like cooked from the outside and as your DC is so young she won't notice if food is chopped up smile If you are seriously concerned, how about a food safety/hygiene course rather than cooking course (if you can't find a basic one). DM went on one for work and it covered cooking meats properly etc. It was run by the local council and I don't think it was too expensive.

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