How to: get better at cooking

Do you think:

  • 'I don't know where to start!'  
  • 'Cooking is just way too time-consuming!'
  • 'How do you know what to cook?'
  • 'I don't know what goes with what?'.

To be truthful, I wasn't always a good cook.

As a young kid, I'd go to the restaurant with mum and help her assistant prep the beans and stir the bolognese sauce. I used to do that same in the kitchen at home. On one side of the bench would be mum cooking in the kitchen and preparing dinner and on the other side was me. I'd either be telling mum about my day, helping her prepare dinner or nibbling on something while she turned her back. Now I know not everyone grew up with a chef for a mum, but these memories of food are what make me see food for more than just the nutrients within. Food is cultural, it's social, provides connection and a sense of home.

For many years I repeated sitting at the bench watching until one day I was allowed to bake cakes. I failed miserably. I recall getting every single ingredient out, making the biggest mess only for my cake not to rise. I am still not the greatest baker and instead love savoury dishes.

So to answer the 'I don't know where to start, or how to cook', the answer is practice makes perfect (or close to).

This means you're going to have to set aside some time to teach yourself to cook or alternatively you could join one of my cooking classes or coaching packages that involve getting hands-on in the kitchen. But again, a bit of time set aside to cook can do wonders. Try not to think of cooking as a chore but a skill just like reading that takes time to master.

Here are my top tips for getting your mojo on (or back) in the kitchen!

 

Cook your favourites, differently.

There is no better place to start in the kitchen than by choosing a favourite recipe and using it only as inspiration. I see recipes as a guide to get creative in the kitchen. So off you go, grab a recipe and adapt it slightly. 

How? 

Well, that is up to you but here are some (healthy) ideas:

  • Look in the fridge, what do you have that the recipe doesn't? Give it a go, add it in and see how it tastes.
  • Add grated veggies including carrot and zucchini to bolognese.
  • Add a tin of drained kidney beans to chilli con carne.
  • Use cauliflower instead of rice.
  • Use a sauce from one recipe and add it to another.

 

Get familiar with knives

That's right, knives can end up causing you an injury if used incorrectly. Or potentially save you a whole heap of hand strain. Start by getting familiar with how to hold a knife and different ways to use them. 

To hold a knife safely: 

  • Place the knife handle in the palm of your hand
  • Use your thumb and forefinger to hold the blade for more control and less pressure on your wrist.
  • Avoid placing you forefinger along the blunt side of the blade as this causes your hand to wobble which can cause you to slip and cut yourself. 
  • Avoid placing knives in the sink - you're guarenteed to cut yourself.

 

Make mistakes.

Often when one recipe doesn't work another great on is born. Who knows you might even discover the new smoothie combo or muffin mix. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Instead, embrace meals that don't go to plan and instead focus on what worked and what you could do better next time.

A personal cooking mistake I made a few weeks ago was an attempt at cooking beef ribs. Although I must admit, I am not the biggest fan of red meat in general, my iron is normally low and therefore I have been taking a food first approach to try and increase it - hence the beef ribs. I recall eating ribs at mums that were tender and succulent...and pretty much just fell off the bone. I thought, yep. Can do. I coasted them in soy and honey, a little fresh chilli and popped them into a pre-heated oven. The plan was to have ribs with bean mash (yes bean mash) and veggies. Well cut a long story short - my ribs were chewy, didn't fall off the bone at all and instead ended up in a dark place. It was the biggest fail I have had in cooking since I started 22 years ago. 

 

Be mindful.

As you cook, the only way to know if what you are making tastes good, is to taste the flavours, note the smells & ask yourself what else does it need. My big tip is try to avoid the salt as the first thing you grab and instead go for fresh or dried herbs and spices. Salt is okay to use but it amplifies flavour so you want the flavour there to be amplified not just to taste salty.

 

Finally, let me know what works for you and I'd love to know you earliest food memory.

Be Well Fed, 

Dietitian Bec