7 ways to be a better cook

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We should all be professionals when it comes to cooking – or so I learnt last year.

When Eloise was about 6 weeks old, I somehow made it out of the front door to a cooking course. I had booked this pre-baby in all my naivety – didn’t really believe babies could make you tired…

The chef teaching us was passionate about food. She was soon waving around her sharp knife and trying to turn us eager amateurs, into half decent cooks.

Here are some of the basics we learnt:

1.       Keep your knives  sharp

With sharp knives you can work quickly. “A woman can do a lot of damage with a sharp knife!” the chef said. In a good way.

2.       Scrap bowl

When you start cooking, get out a bowl. Instead of making many messy trips back and forth to the bin, you keep everything neatly in one place and empty it at the end. Seems simple but it really helps!

3.       Keep your chopping board sturdy

Put a wipe or damp tea towel under your board. This keeps everything stable and safe.

4.       Perfect at least ten favourite recipes

Find ten favourite recipes and work on them until they are near perfect. This means you can cook without too much worry, no need for a recipe and the familiarity of the food is quite comforting for those who eat it.

5.       Try new recipes – don’t get stuck in a rut

Favourites are good but try and learn how to cook something new. Explore cook books and ask friends for recipes that you can try.

6.       Present the food well

Food seems to taste better when it looks good. This point is proved when you look at a platter of fruit. It’s far more appetizing when it’s cut up well.

7.       Stay positive

Even if your cake is a little flat, your lasagne not as cheesy you might like, and your steak overcooked –  never say a word. Smile, act as though it’s perfect and you’re sure to fool even the fussiest eater.

Of course, the real challenge now is to keep a very active 9 month old baby entertained while I whiz around pretending to be a master chef!

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Cooking with Footballers and Saints

From Footy Flavours  to Cooking with the Saints, Stephanie Alexander, Donna Hay, Bill Granger, and every type of specialty cookbook, my shelves are getting pretty full with recipes I’ve rarely used.  I have more than 30 cook books on my shelf. I suppose it’s become a good present for a girl who loves and is obsessed with food and cooking.

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My favourite food writer by far is Nigella Lawson.  She may look gorgeous on screen, but I think it’s the way she writes about food which has really sustained her success. She understands her reader – she knows the short cuts we are going to make – and she gives us so many more. Nigella even warns you which recipes to only attempt when you have time and patience.  Her food is delicious and often very unfashionable. What other cook would give you a recipe for an absolutely perfect fried mozzarella sandwich?

Nigella often ponders on her love of food – a sentiment I can absolutely relate to.

Despite this love of food, I’m actually quite a cook novice. I realise I’m only at the beginning of my journey to become a half decent cook.  I’ve never tried the tricky stuff like homemade pasta or pastry. I’ve never made my own ravioli  cooked with tofu or tried my hand at lobster. There are so many untried ingredients waiting to be used.

I have no problem using an e reader – but I still think recipes look better on page. There is something so timeless about them – I dream of passing my annotated cook books on to my daughter. I love the pages that have stuck together because you have been making chocolate brownies over and over. So the next couple of months I’m going to try and justify the space my beautiful cooks are taking up.

Starting with Stephanie Alexander  – I discovered one of her beautiful book on a volcanic island in Vanuatu. But that’s a story for another post…