Craving ‘ghar ka khana’ or enticed by the profusion of food porn on TV? Celebrity chefs coaxing you into believing that cooking isn’t quite the rocket science you’re convinced it is? To be fair, the actual prospect of chopping, sautéing, braising, basting, whipping and folding is enough to daunt even the bravest hearts, let alone those among us who approach the kitchen as if it were the jaws of death, itself. Well, here are 10 smart steps to start you off on the right note as you embark on your culinary adventures.
1. Plan ahead: Yes, planning is key. If using a recipe, read it thoroughly. It allows you to make sure you have enough time, all the implements and ingredients at hand, including all the little cheats and shortcuts you’re going to find on this list.
2. Cheat Sheets: Download, printout and pin-up cheat sheets that list conversions for measurements, glossary of cooking terms, precise temperatures for preheating, heating, freezing. They are free and perfect for the metrically challenged!
3. Invest in a handy food processor: There’s one to suit every budget and kitchen space. They can handle a variety of tasks and will cut down on time you spend on the mundane tasks of chopping, grating, mincing… Some have a dough maker attachment, making kneading your chapati or puri or even bread dough a breeze.
4. Stock up the pantry: Don’t be ashamed of using store-bought gravy and sauce mixes; they are great in a pinch or those days when you’re just not in the mood to sweat it out in a hot kitchen. Use some chopped fresh herbs and spritz of lemon juice in the end to spruce up the final dish.
5. Buy veggies and fruits, cut or shelled: Whenever possible, buy shelled pomegranates, cored pineapples, sliced olives…you get the idea. Come home and toss them together to make a fuss- free salad.
6. Buy whole heads as well as peeled garlic: Snip the tips off and toss in the whole heads with a little oil and salt, wrapped in foil, onto a tray when roasting veggies or meats. In 20-30 minutes you have perfectly roasted garlic for more elaborate cooking. Use the peeled cloves for everyday!
7. Cook in batches: Cook up some mince-meat and/or lentils to make easy peasy ‘meatballs’ or patties, hard-boil eggs, steam broccoli, peas and whatever other veggies you like — you’re set for the entire week.
8. Learn and perfect 2- 3 options for each meal/course: Find 2- 3 recipes each for breakfast, lunch, dinner and let’s not forget, dessert, that aren’t complicated and master them. It gives you confidence and a nice foundation to build your culinary repertoire.
9. The freezer is your ally: Stock up your freezer. Freeze liquids such as vegetable or meat stocks, and condiments like pureed chillies, minced mint and coriander in ice-trays, remove and use as required.
10. Beautify your kitchen: A pretty kitchen won’t make your omelette fluffier, or help your cake rise, but it will make your time in the kitchen more appealing and comfortable. An inviting kitchen makes a happy cook and cooking less of a chore.
You get a bonus for trying!! 11. Frozen desserts: Pour juices and smoothies into popsicle moulds and freeze for quick and healthy desserts. Freeze a selection of fruits in freezer-safe boxes to use in smoothies instead of ice.
So, go ahead, give it a whirl, or in this case, a whisk! Bon appétit!