Do you ever wonder if you can cook? You want to be a good cook but don't know how to get there?
Here is a list of what you can do (it's not exhaustive) to get you on that road to becoming the amazing cook you've dreamed about....
1. Practice Makes Fabulously Tasty Dishes
Picking up a new recipe and only cooking it once is not enough. It is important to make it over and over and over again until you really feel you have mastered it. Reality is you may have fluked it the first time and then go make it a second or third time and often you will find it’s not quite the same. Practicing the same recipe also gives you the opportunity to adjust the recipe slightly to accommodate your tastes.
2. Have your pantry and fridge stocked with all the basic ingredients you will need for the recipes you have chosen
I always have olive oil, vinegar, flours, sugars, pasta, rice, salt, pepper, nuts, honey, spices and dried herbs ready to access in my pantry. In my fridge, I always have eggs, cream, milk, butter, yogurt, lemons, oranges, dates, figs and vegetables. My freezer is stocked with chicken, lamb and tomato passata.
I mainly cook Mediterranean food so my ingredients reflect that.
I also cut all my vegetables up and place in containers in the fridge so that they are ready to go when I have been out all day and need to get dinner ready in a hurry.
In my pantry, I have everything sectioned off, like in the supermarkets, which makes it quick and easy for me to find what I am looking for when cooking. My fridge is organised in sections too. My brain doesn’t function with mess so ‘ordered’ works best for me.
3. Get a Garden Happening
Whether you have a large backyard or a small patio, do what you can to have fresh produce available to add to your recipes. Adding fresh herbs and vegetables to your meals increases the flavour, not to mention the nutritional value!
The herbs I have are Italian parsley, basil, mint and oregano. There’s nothing that makes me happier than to be able to go out to my garden and collect fresh herbs.
The vegetables I like growing in my garden are leek, shallots, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini and capsicum. They're all easy to grow and very versatile for many dishes and different cuisines.
4. Set your kitchen up with the essential tools
I remember having a gathering at my home last year and someone said to me, “I am interested in looking at the tools you use in your kitchen.” It took me by surprise because I don’t have many tools in my kitchen because I consider my hands to be my tools. Nonetheless, I do have a food processor - fabulous for grating vegetables, mixing dough and making those wonderfully healthy bliss balls!
Last year my husband bought me a kitchen aid. It’s been many, many years since I had a mixer – the last one I had was from Sunbeam and it wasn’t until years later I realised it was broken because there was a fault in it. I did try to get compensated by Sunbeam but they weren’t as keen as I was! I also own a pasta machine and a really fancy blender/grinder – I love grinding my nuts and spices in this machine…oh and it blends my fruit juices perfectly leaving all the fibre in!
5. Check out your local Cooking Workshops
I remember growing up and looking forward to our Thursday morning cooking demonstration classes with the Sydney Electricity Council. I went to school for two things – sport and cooking! I watched the ladies demonstrate how to bake cakes and make savoury tarts – it was the best!
Get yourself to your nearest cooking class – Essential Ingredients is a great place to learn new skills, make some friends and generally have a wonderful experience. Check out their website – www.essentialingredient.com.au and book yourself into a class.
And if you are really game, book yourself a Mobile Cooking Workshop where I come to you, cook alongside you and invite a couple of friends to join you for dinner! It’s a dinner party with your own personal assistant! Check out my website – www.insofiaskitchen.com.au and book yourself in.
6. Follow your Favourite Chefs
You can learn so much from others – Food Network and SBS Food are fabulous shows to watch and pick up a trick or two.
Some of my favourite chefs are:
Rick Stein – this guy knows his stuff but is down to earth and appreciates the everyday cook. His latest adventures have taken him around the Mediterranean and worth the watch.
Yotam Ottolenghi – I love the creativity of this guy – the colours and foods he brings together are breathtaking!
Margaret Fulton – this lady is an inspiration! Her recipes can be trusted and even though some are very basic, she has laid a wonderful foundation for us, and the generations to come.
7. Experiment with dishes putting your twist on them
Once you’ve made your dishes over and over and over again, begin to break out of the box and start putting your twist into the recipe.
Recently I experimented with brownies and wanted to put a Greek twist on them so I made Baklava brownies! They were fabulously moist, spongy and full of flavour.
Being a Mediterranean girl at heart but ever so grateful I was born in this beautiful country, I like to bring together both cuisines and make something new out of it – just like my husband and I – two cultures coming together and making something new!
I am heading off to Greece later on in the year and I hope to bring back a few more ‘not so common’ recipes to share with you and put my twist on them!
So if you haven’t already, get yourself a copy of my cookbook – In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under available online and start practicing!
Oh, and I am setting up a Youtube channel where I will show you how to cook each of my recipes in my cookbook which I am sure will help you on your quest to becoming a FABULOUS COOK!