You may never have thought that cooking holds much importance, but it is interesting to know that UNESCO classified French cuisine as a ‘world intangible heritage”.

It’s amazing to think that a few courses of food can be deemed as important as the Roman Colosseum!

Many people are taking the time to learn to cook, thanks, in part, to the increasing popularity of cooking shows such as Masterchef Australia and My Kitchen Rules.

There are different ways to learn how to cook, such as attending cooking classes or having private lessons at your home. You can even learn to cook on your own, if you're just starting out and are counting your pennies.

To maximise your learning, you can access many great online and published resources to teach you things such as pantry basics, preparing different types of eggs and how to cook for groups of people.

No matter your preference; whether you enjoy a good steak or follow a vegan diet, whether you want to cook lavish meals or prefer a more frugal approach, we have a few suggestions to help you follow the steps to making your next dish the toast of the town!

Great Books for Learning to Cook

Many of our family moments are centered around food - whether it was paging through your grandmother's favourite cookbook while she prepared a Sunday roast,  huge family gatherings to celebrate religious holidays such as Eid or Christmas, or packing picnics for long road trips to the beach.

Cookbooks are sometimes passed from one family member to another and a favourite book may be gifted to a bridal couple.

Cookbooks become well loved members of the family and are often trigger many nostalgic moments.

Family meal
Many of our celebrations are centred around food |Source: Unsplash

There are a number of  excellent South African cookbooks to help you improve your cooking skills.

The Lazy Makoti's Guide To The Kitchen by Mogau Seshone

This is an easy to follow cookbook that offers you recipes for quick comfort food, using pantry staples.

It covers topics such as kitchen basics, how to turn leftovers into an exciting new meal and how to prepare a Seven Colour Sunday Feast.

This cookbook has regularly been ranked the top cookbook in South Africa since it was published in 2018.

The Complete South African Cookbook by Magdaleen van Wyk

The title gives you an idea of how vast the subject matter it tackles, is.

If you're a beginner, you will benefit from the guidance it offers on the basic cooking techniques, storage and presentation of food. There are more than 650 recipes in this book - an indispensable resource in your kitchen as it offers something for everyone - from egg dishes to vegetarian recipes. The step by step guides will help you gain confidence in the kitchen as you learn how to cook South African favourites such as bobotie.

It is also useful if you're learning to cook while watching your calorie intake, as each recipe details the kilojoule count - making it easier for you to focus on your health while becoming more proficient at cooking.

The Cape Malay Cookbook by Faldela Williams

This book is a must if you enjoy delicious home cooked food that reminds you of your childhood. It is beautifully illustrated, and contains photographs of the meals you will be creating.

The book opens with a glossary of spices, herbs and seasonings and moves on through snacks such as samoosas, to crayfish curry and the Sunday morning favourite, koesisters.

The recipes are easy to follow and variations are provided, that help you personalise your dishes while you are improving your cooking skills.

Herbs and Spices
The Cape Malay Cookbook contains a glossary of herbs and spices |Source: Unsplash

The South African Vegan Cookbook by Leozette Roode

As we are becoming more aware of our impact on the Earth, there is a growing movement toward incorporating more plant based meals into our diets. This cookbook is an excellent resource, even if you're just having vegan meals on Meat Free Monday.

The book includes some frequently asked questions surrounding veganism, offers suggestions for vegan substitutes for day to day products and details what you should have on hand in your pantry to create mouthwatering vegan meals.

As a beginner cook, the recipes are easy to follow and include traditional South African favourites, with a vegan spin.

Through The Eyes Of An African Chef by Nompumelelo Mqwebu

This cookbook teaches you food preparation techniques that have been passed down through generations, while also introducing new ways of carrying these traditions forward.

You will learn more about the cultural significance behind some of the African meals and work magic with fresh ingredients, while learning more about the best traditional meals South Africa has to offer.

Watch Videos for Step by Step Instruction

Up to as recently as ten years ago, when WiFi was not as freely available as it is now, your first (or only) port of call may have been a cookbook, or maybe a random cooking show shown on SABC 3 on a Saturday morning.

Now we are spoilt for choice as we have access to many different learning channels.

There are numerous videos on YouTube which can help you get started - search for what you would like to cook and watch a few different videos before settling on one that suits you best.

  • Alida Ryder has a range of videos, from how to assemble a cheese board, to how to make a chicken Korma.
  • Something's Cooking TV by My Kitchen Rule South Africa judge J'Something has more than 90 videos to help you learn to cook.
  • Woolworths Taste Magazine has a wonderful variety of cooking videos including collaborations with well known food personalities such as The Lazy Makoti.
Watch cooking tutorials on YouTube |Source: UnsplashInstagram is also a great platform to watch cooking videos - either on Stories or on IGTV.

A great account is Foodies Of SA which has a range of quick tutorials to help you expand your culinary skills. The account shows a sped up video, with the ingredients and cooking times in text.

A Cut-Out-And-Keep Resource

A resource that you may not immediately think of is a magazine.

The great thing about magazines is that you can pick and choose which recipes you wish to keep, cut them out and start your own personalised cookbook.

Many magazines, such as You Magazine, Your Family and Woman & Home; have a section dedicated to cooking and these recipes are often aimed at being budget friendly.

Two of the largest retailers in South Africa also publish inhouse, food focused magazines.

The Woolworths Taste and Pick 'n Pay Fresh Living magazines are exceptional quality publications that offer you a wide range of tasty meal options. A further bonus is that the monthly Fresh Living magazine is free to members of the Pick 'n Pay loyalty programme - you basically have a new cookbook at your disposal every month!

Cooking Blogs - A Great Way to Learn!

There are many websites and blogs available to teach you to cook, whatever cuisine or latest fad you're interested in, all you have to do is use Google to find the recipe.

A good way to practise your skills is to set up a group with friends and do your own version of Come Dine With Me , to show off what you've learnt.

Online Recipe
Cooking blogs offer superb step-by-step recipes |Source: Unsplash

South Africa has some wonderful cooking sites such as:

  • Simply Delicious - for a wide variety of  recipes, including videos and a pantry list of everyday basics you should have on hand.
  • Drizzle and Dip includes recipes with 5 ingredients or less; recipes are clearly categorised and there is an easy search function to help you quickly find what you are looking for.
  • My Easy Cooking - for just that; meals that are easy on the pocket and simple to put together.
  • Cupcakes and Couscous offers tried and tested family recipes as well as brand new ones.
  • If you're looking to learn more about vegan cooking, Leozette Roode's blog is a great starting point.
  • Scrumptious offers delicious recipes, along with cook's notes and the author answers your questions on her Facebook page too.
  • Healthy Vegetarian Foods offers day to day vegetarian recipes as well as a Diwali lunch menu. Even if you are not a vegetarian it is good to have a few recipes in your arsenal for dinner parties.

Deciding to learn to cook is often spurred on by another event such as getting married, trying to eat more healthily or wanting to reduce your food expenditure by eating out less. The resources listed are a great launchpad to your culinary journey.

As with any new learning area, patience is key - if your dish does not turn out the way you expected it to on your first few tries, go back to the recipe and try again. Read a number of different recipes for the same dish to find one that best meets your capabilities and the ingredients you have on hand. Continue learning by watching family and friends cook, ask questions when you are out at restaurants and experiment with flavours and textures.

Some of the best - and sometimes surprisingly delicious learning happens when you make mistakes.

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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.