Cooking from Scratch - Help Please!(25 Posts)
Whilst reading the TWR thread, I was embarrased to realise that I have no idea how to cook proper, healthy food and rely too heavily on the frozen crap sold in most supermarkets. The general consensus on that thread seemed to be that regardless of your age or circumstances, I should be able to cook proper stuff, so I am asking for your help and advice on how to go about it. Recipes would be great!
I really am a novice but would very much like to start feeding my family with decent stuff. Please help me!
Well, I can scramble an egg in the microwave (if that counts ), can do onion chopping, mash is a bit tricky (we do frozen here ) and veg I'm ok with.
To be honest, we eat the same old chicken and mince dinners here all the time, so would like to try different things.
Start with jacket potatoes, nice and easy. One large potato per person, use skewer to poke holes through skin so it doesn't expolde, microwave for approx 5 mins per potato (though you can do them all together, just add up the times) then put in oven for 10-20 mins until when you put a skewer through they are clearly soft. They can be done completely in the microwave but the skins end up a bit soggy. By putting them in the oven you get a crispy skin.
Then chop in half and add salt/pepper and toppings:
grated cheese, baked beans, tinned tuna and mayonnaise mixed together, chopped ham, tomatoes, anything you fancy.
Easy, healthy, nutritious, cheap.
Ooooh, they both sound lovely! I'm a big fan of jacket potatoes and pasta so will definately try those.
What would you suggest are must have ingredients? You know, the kinds of things that can be used for a variety of different meals?
What would you like to eat? Is there something you've had before which you'd really like to do?
Anything pasta based is usually really easy. Loads of different types of tomato or creamy sauces. Something like that?
I quite fancy making a risotto but I'm useless with rice and have resorted to boil in the bag .
Like I said, we very much eat the same stuff over and over again. DP is bored, I'm bored and DD is bored with it all. Each meal consists of either chicken or mince in some kind of sauce (from a jar/tin).
I would really like to try new and different things, hence my reluctance to list things that I would like to try. I would rather have a look through and choose something new to try iyswim?
I suppose the one definate thing is that we need to start eating more veg (preferably not frozen) but like with many kids, DD is a bit reluctant when it comes to any kind of healthy greenery.
LOL I'm crap at risotto. Loads of recipes on here though. I just never seem to get it right. but that's my problem - no one else seems to struggle!
Various stews are really easy and you can pad out with veg. Plus so long as you taste a little way into the cooking, you can always add something to make it better. I fry off some onions and leek, brown some chunks of beef or lamb, thicken it with flour then put in loads of stock, loads of different veg - nice big chunks - plus maybe a dash of worcester sauce, a handful of thyme or something like that. then it all goes in the oven for at least an hour - preferably two - until the meat is really soft. You can use very cheap cuts that way.
Bolognese is easy too.
Chuck mince, chopped onion, chopped garlic, a bay leaf, some Italian herbs, a tin of tomatoes (peeled plum, chopped is fine too) and a glass of red wine into a saucepan, slap on the lid for half an hour with gas/elec low. Check it and stir occasionally. Take the lid off and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is as thick as you like it. You can make it 'healthier' by using chopped fresh tomatoes (or adding a few) or some frozen peas.
Have you got Delia's How to Cook? It's supposed to cover the basics of everything.
BBQ at weekends. Anything tastes a bit better when it's been barbecued. Chicken kebabs with pepper and mushrooms between. And sweetcorn (cook in microwave first then finish off on the bbq) Serve with different types of salad with dressing.
Fish pie. Gently simmer fish for two or three minutes in just enough milk to cover them. Put the fish to one side then make a really cheesy sauce with the milk (you'll need to make a roux for this but either MN or Delia can help with that) but then just mix the fish and sauce in a dish and cover with mash potato. It's compulsory to serve with tomato kethcup.
Starting to salivate now. Must leave thread
Risotto - it's key to have the right sort of rice (arborio). Fry onion, garlic and whatever you want your risotto to have in it (I'm not a religious recipe-follower, so this may be a bit hit-and-miss!). Add the rice (the box will give you quantities) and stir until coated in the frying oil. Then start adding liquid (stock, wine, or even just water). Add it a bit at a time and keep stirring continuously so the rice doesn't stick. Taste and season. When the liquid is absorbed add some more and keep going until the rice is soft and the overall effect is creamy and yum. Serve with parmesan. The standing over it and stirring phase is a bit boring, but the results justify it.
When I am on my own and want a quick supper I always make pasta alla carbonara. Cut bacon (pancetta is more authentic, but I always have bacon in the fridge and it works just fine) into thin strips (or use those ready diced cubes of bacon or pancetta) and fry. While it's cooking, cook pasta. When the pasta is cooked drain then add to the pan with the bacon. Add eggs (quantity depending on number of people... I use 3 for 2 people), milk or cream (slosh of), grated cheese, a knob of butter and seasoning (just pepper for me, the bacon makes it quite salty). Stir quickly over a very low heat (or just allow to cook in the heat from the cooked pasta) till the egg thickens (like for scrambled eggs). This takes just a couple of minutes. Do not take your eye off it at this stage in the proceedings. Serve with parmesan.
For risotto I've never used risotto rice, though I keep meaning to try it. I use (tesco) Italian rice. I also use the method where you use twice as much volume of water as rice.
Chop onion finely, fry in a little oil until soft, squeeze in chopped garlic, fry until soft (onions/garlic are store cupboard essentials).
Then rice, weigh how much you need then put in a measuring jug and check the volume. Then you need twice volume of stock (chicken or veg, from stock cubes). Add stock and rice to pan with onions in then just simmer slowly. When all the water is absorbed the rice is cooked (ie the risotto is ready). The pan must be covered so that the carefully measured liquid doesn't evaporate away. Looks really odd to start with but soon turns into lovely risotto. Stir occasionally. Add as much or as little of anything else you want - chopped chicken, chopped mushrooms, herbs (dried mixed herbs another essential), frozen peas would make a fairly standard chicken and mushroom risotto.
Uses leftovers from roast chicken. Cook too much and it can be eaten as cold pasta salad the next day.
BTW the twice as much water as rice works for cooking "normal" rice too.
Pick something called "easy cook" white rice, or I often have basmati. Measure your weighed rice in jug, say if 150g makes 200 ml in jug then just put rice in pan with 400 ml water. Cover and cook. No need to check/taste/worry, when all the water is absorbed it's cooked.
don't bother with numbers for measuring rice, just use a cup or jug to measure the dry rice and then fill the same container with double the amount of hot water. put lid on pan and when holes start to appear in rice (water looks virtually gone) turn off heat and rest for 5 mins. will go fluffy.
Last night I made Lancashire Hotpot. Turn on oven to 170 degree C. Heat vegetable oil in a casserole dish on the hob and fry lamb chops (depending on size, two per adult, one per child)for a couple of minutes on each side and remove to a plate. Add a chopped onion and fry this for a few minutes. Add a heaped table spoon of flour and stir this around for a minute, add a pint of water and a dash of Worcester sauce. Return the lamb chops to the casserole dish, add salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice potatoes. Place these on top of the lamp chop. Use enough potatoes for each person. Place a few specks of butter on the potato and place the casserole dish in the oven with the lid on. After 1.5 hours, remove lid and cook for another 15 minutes to brown the potatoes. Easy and delicious!!
dannat - i think it's fab that you want to do more home cooking. good on you
bundle's rice method is the best - works every time for us. if you can afford to then i recommend using basmati for everything as it is much less prone to gloopy sticking together than long grain.
an easy recipe i love is veg chilli as you don't really need a recipe and you can freeze it then reheat in microwave, plus it is really really healthy as it has so many veggies in. great with rice, baked potatoes or in tortillas with guacamole, salsa, cheddar cheese
buy a selection of veggies you like the look of - i usually use onions, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, courgettes, cauliflower, tin of sweetcorn. also things like squash, celery, sweet potato are good. get a good mix of colours to make it look appealing.
chop all veg into bite sized pieces. heat a good glug of veg oil in a big pan, gently fry the harder veggies (onions, carrots, peppers, celery, squash etc) until they soften. if you have a gas hob have it on medium. then add the other veggies. add about a tablespoon of tomato puree, a tin of tomatoes, a tin of chilli beans (kidney beans in chilli sauce - most supermarkets do them) and if you want it a bit hotter then a pinch of chilli powder. simmer for about 30 mins or so until veggies are soft.
you may need to adjust the tomatoes/beans depending on how many veggies you have - take a look at it as you add the tomatoes and beans and see whether you think it needs to be wetter. you can't really go wrong flavourwise on this, so it is worth just experimenting to get a recipe that works for you.
libraries have great selections of recipes - books by delia smith, or things like readers digest books as they are usually very simple recipes. also soup is really easy to make and very nutritious, and freezes really well, so maybe a soup book is a good idea.
waitrose.com and deliaonline.com have a load of recipes to look through which will inspire you.
my store cupboard essentials are onions, carrots, celery (all three together make a great base for tomato sauces, soups etc.), tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, pepper, mixed italian herbs, soy sauce. then rice, pasta and couscous as well.
ratatouille is another dead easy one. chop an onion, 2-3 courgettes, an aubergine and 2 peppers into bite size chunks. I sometimes do mushrooms too although i don't think this is authentic
Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan and add the onions, cooking on medium heat and stirring. once these are softened, add the other veggies, stirring as you go. when these are softened add a tin or two of tomatoes, a tbsp of tomato puree and salt and pepper. cook for about 30-40 mins and stir occasionally. adjust seasoning to suit your taste.
garlic and italian herbs are nice in this - add with the main lot of veggies.
this is so versatile and freezes well - lovely with baked potatoes, rice, couscous, pasta. great on its own, or with cheddar cheese grated on top. brilliant as an accompaniment to simple grilled meat - sausages, lamb chops, pork chops etc.
Sorry I haven't been back to say thanks, RL took over for a while .
So, thank you for all these fab ideas. I am really excited about getting started on them but DH has insisted I use up everything in the freezer first before I go and buy proper things!
What about soup? Foolproof, really easy spinach soup recipe (and you can use frozen spinach if you want):
Fry a finely chopped onion in some oil with a small clove of garlic, also finely chopped. Throw in a bag of spinach and pour approximately 500ml of stock (from a stock cube is fine) - the secret is to pour the stock slowly as the spinach will wilt and you don't want to add too much. Pour in about half, stir it round a few times, then add some more. You want to land up with the spinach floating in the stock at a ratio of about twice as much stock to spinach (use more stock if necessary). Let it bubble gently for about 10 - 15 minutes. Cool it slightly then liquidize it with a hand beater. Add a large tablespoon of plain yoghurt to each portion and serve - it may need salt, depending on how salty the stock is. The yoghurt is absolutely essential as a) it looks horrible before the yoghurt lightens the colour and b) it smooths out the taste. If you're feeling adventurous, add a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon too.
You can store in fridge/freeze in the pre yoghurt phase.
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