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  • FIRST POST
    make life easier
    hopeless cook
    • #1
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:02 PM
    hopeless cook 24th Jul 05 at 3:02 PM
    [COLOR=MediumTurquoise]Hi there i'm quite a newbie at posting on this thread, but have been following post's for about a year now and have found some very useful tips that helped me on the road to recovery (debt wise).

    The thing is i'm a hopeless cook and don't have much idea of what to have for tea :confused: . We usually have something out of the freezer with frozen chips and tinned veg. I do want to become more adventurous and need some advice on cheap simple quick and easy meals. (working full time is probably a factor to my convience food way of life).

    I would also love to make my own bread, any advice where I could get a good economical machine from?? I will be greatful for all advice as I do feel that I need to change my lifestyle at the moment and thought this would be a good starter.
Page 1
    • Ticklemouse
    • By Ticklemouse 24th Jul 05, 3:28 PM
    • 4,896 Posts
    • 5,486 Thanks
    Ticklemouse
    • #2
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:28 PM
    • #2
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:28 PM
    A few pointers I would give are as follows.

    Invest in a good cook book, esp if you like or need the pics to go aong with the recipe. Some books will give serving suggestions too. You can often pick them up cheaply at charity shops or boot sales. there is a thread on here about cook books, but a good all rounder for the novice is either Delia or The Good Housekeeping CookBook. Borrow from the library too.

    Don't run before you can walk. Find simple meals that don't take too much time. Even substituting home made mash for the chips can be a start and try different veg - frozen ones are good value and nutritious and you can mix and match to suit your tastes.

    Buy decent quality food. If you read through this board you will find that it's often a lot cheaper than buying frozen ready meals, apart from the nutritional value and additives debate. Start by looking round at the market stalls - good for fruit and veg and meat. If you have Alsi or Lidl near you - go there and see what they have.

    If you start making simple dishes, you'll be surprised how easy they are and you'll never need to buy ready made or sauces again.

    Eg - Spaghetti Bolognaise:

    Brown 1 lb mince. Added chopped onion and a few dried mixed herbs and some garlic if you want. Then add tins of chopped tinned tomatoes (I add up to 3 plus a jar of passata (sieved tomatoes) if I want it to go along way) Add some sliced mushrooms. Add seasoning to taste. Simmer until cooked. For a real Italian taste, simmer for up 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally,but 1/2 hour will have it reasy to eat.

    Cook dried spaghetti in large pan of boiling water until tender. Drain and serve with sauce on top. Serve also with crusty bread and/or salad if you want.

    The sauce can be made beforehand. It freezes well so is almost an instant meal when you get home from work. Once you start with a couple of recipes under your belt, you'll be away - honetly. It just takes a bit of practice. Have a look at some of the threads where people give menu plans for ideas on what to have. I'm sure Squeaky will be able to find a link, won'tcha squeaks?

    The others will be along in a while with more suggestions, I'm sure.

    HTH
    TM
    Last edited by Ticklemouse; 24-07-2005 at 4:04 PM.
    • nearlyrich
    • By nearlyrich 24th Jul 05, 3:36 PM
    • 13,335 Posts
    • 16,542 Thanks
    nearlyrich
    • #3
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:36 PM
    • #3
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:36 PM
    I swear by my Delia for basic recipes, there is a paperback version in Tesco for 6.99,I am seriously considering buying one each for the kids.

    You can also find most recipes on line.

    You will get lotsof ideas if you give us an idea of the type of food you prefer, meat, fish, veggie, do you like curries or stir fries?

    My tip is similar to Ticklemouse, invest in quality ingredients, they don't have to be expensive, and follow a recipe till you know what you are doing.
    Free impartial debt advice from: National Debtline or Stepchange[/CENTER]
    • se999
    • By se999 24th Jul 05, 3:38 PM
    • 2,404 Posts
    • 13,463 Thanks
    se999
    • #4
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:38 PM
    • #4
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:38 PM
    Hi,

    You don't need to go 'big bang' and change everything at once. Firstly it will cost a lot for all new ingredients, and take what seems to be a long time while you're getting used to preparing and cooking things you're not used to.

    If it was me, I'd swap the tinned vegetables to salad for the summer, later I'd get a steamer, freshly steamed vegetables taste so much better. They have timers to stop cooking, and they normally have a quick guide on the side saying how long to cook for. So the vege's never boil dry in the bottom of the saucepan, and they don't get overcooked.

    It's just as quick and easy to cook rice, pasta or potatoes (if you get the pre-washed sort that don't need peeling) as using oven chips.

    At weekend's when you've got more time, try a recipe or two each week either from a cookbook, or look on this site, you'll build up the new ingredients gradually so won't be horrific on the grocery bill, and you'll build up your own list of favorite recipes. Once you've tested the recipes, you can also do big batches to fill your own freezer for using in the week.

    When I went to University (a long time ago), there were 2 boys who'd never cooked, but each week they tried something new at the weekend, they were the best cooks in the kitchen by the end of the year.

    P.S.
    Local colleges normally do lots of one day/weekend cookery courses, as well as evening courses. The one day ones tend to cover things like Christmas cooking, cake decorating etc. The evening ones can be on different types of ethnic cuisine, or special types of cooking like patisserie. So something to think about if you like the idea of joining a class this autumn, but buying a cookery book and trying yourself is going to be cheaper.
    Last edited by se999; 24-07-2005 at 4:34 PM.
    • squeaky
    • By squeaky 24th Jul 05, 3:42 PM
    • 13,808 Posts
    • 15,843 Thanks
    squeaky
    • #5
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:42 PM
    • #5
    • 24th Jul 05, 3:42 PM
    I think TM just about covered it with the minor exception that we have over two hundred tried and tested recipes in our Old Style Collection and about the same number in the Slow Cooker Collection (which you can do as casseroles if you dont have a SC) from which you can pick ones that look like easy ones to start with.

    The advantage here is that if you get stuck you just pop back here and you'll be able to ask for help very probably from someone who's already made it and even the Original Poster might be on-line and you can ask them on the spot.

    Some of the very best recipes are the simple ones, often with as few as four ingredients. Beans on toast only has two
    Hi, I'm a Board Guide on the Old Style and the Consumer Rights boards which means I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly and can move and merge posts there. Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com. It is not part of my role to deal with reportable posts. Any views are mine and are not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.

    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
    DTFAC: Y.T.D = 5.20 Apr 0.50
    • Ticklemouse
    • By Ticklemouse 24th Jul 05, 4:08 PM
    • 4,896 Posts
    • 5,486 Thanks
    Ticklemouse
    • #6
    • 24th Jul 05, 4:08 PM
    • #6
    • 24th Jul 05, 4:08 PM
    I wasn't ignoring our wonderful collection of recipes, Squeaky. I just think that if you a complete novice, then it's easier to sit down with a decent cookbook that to spend hours reading a computer screen. Also, most decent 'basics' cookbooks have sections on how to prepare and cook the ingredients and what to do if you go wrong etc.

    Why, I'm sure in no time at all, MLE will have progressed to our recipe boards
    • squeaky
    • By squeaky 24th Jul 05, 4:32 PM
    • 13,808 Posts
    • 15,843 Thanks
    squeaky
    • #7
    • 24th Jul 05, 4:32 PM
    • #7
    • 24th Jul 05, 4:32 PM
    There really are some simple and delicious recipes about though. I forgot to mention that there are a whole lot more in the Cooking section of the MEGA Index. There's the whipped cream, lemon curd and merangue smash for example. All you have to do in that one is whip some cream and you have made a seriously delicious pud.

    Or is it in the recipe collection now?

    My brain has turned into mush again. Must be the rain
    Hi, I'm a Board Guide on the Old Style and the Consumer Rights boards which means I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly and can move and merge posts there. Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com. It is not part of my role to deal with reportable posts. Any views are mine and are not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.

    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
    DTFAC: Y.T.D = 5.20 Apr 0.50
    • misty
    • By misty 24th Jul 05, 7:09 PM
    • 1,031 Posts
    • 700 Thanks
    misty
    • #8
    • 24th Jul 05, 7:09 PM
    • #8
    • 24th Jul 05, 7:09 PM
    I'm not a bad cook but don't particularly enjoy it although I'm getting a bit more enthusiastic. I'd go for things that will either go in two pans pasta/rice/potatoes and meat/veggies plus sauce. Or casserole/slow cook where it's all bunged in. That way as well as getting tastly food - I don't feel it's taking all my time and effort. Plus althoguh I'm cooking for 2 - I make enough for 4 practically every meal and freeze half that way when I'm late home from work - I can get something tasty and quick.
  • Trickywoo64
    • #9
    • 24th Jul 05, 7:33 PM
    UK tv food website
    • #9
    • 24th Jul 05, 7:33 PM
    Hi
    I used to be like you but since finding UK TV food website I have made all sorts of lovely stuff
    http://www.uktvfood.co.uk/ loads of brill info and easy to follow recipes
    • kscour
    • By kscour 24th Jul 05, 10:15 PM
    • 645 Posts
    • 1,189 Thanks
    kscour
    Pick a day when you've got time. Pick a recipe for something you fancy the look of/something you usually buy ready made and have a go! My Saturday experiments are still the talk of the family many years after the event & they weren't all bad honest
    I make my own oven chips - peel and cut potatos, pop in a pan, bring to boil and leave for a couple of mins, throw into a s/steel roasting tin with tbsp of olive oil, give a shake and throw tin in oven (about 200 c) for 1/2 to 3/4 an hour. During cooking when I'm poking & prodding whatever else is in there I give them a good shake in the tin to crisp them up a bit more. Kids love them!
    Also make my own parsley sauce in a couple of mins - used to take longer but practise makes perfect! Only trouble is kids won't eat parsley sauce in school because it isn't as nice as mine :rolleyes:
    Good luck!
  • competitionscafe
    Evening classes
    Try your local school for evening classes (ask your council/local authority) - many have great cooking classes including some for beginners.

    Delia's 'How to Cook' and Nigel Slaters 'Appetite' are both excellent books.
    "The happiest of people don't necessarily have the
    best of everything; they just make the best
    of everything that comes along their way."
    -- Author Unknown --
  • nabowla
    If you decide to invest in a couple of basic cookbooks, try looking in your local charity shop. I saw Delia's 'How to Cook Bk 1' and 'How to Cook Bk 2' (both hardback) on sale for 1.50 each in my local charity shop at the weekend. There was also a copy of Jamie Oliver's 'Naked Chef' for a couple of pounds. Much better than paying full price (and you don't have to worry about spilling stuff on the books - unlike library books!!!)
    • squeaky
    • By squeaky 25th Jul 05, 10:14 AM
    • 13,808 Posts
    • 15,843 Thanks
    squeaky
    Cover the pages with cling film while you're using the book?
    Hi, I'm a Board Guide on the Old Style and the Consumer Rights boards which means I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly and can move and merge posts there. Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com. It is not part of my role to deal with reportable posts. Any views are mine and are not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.

    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
    DTFAC: Y.T.D = 5.20 Apr 0.50
    • r.mac
    • By r.mac 25th Jul 05, 10:18 AM
    • 4,736 Posts
    • 15,803 Thanks
    r.mac
    Hi there!

    I think most points have been covered by the excellent replies above. I really agree with don't try to run before you can walk - I did that and fell over!

    If you find freezer food quick and easy try variations. I make up lots of portions in one go and freeze them so that when I get home from work I whip one out of the freezer and stick it in the oven/microwave - HM without the hassle!

    Also I tend to work on the principle that frozen veg is fine - it's better than not eating any at all!

    best of luck and if you come across any recipes that work for you = please let us know

    HTH
    r.mac, you are so wise and wonderful, that post was lovely and so insightful!
    Originally posted by aless02
    I can't promise that all my replies will illicit this response
    • Pal
    • By Pal 25th Jul 05, 11:53 AM
    • 2,062 Posts
    • 731 Thanks
    Pal
    I started cooking "seriously" about two years ago, and found the most important thing is to buy cookbooks that tell you the "Why" as well as the "How". I.e. do you know why you brown meat before putting it in a casserole? Do you know why frozen peas normally taste better than fresh ones from the supermarket? Do you know why you should cook imported asparagus differently from home grown or locally produced? Do you know why free range pork tastes better than intensively reared supermarket pork?

    As others have mentioned, good started books include The Naked Chef and Nigel Slaters 'Appetite'. It was Jamie's "lob in a handful of this" style and Nigel Slater's "just bake the cheese and eat with bread" simplistic styles that got me into cooking. I tried Delia books but find her cooking too complex with too many ingredients, although I have not read the "how to" books that others have mentioned.

    However the books that really turned around my cooking have all been river cottage books by Hugh Fernley-Whitingstall: The River Cottage Meat Book, The River Cottage Cookbook and the River Cottage Yearbook. I didn't like the TV programmes enough to watch many of them, but the books are excellent.

    In all honesty some of the recipes are not great, but the ones that are good are sublime. (The picadillo in the Meat book is a fantastic freezer recipe.)

    But most importantly he explains in great detail (especially in the meat book) how you should cook specific ingredients to bring out their best, but also explains how best to buy them in the first place. The yearbook even has tables of what is in season in the UK, which means that it tastes at its best, is more environmentally friendly than imported food, and most importantly, is going to be a lot cheaper.

    The River Cottage Cookbook even has a chapter on finding food in the wild for free. (Not just fishing, but hunting for nettles, wild garlic, blackberries etc).

    I have found that, once the "why" has been explained about cooking (and storing) certain things, that knowledge can be applied to other cooking, and I will now quite happily go into the kitchen and make up meals on the fly based on whatever ingredients I happen to have available at the time. I also do most of my shopping based on what is in season and looks tasty, and then get it home and try to figure out what to do with it. To me that is far more fun than worrying that you forgot to buy the fennel seeds that the latest recipe demands.

    The real key, of course, is to have fun practicing, and not worry about the occasional disaster. (And there have been a couple of good ones. Leek and Anchovy anyone?)
  • make life easier
    After recieving a few replies yesterday I went into the kitchen (i was starving) looked in the freezer and found some mince and made some chili con carne, luckily i found a packed mix and had tinned tomatoes and onions. It fed 4 hungry adults and it only took me 45mins from start to finish. I thought i would freeze some as there was alot there but my nephew came round and polished of the rest of it. Everyone enjoyed it as i don't really make things like that. Best of all on the back of the mince packet was a recipe how to make chili from scratch so i have written out the indgredients i will need. I do realize that i should take one step at a time and maybe try a new recipe out each week and also build up on different indgredients as it would cost too much in one go. I will have a look round for some cook books as i love to browse through charity shops and i will have a look on the website that has been mentioned above. I very much like spicey foods but also like traditional english too, not so fussy on fish and i haven't got a sweet tooth. (I did used to be a chocoholic!!) I love veg and would like some recipes eg cauliflour cheese (sounds pathetic but i don't know how to make the sauce) Thanks for all the replies, they have been really useful, I'm planning on making spag bol next but i'll have to get the ingredients - bye for now
    • r.mac
    • By r.mac 26th Jul 05, 9:13 AM
    • 4,736 Posts
    • 15,803 Thanks
    r.mac
    sounds like you did really well - isn't it great when your cooking is appreciated by the family!!!

    stick at it and welcome to the boards!

    r.mac
    r.mac, you are so wise and wonderful, that post was lovely and so insightful!
    Originally posted by aless02
    I can't promise that all my replies will illicit this response
    • badgermonkey
    • By badgermonkey 26th Jul 05, 9:36 AM
    • 165 Posts
    • 63 Thanks
    badgermonkey
    A basic white sauce is so easy when you get the hang of it, and when you can do that you can make macaroni cheese, and with your spag bol skills you can make a lasagne which for some reason impresses the hell out of everyone!

    This is how I do it:

    Before I start I put about 3/4 of a pint of milk in the microwave for about three minutes to heat it up a bit (this is for two hungry people). Then get a big lump of butter and put in a saucepan and heat until bubbling. Stir in a heaped tablespoon of flour (any will do) and stir into the butter so it forms a sort of paste. Cook for a few seconds, then pour in a small amount of the milk and whisk. Keep adding the milk in small amounts and each time whisk like crazy until it's all smooth. At this point it goes sort of glossy and will amaze you! Keep going until you have added enough milk to make it a nice saucy consistency - don't dump it all in the first time you make it because you might put too much in, better cautious to start off. Let it all cook for a couple of minutes, stirring it all the time. You now have your basic white sauce!

    At this point you can add cheese for cheese sauce (take off the heat and beat the cheese in quite well), and there are a few other alternatives too.

    I use one of those whisks which is like a sideways loop instead of a balloon whisk. It makes white sauce SO easy I totally recommend it.
    • squeaky
    • By squeaky 26th Jul 05, 1:22 PM
    • 13,808 Posts
    • 15,843 Thanks
    squeaky
    I just found an old thread that will help out here:-

    Can't cook don't cook! Time for change.
    Hi, I'm a Board Guide on the Old Style and the Consumer Rights boards which means I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly and can move and merge posts there. Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com. It is not part of my role to deal with reportable posts. Any views are mine and are not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.

    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
    DTFAC: Y.T.D = 5.20 Apr 0.50
    • chrislee765
    • By chrislee765 26th Jul 05, 2:59 PM
    • 375 Posts
    • 155 Thanks
    chrislee765
    A basic white sauce is so easy when you get the hang of it, and when you can do that you can make macaroni cheese, and with your spag bol skills you can make a lasagne which for some reason impresses the hell out of everyone!

    This is how I do it:

    Before I start I put about 3/4 of a pint of milk in the microwave for about three minutes to heat it up a bit (this is for two hungry people). Then get a big lump of butter and put in a saucepan and heat until bubbling. Stir in a heaped tablespoon of flour (any will do) and stir into the butter so it forms a sort of paste. Cook for a few seconds, then pour in a small amount of the milk and whisk. Keep adding the milk in small amounts and each time whisk like crazy until it's all smooth. At this point it goes sort of glossy and will amaze you! Keep going until you have added enough milk to make it a nice saucy consistency - don't dump it all in the first time you make it because you might put too much in, better cautious to start off. Let it all cook for a couple of minutes, stirring it all the time. You now have your basic white sauce!

    At this point you can add cheese for cheese sauce (take off the heat and beat the cheese in quite well), and there are a few other alternatives too.

    I use one of those whisks which is like a sideways loop instead of a balloon whisk. It makes white sauce SO easy I totally recommend it.
    by badgermonkey
    Thanks for this, im going to make myself cauliflower cheese tonight (homemade with your recipe), with garlic bread(shop brought). Im also going to buy myself a garlic to plant and grow

    I love this Old Style forum
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