Nowadays there are literally hundreds of cooking programmes on the TV. There are celebrity chefs producing TV and written content by the bucket load and we’ve turned into a nation of foodies.
A few years ago British food was laughed at around the world – now it’s some of the best on the planet. The days of overcooked meats and bland, uninteresting dishes are long gone. We’re now one of the most progressive food nations on the planet and a source of inspiration for many.
Many of the best chefs in the world flock to London to try their hand at breaking in to the UK food market – who would have imaged that 50 years ago?!
But what if you’re not there yet? What if your culinary expertise go no further than beans on toast? Well worry not – we’ve got a series of tips to help you go from a cooking disaster to a culinary master! Take these five simple cooking tips and you’ll improve your food dramatically!
Slow cook your meats…
A cut of meat such as a steak requires a decent level of skill – it’s easy to overcook it so you need to practice a few times before you get it right. The same can’t be said for cuts of meat that you slow cook.
Slow cooking means to cook a joint of meat on a low heat for a much longer period of time. Think casseroles, roasts, stews etc.
The benefit to slow cooking meat is that it is great way to add a lot of extra flavour in the form of sauces, stocks etc. It’s also the best way to produce really tender meat, because the slower cooking process softens the connective tissues in the meat, making it fall-apart tender.
Perfect cuts to slow cook are…
- Beef Brisket
- Beef short rib
- Lamb and Pork shoulder
- Lamb Shank
- Ham hock
- Ox Cheek
Here’s a great example of how you can slow cook a meat to gain maximum flavour with minimum effort…
Take Vegetables Up a Notch!
When we think about vegetables such as carrots and broccoli, most beginner cooks assume they should be boiled. Of course that’s one way of cooking them, but there are plenty of others. One way I like to cook vegetables is to roast them.
You can roast almost any vegetable and the results is fantastic – you caramelise the natural sugars, making the vegetables much sweeter. You also have an opportunity to roast them with other vegetables and herbs to impact extra flavour, which you just can’t do when boiling your veg. I personally like to add onions, garlic and herbs such as thyme and rosemary to vegetables when I roast them.
Perfect vegetables for roasting are…
- Tomatoes (yes, we know it’s a fruit, but you get the point!)
If you’re unsure as to how to do it, check out the video below for a few flavour ideas…
Marinade Your Meats
One of the things that makes eastern cuisine so good is their marinades. A marinade is a highly-flavoured sauce that a meat is coated in and left for a given amount of time – anywhere from an hour up to multiple days.
There are all kinds of marinades, some of them are sweet, others a spicy, there are herby marinades and in a lot of Indian and Asian cooking, spiced yogurt is used to transfer flavours into the meats they are marinading.
The benefit of a good marinade is that it means you can build up multiple layers of flavour in the meat and is really low effort. I often crush some garlic and sprinkle some pre-mixed peri-peri seasoning into olive oil, stir it up into a thick-fish paste and pour it over a few chicken breasts, making sure it covers the whole of the meat. This is left for anything from an hour to overnight, then I roast the chicken breasts in the oven. It works a treat!
Here’s a slightly more involved, but really tasty steak marinade (although it could be used on lamb or chicken too). Click on the video for the how-to…
Don’t Be Scared of Flavour
One of the issues with food beginner cooks produce is that it is often under-flavoured and seasoned. It isn’t always their fault – in many cases, some of the flavours they add to their dishes become diluted during the cooking process.
To get around this, many cooks add a little more of the flavouring ingredients than they need to – this is especially true in Indian cooking where there are so many strong flavours (herbs and spices) that they can compete and overpower each other. For example, ingredients like garlic can be lost amongst the spices, so if a recipe calls for 1 clove, perhaps add two, just in case.
Flavours and seasonings have to be balanced, so keep tasting your dishes to check you have it right and adjust accordingly if you don’t.
One final cooking tip…
Remember above all else that cooking is an art, not a science. The way you like your food to be cooked may be different from other people, so practice, learn what you like and what you don’t like and develop your style based on that. You won’t be an expert overnight, but by trying different combinations and ingredients, you’ll soon figure out what you like to eat and how you like to cook!
Keep experimenting, keep enjoying and remember to check out food channels and youtube videos for inspiration and advice!