How to cook: A kitchen guide for newbies
03 October 2017 | Schwartz
It’s that time of year. Many young people will be moving out of home and venturing into the kitchen for the first time – so we’ve put together the ultimate guide for creating tasty and wholesome dinners. Make the most of your remaining time at home and freshen up those cooking skills in time for Freshers’ Week!
The basic meal plan
For those new to constructing a balanced plate, most meals should include the following components:
• One protein such as fish, eggs, meat, cheese, tofu
• One starchy carbohydrate such as potatoes or pasta
• Plenty of different vegetables or a side salad
• A sauce or dressing to bring it all together
How to cook an egg
Eggs are a cheap and easy way to add filling protein to many meals, perfect for when you’re short on time and ingredients.
To fry an egg, heat a little oil or butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, crack the eggs and wait for the edges to turn white after about a minute. Then lower the heat and cover the pan for 1-4 minutes, depending on how runny you want the yolk.
Scrambled eggs are always the easy alternative. Simply beat two eggs with a dash of milk and pour the mixture into a pan with a little butter on a medium heat. Once the eggs start to set, fold the eggs into the centre until no visible liquid remains.
Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover the eggs by 1cm. Once the water is boiling, lower the eggs into the pan with a non-metal spoon. Cook for one minute, then remove the saucepan from the heat and cover. Leave for a further 6-7 minutes depending on how soft you want the centre.
Heat a saucepan of boiling water until it bubbles. Crack eggs into the water, and leave the pan on high heat for 1 minute. Then just take the pan off the heat completely, leave for 6-7 minutes, and serve.
Top Tip – Boil the water in a kettle beforehand to save time.
How to cook vegetables
Boil a saucepan of water and reduce to a medium heat. Chop vegetables to a similar size and add to the water, covering with a lid. Most regular vegetables such as carrots or potatoes take between 8-15 minutes to boil, depending on their size. Test your veg every five minutes or so, poking them with a fork to check their texture.
Preheat the oven to 200C while you peel and chop your vegetables. Toss with olive oil and seasoning and throw into a baking tray to cook for up to an hour. Some harder veg such as potatoes and carrots will cook faster and softer if parboiled for five minutes or so beforehand.
Chop your vegetables into thin pieces and fry with a little oil on a medium to high heat, stirring frequently to make sure they don’t stick. If using onions, start with those and cook until almost see through, then add the rest of the vegetables in order of their cooking times. For instance, carrots before peppers before spinach.
Top tip – A sprinkle of Garlic Italian Seasoning can transform veggie sides into a tasty main.
How to cook meat and fish
Meat and fish may seem trickier to master than other ingredients, but they’re actually surprisingly easy to master. Simply add one of our fantastic herb and spice blends to the protein before cooking and check it’s thoroughly cooked through before serving.
Take your meat out of the fridge an hour or two before roasting to ensure it cooks evenly. Small cuts of chicken and beef should be roasted at a temperature of 180C for 1h30, then rested for a further 30 minutes. To check if your meat is done, pinch it to see if it comes easily away from the bone. With chicken, stick a knife into the thickest part of the thigh – if the juices run dry, it’s done.
To pan fry meat, heat a little oil over a medium high heat and cook until no longer opaque. Chicken takes about five minutes either side, then another ten minutes’ cook time with the heat off until no pink remains. Fish usually takes around 3-5 minutes each side. If you’re pan frying steak, the pan should be extra hot and seared for three minutes to form a crust, then for another 2-3 minutes on the other side.
Grilling is a super easy way to prepare meat and fish. Chicken is especially good after around 15 minutes of heat, turned once halfway through. For fish, rub with olive oil and herbs before wrapping in aluminium foil and grilling for 5-7 minutes each side.
When cooking meat into a dish such as casserole or Bolognese, be sure to thoroughly cook the meat through before adding the other ingredients.
Top tip – If you’re unsure if the meat is cooked, slice into the largest part to check the middle.
Bulk up your meal with these hearty carbohydrates.
Add ½ cup of dry rice to one cup of boiling water per serving. Thoroughly rinse the rice then cook on the lowest possible heat for 10-15 minutes with the lid on.
Boil ½ cup of dry pasta per person on a medium heat.
Boil ½ cup of dry couscous to ¾ cup of boiling water per serving. Cook for around five minutes, or until the water is gone.
Top tip – Add a little butter to your couscous to give it a creamier texture.
Perfect salad dressings
A simple salad dressing usually combines olive oil, a dash of vinegar and a touch of salt and pepper. From there you can experiment with your favourite herbs and spices, adding a shake of oregano, tarragon or some delicious Season-All to bring your leaves to life.
Add a touch of spice by adding garlic salt, chilli powder and chives, or make it creamy by adding a helping of mayonnaise. Salad dressings are the perfect way of bringing wholesome veggies to life.
Using herbs and spices
Here’s where things start to get exciting! With so many different herbs and spices for so many different types of cuisine, you can add your own signature style to any simple dish. Try creating a blend of your favourite spices to cook up into a curry, or add a little oregano into a simple pasta dish – or if you’d rather be eating than cooking, you can always try one of our expertly blended mixes to get it right every time.
Whether it’s a crack of salt and pepper or a shake of Italian Herbs to top an oven pizza, the right seasoning really does elevate a basic meal to next-level taste. Here are some of our favourite flavour combinations:
Beef – Bring out the flavour with black pepper and ground coriander.
Chicken – Go simple with pepper and garlic or add a touch of Mexico with our Fajita blend.
Fish – Always perfect with classic dill and parsley.
Vegetables – Make them pop paprika and garlic or go spicy with chillies and black pepper.
Now it’s your turn to get experimenting!
Handy kitchen supplies
• Non-stick frying pan
• Baking tray