I have written before on how important it is to learn to cook but recently, due to joining a Faceboook group on cooking, I have been amazed to read how very little some people seem to know about the utterly basic skills of cooking and how little food knowledge they have.
Some say that this is because cooking is no longer taught in schools (is that true?) and some say it is because mothers now go out to work and no longer cook at home so do not pass on what they learnt from their Mums. Here is how I learned to cook – and it is thanks to my Mum, but not in the usual way!
This is such a sad loss to people that I’ve decided to go into more detail in the hope that I might be able to help or at least encourage people to give it a try. Please believe me, learning to cook is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family.
7 Excellent Reasons to Learn to Cook …
1. You will save money – bought in food is so much more expensive than making your own! Here are two examples but I could go on (and on and on!).
Yorkshire Puddings – six ready-made Yorkshire puddings cost about £1.70 in Tesco but see here for how to make six lovely Yorkshire puddings for only 26½p! Not only that; mixing the batter takes literally two minutes, maybe less!
Croutons – these are about 75p an ounce in Tesco and contain all these things!!!
See here for how to make all sorts of delicious croutons using different breads, oils, seasonings and additions from scraps of bread you might otherwise throw away. Lots of ideas for using them too! Say a loaf of standard white bread costs £1 for 800g that means the croutons costs approximately 3½p an ounce. Actually, this simple idea is so good it may qualify as a genius recipe – see below! ***
2. You will save time.
It might seem that having take-out is a quick way to get a meal but really, if you have had the presence of mind to think ahead a little and have the ingredients, making a burger, for instance, at home is so much quicker than driving to, parking outside and queuing in a take away and then driving home. Not only that, your food is fresh from the stove so in prime condition. Read more here, including how to make the perfect burger.
3. You can eat “cleanly”
I recently enjoyed watching Clean Eating's Dirty Secrets on the Beeb presented by Grace Victory which was about extreme and sometimes ill-informed advice on “healthy” eating to lose weight etc. I am not proposing that my readers do anything extreme such as go gluten free (apparently only about 1% of the population are gluten intolerant) or give up carbs or protein unless medically advised to do so. See what you think ...
What I mean by eating “cleanly”, however, is that by cooking at home you can avoid things that might be seriously bad for you. See, as an example, the ingredients in bought in croutons pictured above.
Even if bought in foods don’t contain any chemicals, e-numbers, etc. they may still be high in salt, sugar and/or fat. When you make your own you know exactly what is in your food.
4. Personalise your food – so that it is exactly how you and your family like it. My real man and I both love eating but eat very differently. I like spices and garlic and all sorts of delicious stuff (have you tried black garlic, for instance, it is wonderful) he doesn’t even like pepper! I seriously believe he is a super taster – find out if you are a supertaster here – so even if we do have basically the same meal I will make adjustments. For instance, when he has steak and chips I might have Peppered Steak Salad with Two Dressings! That way we are both happy.
If you are a supertaster don't get too excited! John Hayes, professor of food science at Penn State University, does warn …
“It's not a superpower, you don't get a cape and it doesn't
make you better than other people.”
make you better than other people.”
5. Treat your loved ones
Related to above, if you can cook and want to spoil someone then you can make them their absolutely favouritest meal ever!
6. Pass on this apparently dying skill – teach your kids, it seems no-one else will!
7. Stay happy – I have read that eating fast food can make people depressed and not just because it is not quite what they wanted!
As I say on all my social media ...
Learn some Essential Cooking Skills
Here are some important ones, I have more but don’t want this post to get out of hand! I am gradually archiving my Sudden Lunch posts on Flipboard here so take a look, or several looks as I keep on adding things!
You will be gobsmacked how much being able to use a knife properly speeds up food preparation. This is how to hold a knife.
To learn some knife skills watch this ...
... or if you’d rather read about it than watch a video then see here.
The reason it is important to brown meat before braising, stewing or whatever, is that the searing of the meat causes a reaction (known as the maillard reaction, if you’re interested) which creates great flavour! Read all about how to do it properly here.
How to cook eggs
There's lots of information here including important and surprising stuff about how to store eggs!
You might like to read my post 12 Commandments of Cooking Well and also see my book of cooking tips mentioned at the end of this post.
Useful “Genius” Recipes ***
I’ve written about these all over the place but they are such a boon to home cooking I am going to mention them again. Basically, what I call a genius recipe is a simple basic recipe with the potential to be varied ad infinitum, limited only by your ingredients and imagination. These are truly useful and genius – read more here.
A Well Stocked Storecupboard
It’s no good picking up a bargain or a wonderful find, being inspired and then not having the wherewithal! A well-stocked storecupboard (and fridge) allows you to be spontaneous and creative.
I can’t tell you what, exactly, you need to keep in stock, other than the basics such as salt and pepper and flour and sugar, cooking oil, onions etc.; it all depends on what you and yours enjoy eating. But once you know your preferences start gradually stocking up.
Further help with Cooking
The internet (including this blog) is awash with recipes – choose something simple from a reliable site such as the BBC (or this blog!) and follow it exactly, to the letter. When you are confident maybe try adding a pinch of this or a little of that (except in the case of baking which is a chemical reaction, don’t mess with those recipes). Try another recipe and so on.
In the sidebar of this blog you will find a section Useful Foodie (and drinkie!) Links where you can find links to all sort of useful information.
I have written a book in which I give over 500 useful ideas, methods, hints, tips and tricks I have learned or come to realise. They are all ways of making cooking quicker and/or easier and/or more effective and/or more delicious, additionally they will probably help you save money and eat more healthily.
You will be glad to know I have not included any of the silly hacks one sees on the web – read about some of these here but don’t bother trying any of them!
If you would like to hear more from me (as you can tell I am very interesting) please sign up at the top of the page to receive Sudden Lunch! straight into your inbox and please like my Facebook page, it is appropriately named Learn to Cook!