Whether you carbonize your toast in the mornings or have trouble boiling water, there are some basic fundamental cooking skills that everyone should ideally have. Of course, simple recipes like boiling an egg or cooking the perfect pasta are necessary, but it’s also important to know a couple of basic recipes that you should be able to make no matter who or where you are.
1. Stir Fry Sauce
A stir fry is one of the easiest and hassle-free meals to make. Simply through together some meat, vegetables, sauce and noodles! I don’t believe in buying jars of sauces from supermarkets. They’re often full of fat, sodium, MSG’s, e-numbers and more. It’s often just as easy, tasty and cost effective to make your own stir fry sauce at home. This recipe lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge and yields 3 cups of sauce. 2 -3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/4 cup brown sugar, pinch minced ginger, 2 minced cloves garlic, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock. Whisk all the ingredients together and add to stir fry towards the end of cooking.
2. Basic Tomato Sauce
Again, I try to avoid jars. This recipe yields 1/2 liter and is perfect for meatballs, casseroles and pasta dishes and it’s so easy to do! All you need is a good glug of olive oil, 4 large cloves of garlic, large handful of fresh basil, 3 tins of plum tomatoes, a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes (optional for extra flavour), sea salt and pepper. Gently fry off the garlic in a saucepan for 1-2 mins. Add rest of ingredients and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat immediately and strain the sauce through a sieve back into the saucepan. Return to the heat and bring to the boil again. Allow to simmer for 5-7 mins to thicken slightly and we’re ready to serve!
3. Salad Dressings
Living alone, I find it’s much easier to make my own salad dressing as and when needed. If I buy a jar of salad dressing it usually ends up going off and I have to throw it out. Making a salad dressing is one of the easiest things! The general rule of thumb, is 3 parts oil to 1 part acidity. So for example to make a simple recipe, all you need is 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper. Simples! NB: You should always taste the dressing before serving. Sometimes, it might need an extra squeeze of lemon juice!
Something that’s so easy to get wrong, but once you know how to do it, it’s easy peasy. You’ll need a good heavy bottomed grill pan or frying pan. Put on the heat at the highest setting. Lightly brush the steak with olive oil and dust with salt and pepper. Add your steak to the dry pan. Do not touch it while it’s cooking. For Bleu steak 1 minute on each side. Rare: 2-3 mins on each side. Medium: 4 mins on each side. Well done: 5-6 mins on each side. It’s critical that you do not touch the meat while it’s cooking, only to turn to the other side for cooking. Whichever way you like it cooked, this should yield a nice juicy steak!
5. Roast Chicken
It’s actually very easy to roast a chicken. Add salt, pepper, one bay leaf, one crushed clove of garlic and a small bunch of thyme to the body cavity. Lift up the skin every so slightly with a very sharp knife. Be careful not to pierce the skin. Layer in between the skin and the meat with butter. The butter will melt into the meat as it cooks. Salt and pepper the outside of the chicken. Place on a baking tray and cook. Baste the chicken at least twice during cooking. Cook in pre-heated oven at 200C (400F). Cook for 15mins per 450g (1lb) of chicken plus an extra 15 mins. Test the chicken to see if it’s cooked. The juices should run clear when you pierce the skin and also if the wings and legs pull away easy, you should have a perfectly cooked chicken. Allow the chicken to stand (covered with foil) for 15 mins before serving.
6. Roast Potatoes
Goose fat is the key ingredient here – makes for the perfect roasties. Peel the potatoes and cut into medium sized pieces. Melt 50 g of fat per 500 g of potatoes in a roasting dish. Add the potatoes and roll around until they are fully coated. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on top shelf of a pre-heated oven at 190C (375F) for 40 mins. Baste frequently until they are a lovely golden colour and cooked through. Serve.
7. Pizza Dough
Ok, ok. This one isn’t really all that necessary. But it’s nice to make your own homemade pizza. You can have fun choosing your own toppings, sooo good! And you can use the tomato sauce recipe above as the pizza sauce also! This recipe makes 6-8 medium sized pizzas. You’ll need 800g white flour plus 200g finely ground semolina flour, 1 level tsp sea salt, 2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast, 1 tbsp caster sugar, 4 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil and 650ml lukewarm water. Start by sieving the flour, semolina and salt on to a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size. Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.
Everyone loves cookies and what’s better than serving up your own freshly baked cookies to friends when they call around. This recipe is so easy and I’ve already featured it on the blog, so check out Rachel Allen’s Basic Cookie Recipe!
9. A One Pot Dish
This is a great one to impress family and friends when you’re entertaining. One pot dishes are usually quite easy and take little to no preparation. It would be too long for me to include full recipes here, but my favourite’s are James Martin’s Cottage Pie, Jamie Oliver’s Simple Lasagna or Rachel Allen’s Beef Bourguignon. Mouth-watering! 😉
Although relatively easy to make, it does take some practice to make the perfect omelette. But it’s a quick, protein rich dish to make easily when you’re on the go. For one omelette, take a small pan and melt a knob of butter. Turn heat to medium low. While butter is melting, creack 2 eggs into a bowl. Add good pinch of salt and pepper and mix until only just combined. When butter is melted and starting to sizzle, pour egg mixture into the pan. Stir the omelette to break up any curs that form. When you only have a little bit of runny egg left on top, take the pan off the heat and put it under the grill. Grill until the top has dried completely but not browned. Remove from grill, fold in half and serve. You can add additional toppings before putting under the grill, such as chopped tomatoes, grated cheese, etc.