Are you tired of serving your guests convenience meals?

Do you struggle making an omelette?

Is the pasta you serve the 2-minute noodle variety?

Do not despair, anyone can learn to cook, but before you jump in and schedule your first dinner party, you must first decide how you will be learning.

There are many options available to you – enrolling at a cooking school, one on one sessions with a tutor, or even learning on your own. Whichever method you choose, you should try to invest in a few cookbooks.

Recipe planning
Investing in cookbooks will only be of benefit to you |Source: Unsplash

Knowing which equipment to buy or how to properly stock your pantry may leave you feeling bewildered. Do you really need a microwave or a food processor? How do you go about cooking a healthy meal while juggling the rest of your priorities?

Whether you need to learn the difference between broil and boil, how to approach a recipe, determine whether a blender will be useful to you or how to prepare a Cape Malay chicken curry; before you turn on your stove, think about reading through one of these books.

The Complete South African Cookbook

At over 360 pages long, with more than 650 recipes, this cookbook is is akin to being an encyclopedia of cooking. The recipes are simple enough for a beginner but will become indispensable to a seasoned cook too.

The book starts with a 'how to' section covering topics such as weighing and measuring, metric conversions, oven temperatures and menu-planning, amongst others. Magdaleen has included an explanation on how to use her recipes, explaining the process you should follow before starting to cook them.

An extensive glossary introduces you to cooking terminology and the menu-planning section gives dietary and shopping tips.

Pressure cooking, boiling and grilling are some of the cooking techniques that are explained in detail.

Veggies
Cookbooks can teach you how to prepare vegetables for cooking and for salads |Source: Unsplash

The recipes are well organised according to ingredient type and you will find everything from hors d'oeuvres to a selection of vegetarian recipes .

The tips and advice are extremely useful for beginners as you will learn how to prepare vegetables for cooking and for salads, the use of egg yolks to make a sauce and even how to store produce in the fridge.

The advantages:

  • This is an extensive cookbook with hundreds of recipes
  • The author goes into detail about many techniques - giving you the confidence to try them and master them.

The disadvantage:

  • There are no pictures in this book - you do not have a frame of reference to compare your completed dish to.

The Cape Malay Cookbook

This book teaches you how to prepare traditional Cape Malay recipes. The author, Faldela Williams, includes information blocks in some of the sections, providing additional information about the recipes.

The recipes are simple and easy to follow, allowing you to create delicious meals in the comfort of your home.

Learn about spices, herbs and seasonings - Faldela includes the local names of some of these, such as borrie (turmeric), barishap (fennel) and dhunia (coriander).

fresh spices and fresh vegetables
Learn about the flavour of spices and how to use them |Source: Unsplash

If you're looking to increase your dinner recipe repertoire, you are spoilt for choice.

Your options start with bredies (stews): cauliflower, tomato or sugar beans bredies; curries: mince curry, frikkadel curry or crayfish curry; and many more mouthwatering main meal recipes.

The aroma when cooking comfort foods such as breyani and denningvleis will have passers-by wishing they could be invited to share your dinner.

Some of the recipes include microwave tips, helping you to shorten the cooking time when under pressure and some variations are provided at the end of a number of recipes, providing the inspiration to put your own stamp on a meal.

Whether you wish to cook samoosas from scratch, rotis, fish, chicken, seafood, soups, breyani, blatjang or sweet treats, you are sure to find something that appeals to you.

The cookbook includes some notes on religious celebrations in the Malay culture, like Eid, and provides suggestions of what to serve at these events.

The advantages:

  • Recipes are easy to find and simple to follow
  • Beautiful pictures of the finished dishes give you an idea of what your dish should look like.

The disadvantage:

  • The book does not contain a section that explains how to do the basics.

Jamie's 30 Minute Meals

We got to know Jamie as the cheeky Naked Chef - cooking fresh ingredients and allowing their natural flavours to shine through. Whether you like him or not - there's no denying that he just has a way of simplifying things and making you believe that you can recreate his meals.

Jamie's 30 Minute Meals is a great cookbook if you are a complete beginner - it promises that, if you are well organised, you can have a delicious, healthy meal on your table within 30 minutes. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

copper measuring spoons and measuring cups and notebook
Gather everything you need before starting the recipe |Source: Unsplash

The book begins by laying out exactly what you need to have in place before you start - sorting out your equipment, arranging the equipment in a sensible manner, clearing as you cook, and making room for the meal on your table. Next, ingredients are covered - what to buy when you go shopping; then the list of utensils and equipment needed to cook the meals and finally, serveware.

You may be surprised to see that a microwave is included on the list of essential equipment. Jamie has introduced this to help you prepare fresh, tasty food, while clearing up some space on your stovetop.

Even though the meals will be prepared quickly, you will not be sacrificing flavour and wholesomeness.

You can learn how to cook dishes such as Moroccan lamb chops, piri piri chicken, summer veg lasagne and roast beef with baby Yorkshire puddings.

The advantages:

  • There are numerous pictures accompanying each recipe, so you know exactly how the different stages of the meal preparation are supposed to look
  • The recipes are clearly and simply presented, with each element in a bold-type blue heading, making it easy for you to follow

The disadvantage:

  • Recipes are loosely grouped together - there's no clearly listed categorisation of the recipes - you cannot just turn to a 'chicken section', for instance.

Fast, Fresh and Easy Food

Lorraine Pascale's cookbook focuses on easy meals to cook - meals that can be cooked quickly, that are very tasty and nutritious. The recipes provide a main as well as sides, making it easier for you to serve a well rounded meal in the blink of an eye.

The book provides a few tips before moving on to the 100 recipes.  Recipes are grouped by course and main ingredient. You will start off with canapes, move through starters, snacks and soups, to main meals  (chicken, duck, beef, lamb, pork, fish, shellfish, vegetarian) with sides and then finish off with something sweet.

With every recipe it is indicated how long the process is meant to take from start to finish, how many people the recipe will serve and what equipment is needed. Every recipe starts with either an explanation or an anecdote. Cooking temperatures are provided in Fahrenheit, Celsius and gas mark measures.

Clock in kitchen
You can only cook quickly if you are organised |Source: Unsplash

The recipes are written in bullet form - they are straightforward and you won't easily lose your place.

Recipes include honey soy-glazed salmon with sesame and ginger noodles and stir-fried boy choy, spicy chicken fajitas with guacamole, salsa and sour cream, pan-fried mascarpone gnocchi with basil pesto and Thai red beef curry, served with jasmine rice.

The majority of the recipes can go from chopping board to serving dish in under an hour, making it an ideal resource if you have very little time in which to cook.

Each recipe is accompanied by a photograph of the finished product. The terminology used is simple and a glossary is not required.

This is definitely a cookbook that will have pride of place in a busy cook's kitchen.

Advantages:

  • Recipes are easy to follow and quick to prepare
  • Lorraine has taken the guesswork out of what to serve with main meals. The mains are listed with accompaniments.

Disadvantage:

  • Measurements are metric (grams) and no conversion table is provided.

 

CookbookProsConsPrice (as at 30 January 2020)
The Complete South African CookbookHundreds of recipes and very detailed descriptions of cooking techniquesNo pictures - you cannot see what the meal is meant to look likeR297 at Exclusive Books
The Cape Malay CookbookRecipes are easy to followThe basics of cooking are not coveredR257 at Exclusive Books
Jamie's 30 Minute MealsNumerous pictures accompany the recipes - you can see what the meal should look like at different stages of the processRecipe categories are not clearly listedR434 at Exclusive Books
Fast, Fresh and Easy FoodMains are listed with accompaniments - no guesswork when preparing your dinnerMeasurements are in grams and no conversion table is providedR371 on Loot

Once you've worked through some of these books, you'll no longer stress about having to cook for guests. Whether just cooking for yourself or hosting a dinner party, these cookbooks will prove invaluable to you.

These books will convince even a die-hard takeaway fan that cooking delicious meals is something that anyone can achieve.

If you don't have enough space for books or you feel that you'd prefer to try a range of different recipes, the internet provides a wealth of information - you can access recipes on social media (Youtube Facebook, Instagram), on blogs or on cooking websites.

Take the first step to starting your cooking journey and you will soon be on your way to preparing flavourful, healthy, quick meals.

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Kim

Kim is from Cape Town, South Africa. She enjoys reading and spending summer days on the beautiful blue flag beaches that the Western Cape is blessed with. She is currently working on getting her groove back.