I always cook to music; it’s really important that what I’m cooking is evoked in the mood of the music.
~ Maggie Beer ~
Whether you love cooking or cook because you have to eat, at some stage most of us have to spend some time in the kitchen. Food is often said to be one of the greatest joys in life — not only does it sustain us, but it brings people together and reflects who we are and where we come from.
The food we put on the table does not have to be a fancy classic dish or a gourmet spread with hundreds of ingredients to taste great; in fact, sometimes a simple, easy dish with fresh ingredients is best.
But what if you really don't enjoy cooking? Maybe you didn't learn to cook as a child, or had a few recipe fails and decided you're not cut out for cooking?
Pick up your apron because once you've read our no-fail cooking guide, you will be inspired to step into the kitchen one more time so you can proudly announce, 'I cooked that!'
Perhaps, this will be the impetus for you to start your cooking journey and join the Aussie greats in this new (but familiar) area!
Great Australian Dishes
'Australian' food can be described as a melting pot of cuisines, from traditional British cooking and international flavours to indigenous 'bush tucker' food that has risen in popularity and become a firm favourite on restaurant menus. However, having grown up in this country, there is more than one classic Australian dish that instantly reminds me of home when I'm out of the country.
If you're going to learn to cook, you may as well start with our Aussie tucker because there is nothing more simple to make. (Except lamingtons — but really, even lamingtons are easy. Messy, but easy.) You don't even need a recipe — that's how simple these meals are to cook.
Barbecue it and you can't go wrong. Steak, chops, sausages, chicken — anything can be cooked on a barbecue, even vegetables. Add some tomato sauce and you have an easy meal and, best of all, very little washing up.
Burger it. Everything tastes great in a bread roll. Add chicken, fish or a beef rissole, plus fried egg, cheese, vegetables (cooked or raw) — in fact, use whatever ingredients take your fancy, just don't forget the beetroot and the pineapple!
Roast it. Australians have been known to heat up the kitchen even more in the middle of summer because they have to have their Sunday roast. A good roast takes time to cook but it's easy and quick to prepare — and it's pretty hard to stuff it up.
Whether or not you enjoy fishing, you can enjoy a big chunk of barramundi. It's one of the best fish to stick on the barbecue — and nothing shouts 'Aussie' more. You can also throw on a few prawns while you're there (particularly for a Christmas meal).
Sweet and savoury treats
It's always nice to have a mid-morning or afternoon snack, or a dessert after your main meal, and even better if you've cooked it yourself. Some classic, easy to make Aussie favourites include:
- pavlova (whipping the egg whites is the worst bit, after that, it's easy)
- Anzac biscuits
- cheese and vegemite scrolls
Everyone Can Learn to Cook
If you can read, you can cook.
~ Julia Child ~
To a certain extent, Julia Child is right — if you can read a recipe and follow that recipe accurately, then you are cooking. However, we all know that recipes are not always foolproof because we've all had a recipe fail at some time or another.
In the past, when my parents and grandparents were kids, the only way to learn to cook was from your parents (probably your mother). There would have been a recipe book — the ultimate home cooking guide, hand written and handed down, and full of Nanna's cooking tips — and many homes would also have had the classic Margaret Fulton cook book, well-thumbed and butter-stained.
These days, the humble cooking guide has embraced technology and popular media with an abundance of cooking shows on television, YouTube cooking videos, and online recipe sites filled with cooking tips and step by step digital recipes.
Add all the appliances on the market these days — bread makers, air fryers, slow cookers, Thermomix machines — all designed for the home cook who is time poor and wants an easy but nutritious meal. The 6-page recipe with 25 steps and just as many ingredients is the cooking guide of the past. Today's cooking guide comes with your machine and has little more than two simple steps — on, off.
While we may have exaggerated a little, the point is this — in this time of modern technology, there's no need to rely on a daily takeaway meal or convenience food. Everybody can learn to cook.
Top Cooking Tips from Top Chefs
Cooking is a philosophy; it's not a recipe.
~ Marco Pierre White ~
Back before we had the TV-made 'celebrity chef', courtesy of TV shows like MasterChef, My Kitchen Rules, Food Safari, King's Kitchen and Huey's Cooking Adventures, the mysterious 'chef' toiled unseen in a restaurant kitchen or, occasionally, became famous through having penned a cook book.
However, thanks to the above-mentioned TV shows (and hundreds more not mentioned), the everyday Australian can now reel off a list of celebrity chef names. One wonders how much time these chef celebrities actually spend in the kitchen now but, nevertheless, they have done much for getting people back in the kitchen and cooking.
So, what is it they say that is so inspiring? Here are a few of the best cooking tips from our local and international celebrity chef favourites.
Nigella Lawson: I'm not perfect! Who wants to be? You will never cook if you think the end result has to be four-star Michelin.
Keith Floyd: Cooking is an art and patience a virtue. Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need.
Antonio Carluccio: Perfect pasta boiling water is as salty as the sea.
Mario Batali: Add key flavour ingredients again at the end of the cooking process to bump up the flavour of the sauce.
Adam Liaw: A barbecue takes at least 15 minutes to get hot enough to cook. Be patient.
Poh Ling Yeow: To avoid drying out the chicken breast, cut the chicken into smaller medallions.
Kylie Kwong: Keep your wok on the heat, don't flip it around — and finely slice your ingredients so they cook quickly.
Other tips to help you in the kitchen
We might hear these tips again and again, and there's a reason for that — they make sense.
- Organise your kitchen — put ingredients, implements and recipes where you can find them
- Cook in batches — for example, roast your vegetables earlier in the week, then add them to salads, pasta, rice or any other main meat dish
- Clean as you go — get rid of scraps as you prep your ingredients
- Turn the oven on first — nobody wants to do all the prep, then wait 20 minutes for the oven to be hot enough; same goes for your pasta water
- Embrace the one pot meal — nothing is more simple than a dish where all the ingredients go in one pot and then simmer away until done
- You don't have to cook everything from scratch — it takes time and it's expensive; there's nothing wrong with canned or frozen vegetables
- Read the recipe — not just while you're cooking; read the recipe carefully before you begin
- Most vegetables don't need to be peeled
Cooking Classes and Tutors
For some people, the best and most effective way to learn how to cook is to have someone with you every step of the way.
Cooking classes are great in this way — not only do you have the support of the teacher but you're also cooking with like-minded students. And you get to eat what you cooked at the end (which should be a good experience).
While there are some general cooking classes, ones that focus on the basics in the kitchen, most classes follow a theme. You might be interested in Italian cookery (lots of pasta and meat dishes), Asian food (rice and fish), French cuisine (simple, classic ingredients, cheese and, of course, sauce), Indian food (think aromatic spices) or classic baking or desserts.
If you'd rather learn to cook one-on-one, remember Superprof has a host of tutors who can work with you in-person or online to focus on developing your culinary skills in a personalised way.
As Federico Fellini says: 'Life is a combination of magic and pasta.' Cooking is magic — learn it, embrace it, enjoy it.
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