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JoeDavola

Learning To Cook

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I've come to the conclusion that I eat out too much, and this is affecting my wallet as well as the fact that most of the grub you buy pre-made isn't the healthiest.

I also think it would be a good thing to know how to cook a bit. Turn me into more of a renaissance man ;)

Currently my cooking skills involve using the smoothie maker, microwave, and the slow cooker to cook a big bit of meat (like a whole chicken)...that's basically it.

I'd like suggestions for reasonably healthy recipes that I can create more than one meals worth at a time to keep in the fridge for a few days or possibly freeze up. All suggestions welcome.

By way of a teaser; tonight I will be trying to make Lentil soup. Tune in tomorrow to find out how it went.

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Cooking is a good thing! It's not that difficult to follow a recipe. and there are plenty on the Internet! I don't know about "Renaissance Man", but ignorance of anything kitchen related is not a good thing. And some times ladies like a man to prepare the dinner! It's manly!

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Yep - just get some recipes off the net. Most are easy to follow. Something like chilli can be tasty and be even better after a few days.

Top tip - whatever spices it says to use - use at least double. This goes for any 'ethnic' dish.

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I learned my not particularly great skills watching youtube vids then tweaking the recipe to my fancy. Stews are a great way to learn to mix flavours I like to prepare it the day before eating to give it a chance to rest.

Here is an easy one:

500g stewing beef

1 large onion (slice fine)

2 carrots (peel and slice fine)

1 turnip (peel and slice fine)

1 tin chopped tomato

1 desert spoon of tomato puree

1 beef oxo cube

1 tea spoon of mixed herbs

1 pickled onion

1 glass cheap red wine

Salt and cracked pepper to taste

2 pints water (most will boil off)

Add oil to pan. Soften onions (low heat 5 mins), chuck in meat and brown (low heat 5 mins). Lob the rest in and leave on simmer for a few hours, stirring occasionally. Turn off overnight. Next morning simmer for 20 minutes whilst having breakfast. Turn off, reheat when you get home. Serve with mash or boiled spuds. If you have any left, add another oxo and pint of water and have yummy soup the next day.

I usually double the amounts and freeze at least half for later use.

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Hmmn... careful. I have a curry cookbook which is excellent, but it tends to recommend usage of enough cayenne pepper to kill a horse at fifty paces. I like spice, but I have to back that off a bit.

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Pea and ham soup.

Buy a nice piece of boiling ham which you can use for sandwiches and salads. Add a carrot, onion, stick of celery and some peppercorns to the water when cooking the ham. When the ham is cooked discard the carrot and celery and remove the onion. Add a glass of white wine (optional) reduce the remaining stock to about half then add half a pack of frozen peas some thyme leaves and the earlier cooked onion, cook for about 5 mins then blitz with a hand blender or food processor etc, slice some of the ham and then cut into chunks then throw that in the soup.

When cool enough place into sealable containers and place in the freezer for consumption later ;)

It's good practice to soak the ham in cold water for a while to remove some of the salt.

You can use mint instead of thyme.

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Yep - just get some recipes off the net. Most are easy to follow. Something like chilli can be tasty and be even better after a few days.

Top tip - whatever spices it says to use - use at least double. This goes for any 'ethnic' dish.

Sphincter of Iron! :blink: You will cack yer kecks! Your "guest" might not like so wicked!

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Beef ragu with tagliatelle (proper spag bol)

Feeds a family of 4

1 large carrot

1 large onion

1 stick of celery

500g beef mince

pack of pancetta or bacon lardons

whole tube of tomato paste

glass of white wine

2 x beef stock cubes

2 x bay leaves

tagliatelle

Cut the vegetables into 1 cm cubes and set aside for later.

Get a good thick based pan of the hob on medium heat add some olive oil and 1 500g pack of minced beef cook until browned, remove the minced beef with a slotted spoon and set aside. To the same pan add a small pack of pancetta or bacon lardons cook until browned remove from pan then set aside.

Then add the diced vegetables to the same pan and on a lowish heat cook for around 20 mins once they have softened add the mince and bacon back into the pan along with a glass of white wine the two stock cubes, tomato purée, water and bay leaves. Give it a good stir and let it simmer on the hob for at least 2 hours (longer is better) add salt and pepper to taste and maybe a little sugar.

Serve with tagliatelle

Keep an eye on it during the cooking stirring occasionally and topping up with water if necessary.

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You are obviously all quite good at being "chefs"! One of my friends is a chef, and he loves a meal made for him, although he can't really not interfere in the kitchen! So he's annoying! :blink:

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Great if you want to be a feeder.

That's weird sh!t!

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Cooking onion slowly was the best thing I learned. Slice onion thin, put lots of butter in a pan, over a very low heat, and let it sit for 20 minutes or so, stirring every 5 mins.

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Cooking onion slowly was the best thing I learned. Slice onion thin, put lots of butter in a pan, over a very low heat, and let it sit for 20 minutes or so, stirring every 5 mins.

Vesuvius will save you on gas bills Centurion!

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My tip would be to find some recipes you like to cook in your slow cooker. It's great to come home to a meal that's either ready to serve or needs minimal extra finishing off. Plus you can freeze some portions for your own home cooked ready meals when time is short. Hope your lentil soup turned out well.

I hope you persevere with cooking your own food. Nothing you make will be a failure just think of it as a learning process if something doesn't turn out too good just try again till you find a recipe you like.

You'll get there and I'm sure you will never go back to convenience food once you master your own recipes which are tweaked to be just how you like them.

Good luck. I look forward to hearing about your cooking journey.

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BBC website food section has an excellent recipe finder, just type in ingredient(s) and out pops recipes from tv shows and the like.

A couple of straightforward faves you might like are good old lasagne and a prawn curry which also works really well with a leg of lamb in the slow cooker if you prefer a red meat dish at the time. BBC recipe finder has' prawn dopiaza' by Simon Rimmer listed- you'll love it if you enjoy curries.

Lasagne is hard to do really badly yet contains a few skills - making a tasty ragu and a smooth bechemel sauce. Loads of recipes around, stick with a straightforward beef lasagne to start with. Not sure it is recommendable every night but you'll soon have a recipe nailed down that is much nicer than anything you'll buy, which use far too much cheese and are often greasy.

Never underestimate the importance of fresh herbs in adding a delicious final finish to almost any dish, a chunk of fresh coriander on top of the dopiaza when you serve it adds a freshness and zing which is irresistable.

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Worth saying that it takes time to build up a stoxk of herbs/spices and for anything needed for asian cooking you would do well to find a local asian grocer rather than pay silly prices at supermarkets for fresh ginger, chillis ,dried cumin and popadoms etc.

Fresh basil , chives, parsley plants usually last well and give loads of leaves, get a few on a window sill and water.

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Autumn is the start of the season for big, warming soups. For October/November, look up some recipes for spicy soups made from pumpkins and squashes (and this one for halloween), before moving on to the likes of parsnip and swede in the winter, and lighter combos like tomato&basil or pea&mint for the brighter/warmer half of the year. If you can cook lentil soup from a recipe, you can soon build quite a repertoire of soups.

There's also lots of fruit right now. Learn to cook crumble, pie and fool, and you have a decent repertoire of desserts. You can cheat with pie by buying prepared pastry in the supermarkets.

For main courses, there are some simple staples: a stir-fry is very simple and reliable, or you can dispense with cooking and just throw together some salad and serve with pasta and cheese, or that homemade houmous that's so much richer than anything the supermarkets sell 'cos you didn't stint on the olive oil.

Play with recipes, but learn general techniques. Things you can do with a creamy sauce (use about twice as much grated cheap cheddar as actual cream for most cooking), and how much just a little onion and pepper does to enhance the flavour. The number of dishes that are hugely enhanced by a rich base of onions, garlic and chilli (preferably scotch bonnets), and then explore other flavoursome combos.

And note that with pretty-much any recipe, you can vary the ingredients and preparation according to what you have to hand. There are basically just two soup recipes: one if you're going to cream it, the other for chunky soups. Similarly, once you've made a dessert with one fruit, you can do much the same with another. The more you cook, the more your confidence and competence will grow.

Oh, and be sure to cater for people with challenging dietary requirements from time to time. All the above are firmly in my comfort zone, but my experience is that I learn the most when I have to cook outside it.

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