Krishna Patel shares a few basic tips for those of us that need a little help in the kitchen. Whether you're just starting to teach yourself how to cook, or you're looking to reignite your love for home-cooked food, here are some simple tricks to get you started!
Deadlines are approaching! People are striking! The collective anguish is making even the sky weep all over us. At this point in the semester most of us are stressed, soggy, and craving some hearty home cooking… although with meagre motivation and a reputation for unfortunate kitchen shenanigans, it took some courage and experimentation to figure out how to satisfy my own cravings. Fear not, fellow kitchen menaces! With these few basic tips you’ll be back in flavour haven in no time.
Get yourself a gigantic knife.
While this may seem counter-intuitive, I’ve actually found that using a giant meat cleaver to dice my vegetables and meat has been far easier and less risky than using a smaller blade. The sheer weight of the knife means you can hold your fingers safely out the way while you chop. I also tend to be able to mince things more finely by simply applying pressure on the blunt back of the blade (again, fingers are safely out of the way). This makes a huge difference; a finely-diced item has more surface area, which means it requires less time to cook. From experience, this also reduces the risk of burning things because you won’t become impatient and crank the heat up a little too much.
Invest in a range of spices.
It’s no secret that spices are flavour. They add a warm heartiness to your cooking and keep the sniffles away – and they’re not particularly expensive either. I would recommend buying cumin seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and ground cumin-coriander to start.
Perfect a base.
Variety may be the spice of life but that doesn’t mean you have to vary the spices in your life. Once you’ve figured out which spices you think work together, stick with them! There’s no need to go absolutely crazy with experimentation if you’ve got something that works, especially if you’re still unsteady in the kitchen. My personal go-to is finely diced onion, garlic, and ginger with teaspoons of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, a few cloves, and cinnamon sticks. This works as a warm, flavoursome base for anything from veggie chilli (just add tomato passata and mixed veggies) to chicken curry (fry the chicken in this base and add spinach, tomato, and a teaspoon of turmeric).
Only you know your own taste preferences. The only way to make sure you love what you’re eating is to prepare it to your taste! If something is a little too sweet, often all it needs is a touch of salt or a pinch of chilli; and a little too much spice can always be fixed with a sprinkling of brown sugar or lemon zest. It’s this crucial hack that will take your cooking from mediocre to mmm…
Heat the plates.
This will keep your food warmer for longer, so you can properly savour your culinary triumph!
All that’s left to do now is to rise to the challenge! Everyone has to start somewhere; failure is an inevitable part of learning any new skill and it shouldn’t stop you from giving it a go in the kitchen. Food is an exciting and beautiful part of life and we all have the ability to create it. Give some of these hacks a go and find your zest for life again!