I often receive praise for my tasty meals and I am always very surprised to receive such praise. I mean really?!? All I did was read a recipe!!! (Although, having said that I do believe that if you alter an existing recipe by more than 3 ingredients then you are able to claim it as your own.) So I thought I'd share a few little tricks of the cooking trade with you all!!
When push comes to shove I like to cook because I like to eat. Back in the days when I used to go on every diet known to man, people did not eat tasty treats at my house!! So if you want to cook nice, tasty food then you need to make sure you like eating it. I am hopeless at making things I don't enjoy eating. My sister in law and her husband can tell you all the vegetarian horror meals I have concocted. I have no interest in making meals tasty without meat because I love to eat meat. So on the rare occasion where I am required to whip up some tasty vegetarian dish I fail dismally. I think quite possibly the worst thing I have ever cooked was a vegetarian carrot tart. It's crust was made with oats and it's filling was made with carrots and cream cheese. It was like some kind of horrendously wrong, savoury cheesecake - the type of food you have to spit out. It was so bad that you couldn't even politely eat a few bites before proclaiming that you are too full from the big lunch you had to eat the rest. I am almost retching now just thinking about it.
Another reason, apart from possessing the ability to read a recipe and follow instructions, that I believe I can whip things up is that I'm not afraid to make a mess. Anyone who has ever been to a dinner party at my house can attest to the fact that after eating, my kitchen looks like one of the thousand saucepans and bowls covering every flat surface in the kitchen has exploded. But you can't quite tell which saucepan or bowl exploded because it is all covered in food/cooking utensils/plates etc.
Yes I am aware of the 'clean as you go' method of cooking but I am not adept at following it. Cooking just doesn't work out for me if I am constantly pausing to tidy. I don't know how many times either Kristy, Ben, my Mum or my Grandma has patiently explained to me how after using the flour/sugar/eggs/etc if you just put it back in the cupboard then they don't have to spend an hour cleaning up after me when I have finished. (I employ a - I cook / Ben cleans policy at my house but if he isn't home then it ends up being Kristy or Mum)
I am also a bit of a minimalist. Some friends of mine gave me the Gordon Ramsay cookbook for my birthday (hopefully they won't read this blog post) and his recipes require faaar too much effort for my liking. The only recipe I have attempted from his book is one called a 'Chocolate Marquise'. I went for that one simply because I was seduced by the name. (my favourite food is chocolate and the diamond on my engagement ring is a marquise cut - a sign from above???). It certainly was sumptuously delicious but it required about 6 complicated different cooking methods to make it. As far as I am concerned that just means 6 different ways you can stuff it up!!! Give me basic things any day!!! I can do a mean mud cake and I have been told that some of my cheesecakes rival adult nighttime activities (wink wink nudge nudge). But ask me to temper chocolate and I have NO clue. I don't even bother watching masterchef as I have no inclination to learn how to complicate my cooking. I think I must be the only Australian who can claim to have never watched even a SINGLE episode!!
I have a few rules that I go by in order to make my food as tasty as possible:
1. From scratch is always best. I don't like packet mixes. (with the exception of french onion soup mix - it is so versatile!!!)
2. I am intolerant of intolerances. I hate being restricted in the ingredients I can use but make an exception for proven medical allergies.
3. I may be messy but I am extremely thorough with kitchen hygiene. There is NO cross contaminating of ANYTHING in my household. I once refused to eat food that had been prepared in my sisters sparkling clean kitchen because I witnessed her chopping up raw chicken then rinsing the chopping board/knife before cutting up lettuce. I deal with any raw meat like it is a lethal substance and sterilise anything that has come into contact with it.
4. If you're going to make something - make it good!!! I once was served pancakes by a person (who I hope isn't reading this blog) who is quite anal about healthy foods. This person decided not to add any sweetener to the pancakes and instead put in a drop of vanilla essence. I don't eat pancakes very often, but when I do I like them to taste good and have sugar in them!! These tasted very bland and not at all appetising. This same person, on numerous occasions, has told me all about heathy alternatives to things. I just plaster a smile on my face and switch off (making sure I nod my head every few second for good measure).
5. It is better to eat salad with dressing than no salad at all. I used to hate salads. That is because the only time I would eat them was when I was on some stupid calorie restricted diet and they would have no taste. I now love, love love salads because I have learned to make them tasty. I add Caesar dressing, eggs, chicken, avocado, feta.... and I can eat a massive bowl of delicious salad. I don't think that the motto 'why bother eating salad if you are going to add fat and salt to it' makes any sense. Aren't you better off eating those foods than not eating them??
6. Don't eat my cooking chocolate. If you ever hear of a wife beating her husband to death with a wooden spoon it will probably be me. I can't stand how Ben constantly eats my cooking chocolate. I have to tape signs to it saying 'NO BEN! DO NOT EAT!!'. But he eats it anyway. I will hide it from him, threaten to withhold certain marital benefits, take money from his wallet to replace it - all to no avail. Nothing works. The trouble is... I don't buy biscuits or sweets. So when someone is popping over or I am going somewhere I think to myself 'oh I'll just whip up some choc chip biccies'.. then I go to the cupboard and find that the kilo of cooking chocolate has disappeared. I become enraged and usually send Ben an extremely abusive text message. He is also constantly eating sultanas so we never have any of those in the house. You are rather limited in the way of biccie making if you don't have any sultanas or choc chips.
7. Food is enjoyed best when shared. I have never, and will never, whipped up a mud cake for my own guilty pleasure. It is always best to make something when you know someone will be around to partake in the eating of it.
8. I think I've run out of things.
Anyway, the point of this particular blog is to let you all know that I thought I'd start blogging different recipes I have that work well for me. People are always asking for the recipes of things (I myself am guilty of that - I love new recipes!!) so I thought I'd put them all on one communal site.
Anyway... It is bed time for me!!!