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Please help, I just can't cook and it is getting me down!

(99 Posts)
dubaipieeye Thu 17-Feb-11 16:29:26

Just thrown away another horrible effort (beef in red wine in the slow cooker) - third time this week. Am in tears and have had huge row with DH after he tasted it and meekly suggested that we order out. sad

I'm new to all this stay-at-home-Mum-do-the-cooking thing and the cooking element is really getting me down. I have bought a slow cooker and done a couple of lovely chickens in it, a nice spag bol and a good chilli but that is about the extent of my repetoire. My son is 4mo and I am getting worried about weaning him now - what will I feed him? We now live in Dubai (you may have guessed!!) but when we lived and both worked in London we lived on M&S food - the like of which is not available here and I am now lost. My Mum was a terrible cook when we were younger (baked beans and pasta, as spag bol!) but she has suddenly become a domestic goddess - not sure how envy

I have tried the Delia cookery course but honestly I just find that this and lots of cookbooks just encourage you to buy loads of expensive and fancy ingredients that you never use again. Food is incredibly expensive here and I hate waste. I need to learn to cook standard, basic family fare. I don't want to bake, make my own pasta etc etc...just know how to feed the three of us without relying on pasta n sauce every night. Please help - this is really getting me down Thank you.

beijingaling Sun 20-Feb-11 05:28:04

The first rule is:

Read the recipe all the way through.

The second rule is:

Get all the ingredients out onto your work surface. (this helps you check you have everything)

The third rule is:

Prepare all your ingredients first. (it means more washing up but also you won't do the thing where you have to turn everything off half way through to chop your onions)

The forth rule is:

Read the recipe all the way through again.

The fith rule is:

Follow the recipe.

Here endeth the lesson.

beijingaling Sun 20-Feb-11 05:37:48

Also a basic mince recipe is the most versatile dish ever.

Cook with pasta for spaghetti Bol. Eat with mash for a deconstructed shepherds pie. Add kidney beans and eat with rice. Top with bought pastry for a pie. Cook off all the liquid and use with tacos.

A good veg soup recipe is brilliant for a healthy, cheap meal.

Frozen peas and sweetcorn are your friend as they just need heating.

Get a good weaning book for your little one.

As someone else said cooking is a skill that must be learnt just like anything. It won't happen over night but you'll get better and more confident every time.

Lollypolly Sun 20-Feb-11 06:08:06

Why not watch a free video on ehow and follow it step by step. Or you could join an online cooking school but you'll have to pay - this one looks good

Might be easier than following a recipe....

dubaipieeye Sun 20-Feb-11 14:41:37

Some more great advice - thank you.

So - today DH called and told me he'd been promoted. So, using a Jamie recipe, I have his favourite meal (vindaloo - typical man!) on the hob. He deserves me at least making the effort I think! It smells good but thus far seems a bit more liquid than it should by now but I think that is because I am doing it in a large saucepan and not a "casserole style pan" that Jamie suggests. What is a casserole style pan?

Also - I substitued fresh coriander for ground as I couldn't get fresh. Is there a simple rule for how much of a dry herb you should substitute for fresh?

Thanks for holding my hand through this!!

nannynick Sun 20-Feb-11 15:12:06

Jamie also has some basic recipes on Jamie's Home Cooking Skills which has step by step pictures, such as Shepherd's Pie.

I also find that the Mumsnet Recipes can be good, especially for things like biscuits and muffins. Chocolate Chip muffins (Rainbows17) is great, though I only use 100g of chocolate - still very chocolaty and toddler enjoys bashing the chocolate with a hammer to make it into small chunks.

beijingaling Sun 20-Feb-11 20:36:34

How did the curry gi.. I'm a good cook but shit at curry.

Taste, taste, taste all the way through -but not with raw chicken in the pan- to check flavour.

If its too liquid at h end of cooking time you can usually by turning the heat up to evaporate more liquid and make it thicker. Keep stiring. Be aware this will make flavors stronger so season with salt at the very end or the food will be too salty.

There isn't a simple rule for dry herbs but generally dry herbs are only suitable for longer cooking as it takes longer to get the flavor out of them. Tbh I usually use about 1tsp of dry herbs as there is so little flavor in them.

sethstarkaddersmackerel Sun 20-Feb-11 20:46:53

you can't go wrong with Ministry of Food, it's a great book to start on.

Lollypolly Mon 21-Feb-11 05:29:10

I think I know what's happening with your coriander.... There are 2 types of coriander: fresh, green coriander that is a herb and coriander seed, which is little brown beads that are sold whole (to crush) or ready ground. I suspect you headed for the one you know more about and might have found the coriander seed in the spice section in little bottles. It's very popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking.

I doubt it would have made much difference to the end result, which I hope was delicious grin

Generally, "soft" herbs (coriander, basil, dill, parsley, chives etc) are added at the end and not cooked but give their flavour "raw". Tougher, "woody" herbs (rosemary, thyme etc) are cooked with food to soften them and release their flavour - they are not always served in food and often removed so their flavour is just left behind. Hth....

dubaipieeye Mon 21-Feb-11 05:44:40

Thank you again. The vindaloo was a success - not perfect, but certainly edible and tasty! Will try it again next week and see if I can improve it. I've looked through the book for more descriptions of the mystery pan (which he seems to use a lot) and I think he means a saute type pan so I am off on the hunt for one today. Waitrose here I come.

Baby waking now so I am off but I would like to say that you are all fab!

mnistooaddictive Mon 21-Feb-11 05:50:55

How to feed your whole family by Gill Holcombe. You can get many of her recipes online. They are simple basic recess that do not require a lot of equipment and are easy. She dies weekly meal
Plans as well.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Mon 21-Feb-11 05:54:12

I don't know what a casserole-type pan is, but I would guess that he means a big heavy-bottomed pan, the sort that you can simmer something in for hours without it burning. The thicker the bottom of the pan, the better it distributes heat evenly across the food, so you don't end up with burnt bits sticking to the middle of the bottom, and cool on the outsides.

Re: ground coriander vs fresh - they're two different flavours. Ground spices should be cooked for a couple of minutes near the beginning of the curry - so, saute your onions, garlic, ginger until soft, and then add all dry spices and stir for a minute or two.

Fresh herbs should be added right at the end.

Others are right, though - if you know chili and spag bol and roast chickens, you already have a lot of the basics.

The other other thing I wanted to say is - your baby is only four months old. I know you want to get the hang of cooking, and it's a useful skill to have, but don't feel that just because you're at home caring for a baby, you also have to be a perfect home maker, cook, etc. Having a baby doesn't magically make you a domestic goddess, the two jobs are unrelated. If it's all too much for you, there's nothing wrong with talking to your husband and working out a cooking roster. A four month old is hard, hard work, and when I had one, I did not do all the cooking.

beijingaling Mon 21-Feb-11 06:00:01

By a Casserole pan he means like a Le Creuset ie something that has a heavy bottom and can go from stove top to oven.

wordsonascreen Mon 21-Feb-11 06:00:58

dubai : park n shop on Al Wasl road sell fresh coriander

(have also found with Jamie O;s curries I have to halve the water)

Recommend you try the chicken in cream thing in the 20 min section its fool (or me) proof

sethstarkaddersmackerel Mon 21-Feb-11 09:34:49

a casserole dish will always have a well-fitting lid and be oven-friendly (ie won't have plastic handles that would melt in the oven) but only some of them are designed to go on the hob as well; if you don't have one that can go on the hob you can usually bring things to the boil in a normal saucepan then tip them into your casserole to go in the oven.

you don't have to spend a fortune and get Le Creuset - stainless steel eg this cheap one from Argos works too, even if not quite as nicely.

dubaipieeye Mon 21-Feb-11 13:50:25

Tortoise, thank you, your post made me cry (just a little!) - that's exactly the kind of pressure I've been putting myself under...I used to have a hectic job in an investment bank (you may be surprised given my grammar at times wink) and I really pushed myself hard in my career. I feel the need to do the same at home/with baby - it's mad, I know. That said, as times goes by I am gradually letting up so fingers crossed by the time DS graduates I will be totally chilled.

Words: I live on the AW Road but have previously banned myself from Park n Shop frenzies shopping as I can pop in there for a pint of milk and come out 500dhs lighter (love the hardware section for some reason), but next time I make the curry I will send DH on a coriander run - thanks for the tip.

Seth: sadly no Argos in Dubai, but I think I know better what I am looking for, thank you.

Everyone else, thank you for the continued support - I made Jamie's lasagne today! He mmay be a mockney plonker but it is looking ggood grin. Will come back tomorrow and let you know the outcome.

chimchar Mon 21-Feb-11 14:02:20

brill dubai... have only just seen this and was going to recommend jamies MOF book.

another fantastic starter book is this

whilst its based on cooking for one, it gives portion sizes, how to prep veg, and has all the basic recipes for stuff like pancakes, soups, gravy, how to cook rice/pasta etc... i cook loads, but often refer back to it as a reminder.

keep up the good work!

wordsonascreen Mon 21-Feb-11 14:10:17

I know what you mean grin I'm trying to wean myself off it (have just spent 300 aed on milk and seemingly dust)
and back onto the co op (am finding it hard going tbh)

dubaipieeye Mon 21-Feb-11 17:33:16

oooh words I live right by the co op but I don't go in there because the Emirati girls on the check outs SCARE me! Spesh the one who sits at the end check out by Maccy Ds...shudder. Love Choitrams staff and singing along to Dubai 92 while I'm buying my yogs wink

Anyhoo, just a quickie to say that my lasagne was good! Very good! Better than the curry.

Not sure why I didn't get this before - the key to cooking appears to be RECIPES...DOH DOH and double DOH smile

thejaffacakesareonme Mon 21-Feb-11 19:07:28

I know you are probably few months off starting weaning but when you do I can recommend the Annabel Carmel weaning cookbook. I've tried quite a few of the recipies and they are quite tasty. The only downside is that they can take quite a while to cook. If you doubled the quantities you could feed two or three adults as well as having a couple of child portions.

notcitrus Mon 21-Feb-11 19:24:46

I second 'what to eat and how to cook it' - MrNC is severely dyslexic and gets mixed up in the kitchen, but with it he's produced some really impressive meals recently, and it's full of stuff I actually want to cook too.

It has pictures of all the ingredients prepared and step by step colour pics of the food, so you can chop until your onion is like the picture, brown the meat to look like the pic, etc.

I found with a young baby I started doing lots of roasts - take chicken, smear with butter, shove some herbs inside, chop some veg, put round chicken, drizzle oil on, shove in oven at 180C for a couple hours. Doesn't matter if you forget it for another hour or so!

A glass (Pyrex) casserole dish will be fine and cheap.

sethstarkaddersmackerel Mon 21-Feb-11 20:01:57

I used to do massive stews and freeze loads of portions, because I could start in the morning and prep the veg at odd moments when the baby was happy, then put it all on and leave it for ages while it cooked, or if it needed switching off or stirring I could do it with one hand while still holding the baby.
then that was lots of dinners sorted.

the other thing I found handy was bake-in-foil dinners, which Jamie has a bunch of in the third Naked Chef book: you get it all ready (chicken or fish, some veg and some lemon, oil, herbs, wine etc) when you have a moment in the morning then when it's time it can be put in the oven (again with one hand).

I don't know if you are finding this but I have always found my babies have wanted most attention at the end of the day which is just when you want to be cooking dinner, so it is good to have a variety of means up your sleeve for doing everything earlier in the day when the baby is easier.

thejaffacakesareonme Mon 21-Feb-11 21:00:45

I'm sorry, I've just checked. It wasn't the Annabel Carmel book I used, it was Gina Ford's Baby and Toddler cookbook. I also had an Annabel Carmel book but never really used it. I found it had some good basic recipies for things like fish pie that could be used for the whole family.

tomatoplantproject Tue 22-Feb-11 14:35:35

I have a few tried and tested recipe books that are totally fail safe.

Jamie Oliver is always good.

Delia is good for traditional food.

The first Leon cook book is good for super delicious recipes like meatballs, their fish parcels and chicken couscous.

And I swear by my Rachel Allen cookery book for cakes and biscuits.

I also advocate learning one new recipe a week. You don't then have to keep struggling with new things. And not everything works.

FindingStuffToChuckOut Tue 22-Feb-11 14:35:52

When you are more experienced, know about tastes, timings etc you will be able to chuck things together & made dinner. In the meantime, you are learning. I thought the How To Cook books by Delia were quite good. Ditto How TO Eat by Nigella.

There are also some excellent websites like BBC Food where you can search for recipes by ingredients (ie what is locally available, in season etc).

Some tasty basics I'd try:

Puttenesca pasta sauce - serve with salad.
Salads - try making different dressings to jazz up the salad: french, mustard, balsamic, avocado etc
Spag Bollognase.
Lamb Chops (grilled) with Hassleback potatoes and salad.

Living in Dubai why not look out for a good basic Mediterranean cookery book too - local ingredients will surely be cheaper?

I love Tasty Diaries and have used more recipes from this web site than anywhere else. She used to send out a weekly newsletter but sadly this seems to have stopped. Website still a great resource.

FindingStuffToChuckOut Tue 22-Feb-11 14:40:37

love [[ this]] and NO FANCY INGREDIENTS!!!!

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