Fundamentals of cooking

I suppose it’s easy for me to say to someone that cooking is easy having been a chef for the past 12 years, but still to this day I come across things in the kitchen that can be a struggle, but like anything in life persistence is key.

I know a lot of people, as I’m sure you probably do, who will outright say they can’t cook. Nope, can’t do it, everything comes out black, which, to me, is complete rubbish. Everyone is a chef in some way or another, you just need to find what you’re good at. That’s one of the things I love about cooking, you can literally never learn it all. You can learn plenty of methods and techniques used to cook but everyday new ideas pop up all around the world.

To me, the three key things to remember when cooking are,

  • Timing – when cooking properly, as in not throwing a box of processed shite into a microwave, 20 seconds can be the difference between really good and perfect, or eatable and ruined. Especially if you are cooking more than one thing at once, a roast dinner is a good example. That being said you don’t need to count the seconds when cooking, just don’t put something on and forget about it, eating should be an enjoyable experience and needs a certain degree of attention to do so. 
  • Simplicity – I find nowadays with so many celebrity chefs it gives the impression that you can’t make a brilliant plate of food without taking for example a cauliflower, boiling it, mashing some into a purée, making some into crisps, battering part of it, making some of it black and any other bloody thing you can do with it then arranging it on a plate like a piece of art on a plate ten times bigger than it needs to be. I’m not saying that some really good dishes can be very technical, but good, honest food is never too difficult or shouldn’t be once you’ve done it a couple of time. As I said above, timing plays a big part of it. Who doesn’t love apple crumble and ice cream, or fish and chips! I think it’s good to be inventive but o think sometimes the initial idea of a banging plate of food just goes out the window!
  • Keep calm and carry on! – Having worked in a lot of kitchens, a problem I have always noticed and (thankfully) very rarely suffered from myself, is getting into a state of panic. If one thing goes wrong, and you start to panic, you can guarantee something else will go wrong, then something else, and something else until the ovens on fire and you accidentally put the cat in the microwave. Ok maybe not, but getting panicked or stressed 8 times out of 10 is only going to lead to more problems and ultimately ruin that delicious meal you were looking forward to. If something does go wrong, just stop for a second, think about what you need to do to fix it, or redo, and do it! Yes it can be annoying sometimes but that’s life! Better to just step back for a second and sort it out then to carry on for another 20 minutes of stress and a shit plate of food to eat!

There are a lot of other factors that come into cooking but I find if you’re cooking at home or in a professional kitchen those are the three most important things to remember.

Cooking doesn’t have to be expensive, especially cooking at home, but if it’s a dish that you really enjoy I would say splash out a few quid extra for slightly better produce. By produce I mean actual ingredients like fresh vegetables, fruit, meat or fish. When it comes to other bits such as spices, oils, stock cubes, butter, vinegars, sugars etc etc I would say don’t worry about spending a lot. Most of the time I’ll go for the cheapest option possible for such things, but the difference between a cheap onion, potato, piece of steak, joint of pork etc and a decent quality one is definitely noticeable in the end result.

And that’s that! Please feel free to comment if you think I have missed anything out!

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