In today's fast-paced way of life, preparing meals can be a great form of escapism. The process of cooking can definitely help you wash away your cares as you focus on perfecting a meal.
"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection." - Curnonsky
Cooking shows such as My Kitchen Rules, as well as a move to making more conscious food choices, are awakening our interest in cooking.
However, even though your interest has been sparked, you could still find it difficult to know how to begin.
If you find yourself saying, "I'm so bad at cooking, I even burn water," now may be the time to start improving your culinary skills. There are many options available to you, from lessons at a culinary school or one-on-one lessons with an instructor, to self-learning via a cookbook or a food blog.
When you start, you not only need to learn about ingredients and cooking methods but also need to know the different utensils and how to use them.
If you've found yourself spending hours searching for cooking tips on the internet, the recommendations below can help you take the first step on your gastronomic journey.
Why Learn to Cook?
We often find lots of reasons why we can't cook - perhaps our jobs are too hectic or our kitchens are not up to scratch. The truth is that we can learn to cook in any environment, with just a little time available.
Cooking is an art that requires preparation - instead of stopping to buy takeaways, go to a market to buy fresh ingredients that you can turn into a delicious meal. Google to find an organic food market in your town and marvel at the wide variety of fresh produce available to you.
Why should you make the effort to learn how to cook?
- Healthier meals: You choose the ingredients and know exactly what goes into your meal. Pre-packaged and fast food meals often contain preservatives.
- Smaller portions: Ready-made and convenience meals are often available in larger portions than are necessary. By cooking your own meals you control the size of your portions
- Dinner parties: You can invite friends and family around to share meals with you and impress them with your cooking skills.
- Family time: Encourage your loved ones to help you prepare a meal and then sit down and enjoy it together, for a different type of bonding experience.
With cooking, as with most other things, practise makes perfect. You won't just start out and suddenly become the next Siba Mtongana, but the more you practise, the more improvement you will see.
It's astonishing how quickly you will learn to cook, once you've taken the first steps.
Even a grocery run will take less time. You will start knowing exactly what you need to prepare a meal and which pantry item needs to be restocked.
Cooking does not always have to take a long time.
While preparing a leg of lamb with yellow rice, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy will have you spending a few hours in the kitchen, simple recipes are easily available, if you just know where to find them.
Learning Cooking From Videos
When you're just starting out, seeing things done step by step usually helps you grasp a concept much quicker. Cooking videos are useful in that methods are explained, you are able to see each step of a recipe and you are able to pause and rewind to watch it again if necessary.
Videos can be found on cooking sites, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
The sites below will help you get into the kitchen.
We're all familiar with Gordon's TV persona, but you may not know that he has a YouTube channel filled with recipes and tips.
This is a perfect resource for a beginner cook as he includes videos on basics, such as how to sharpen knives, how to finely chop an onion, how to cook rice perfectly and how to debone fish. Gordon also advises you on what the kitchen essentials are and how to choose a good knife.
Once you've learnt the basics, you can move on to a dish like fillet of Beef Wellington.
Woolworths Taste Magazine
Woolworths is a trusted retailer and has a website and YouTube channel that can help you improve your cooking expertise.
Recipes are organised by dietary considerations as well as by meal course and you can even access menus for date night, brunch and many more occasions. This helps take the guesswork out of meal prep.
The search functionality is easy to use - besides accessing it from the taskbar at the top of the page, you can also find a search bar on the right-hand side of the page that allows you to select how you want to search. Choose between categories, how to, "most favourited" recipes and recipes for different courses.
The Dietary Considerations section contains, amongst others, gluten-free, vegan and carb conscious recipes. The written recipes do not contain pictures detailing the steps, but some of the recipes are provided in a video format on the website.
The videos on their YouTube channel are presented in different formats - some are sped up versions shot from above, while others resemble a television cooking show.
Food24 is a wonderful asset for the beginner cook.
The recipes on the website are itemised by type, for example chicken recipes, braai recipes and easy weekday meals. There is also a recipe roundup section that presents links to a number of recipes in one article. Recipes are easy to follow but do not contain step by step visuals.
The Food24 YouTube channel contains a number of 'how to' videos and some hacks to make things a little easier.
Pick 'n Pay Fresh Living
The Pick n Pay Fresh Living monthly magazine is provided free of charge to members of the retailer's loyalty programme.
The YouTube channel's playlist includes episodes of the Just Cooking series presented by Justine Drake and Dinner for One cooking show. These are great as, besides learning a new recipe, tips and tricks are often thrown in as well.
On the YouTube channel you can learn how to cook a Christmas turkey, how to make biltong and even how to shred lettuce - and that's just the tip of the iceberg!
Learning Cooking From a Blog
Learning from videos is not the only way to acquire new skills. There are a host of amazing blogs that share numerous recipes and offer great tips.
Just Easy Recipes
It is best to learn the basics before trying to master something like an authentic bobotie. Just Easy Recipes is a good place to kick things off.
Start with her post "How to Cook: Useful Tips for Beginners". This post gives you tips on how exactly to start your cooking adventure - finding recipes, making sure you have the right tools and steps to prepare the food you'll be cooking.
You can find posts on how to choose cookware, how to measure and cook pasta portions, how to fry eggs and how to make a white sauce.
The site also contains a very handy glossary that provides definitions of cooking terms and ingredients - very helpful if you're a first time cook who doesn't know your arugula from your arborio.
Recipes are well-categorised, making it easy to find just the recipe you are looking for - whether it is main meals or side dishes.
With a blog, YouTube channel and Instagram page filled with droolworthy images, you are sure to find a recipe that excites you.
You can access recipes and videos separately on the taskbar of Alida Ryder's blog.
You can easily find the recipe you are looking for in the drop down section or use the search function to bring back a list of recipes matching your topic.
Alida provides a list of pantry and freezer basics - essential information for a cooking novice.
A well stocked kitchen means you're ready to prepare meals at the drop of a hat (or the popping in of a friend).
The videos are shot as sped up versions from above and the written recipes are provided below the videos. This is an excellent addition that saves you having to write steps down as you go.
Video recipes include how to make an easy tomato sauce, easy chicken noodle soup and easy spiced wedges. As a beginner, easy is a magic word!
Other noteworthy cooking blogs are:
- Healthy Vegetarian Foods
- Aninas Recipes
- Drizzle and Dip.
Blogs have a personal approach in the way that they are written and may appeal to beginners because of this.
Although there are many options available to you when learning to cook, the most cost effective way to do so is by visiting cooking websites, understanding the basics and learning cooking terminology.
Once you've mastered the basics and your pantry is well stocked, turn on your hob, open up your favourite site and cook yourself a three course meal - you deserve it!