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Smitty needs to start cooking


Smitty
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Ok, ok.

I've now been in my new place for a month. I haven't really cooked properly much. By cooking properly I mean not just heating some fish fillets and chips in the oven, or cooking some pasta and stirring in some pesto. I have made a one or two things, pasta dishes, but aside from those, i've done next to nothing.

I really want to be making delicious, nutrious and affordable food, that will be fill me up and go a long way.

First off, I guess I need a few receipe books. In my flat-hunting thread, a few suggestions were made, but I forget what they were. Could I invite you to recommend me some good receipe books, and also links to good collections of receipes online?

The only problem there is that currently I don't have a card with which I can shop online, so could I ask if anyone would be willing to buy them for me? I would, of course, put the requisite monies in your account at your convenience.

Secondly, there are the issues of staples and planning. What sort of stuff should I always have about? How I plan out my eating? I have often been advised to plan out my eating, my meals for the week, but I have never really tried it and it is an alien concept to me.

Thirdly, the get the ball rolling, i'd like to source a decent receipe to cook tonight. Something healthy. I've really been trying to improve my already decent diet in the last few months, eating more brown bread/rice/pasta etc and i'm really keen on getting the right amount of fruit and veg.

Now, I imagine some of you might be thinking ''why does Smitty need help with everything''?

I'm pretty much an idiot, so that's that. I have issues with making decisions....I worry, procrastinate and so on. This sort of advice just acts as a sort of kick up the arse for me. Believe me, you guys have pushed me to do things that I might farted around about with, before I sought your help. So, yeah.

I'll be making a similair for some general excercise questions I have, as I plan to start jogging, and will soon be joining a gym. I'm going to make this year different, i'm going to make myself different.

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I do a lot of cooking, it's basically about having to confidence to try stuff and see what happens (within reason of course). I started off I think doing things like spag bol, and funnily enough roast dinners. We used to live out of the deep fat fryer and then I was diagnosed with IBS and have to be a lot more careful about what I eat.

You need a good basic book, my first one was Home Cook by Alastair Hendy and I recently borrowed Delia's how to cook one and two from my Mum and found I learnt some things from them even though I've been cooking for years and used to work in a kitchen. Loads of interesting things about eggs for example. The best book is one that also inspires you, cooking when you're not enjoying it doesn't work very well. If you really want o cook something because the picture in the book looks great then you'll find it easier. Cook with Jamie is ok, and Ramsey's Sunday Lunch is pretty good.

On the Money Saving Expert forum, there's a section called 'Money Saving Old-Style' which is full of good recipes and stuff about cooking basics, what to get for your store cupboard etc. Once you have the basics nailed and know what goes with what you start to look at what you have and coming up with what to cook rather than deciding what to eat and then cooking it (if you see what I mean).

Making things from scratch is the best, usually works out a lot cheaper and with things like spag bol you can mess around with it a lot.

You could look into organic veg box schemes which don't work out to be too expensive and force you to find ways to use veg you have left over. I've got into growing a lot of my own veg as well as a natural step on from cooking stuff from scratch.

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Smitty, what sort of things do you like to eat?

For instance, do you like things to be neat and tidy and all lean (a chicken breast person), or are you happy to get down and eat some real honest peasant food (a chicken livers person)?

Because it's the stewing cuts of meat, the offal, lentils, dried pulses and things like that which are really, really cheap. But you have to have the taste for it, otherwise you'll just sit there sobbing into a bowl of stew made with neck of lamb, or holding a cube of belly pork going "Waaaaah! I wish I had some sushi!".

What are you up for cooking?

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Heh, for the first semester in uni my diet solely consisted of ready meals, takeaways and restaurant meals. I did have the time to cook, it's just that when it came to it, I felt it wasn't worth the effort - preparing, cooking, waiting, then cleaning.

But it's so easy to do; forget about dipping in and out of the cookbook when you're cooking; just read a few chapters of the basics, learn about the different cooking methods and just get stuck in. You want delicious, affordable food - go shopping online, that way you won't be overwhelmed by the massive choice and simply grab all the staple foods you want, veg, sauces and flavouring. I suggest getting 2-3 of each, don't go shopping again until you've finished the lot.

Then when it comes to cooking, just mix and match stuff - it's so much more fun when you're not restricted by a cookbook, and when you friends come over you show how weird you are by sharing your fucked up recipes.

Getting into your own routine is just a matter of habit, and it's not something that can be written down to exact specs, you'll just learn as you do. Then when you get familiar with it you can vary it up.

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Heh, for the first semester in uni my diet solely consisted of ready meals, takeaways and restaurant meals. I did have the time to cook, it's just that when it came to it, I felt it wasn't worth the effort - preparing, cooking, waiting, then cleaning.

But it's so easy to do; forget about dipping in and out of the cookbook when you're cooking; just read a few chapters of the basics, learn about the different cooking methods and just get stuck in. You want delicious, affordable food - go shopping online, that way you won't be overwhelmed by the massive choice and simply grab all the staple foods you want, veg, sauces and flavouring. I suggest getting 2-3 of each, don't go shopping again until you've finished the lot.

Then when it comes to cooking, just mix and match stuff - it's so much more fun when you're not restricted by a cookbook, and when you friends come over you show how weird you are by sharing your fucked up recipes.

Getting into your own routine is just a matter of habit, and it's not something that can be written down to exact specs, you'll just learn as you do. Then when you get familiar with it you can vary it up.

Agree - Cookbooks are great for getting the hang of the basics, but don't just follow the recipes to the letter every time. With cakes and shit you have to, but for everything else once you get the idea of what to do just start puttign together various bits you've learnt.

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It could be the new version of that crying emo kid picture that always gets posted.

I guess that'd work better if it was a drawing of him sobbing into his lamb's neck stew, but to be honest that was far too harrowing a scene to contemplate, let alone commission.

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Clod isn't really offal, is it? It's cheap and can last for days in a tasty stew. Belly isn't really offal either, and is amazingly versitile. Belly and beans can be amazing together. I recommend these. And cheek, if you can get it, but I've never tried so don't know how easy it is.

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Slow cookers are fantastic and very easy to use if you want to do stews etc. You can get away with buying cheaper cuts of meat, as the long slow cooking breaks down the tough bits very well, and the flavour of everything like herbs, veg etc you've put in really comes out well. Plus you can chuck stuff in it and just leave it on all day (or night).

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If anyone fancies doing a drawing of Smitty holding a cube of belly pork going "Waaaaah! I wish I had some sushi" then I for one would be interested in seeing it.

I'd probably have a crack if only I knew what the heck a cube of belly pork looked like.

I really want to be making delicious, nutrious and affordable food, that will be fill me up and go a long way.

If I've decoded this correctly, and what you really mean is, "I'm skint, can't cook, but don't want to die," then I may have the answer... porridge!

The delicious bit is subjective, I guess, but as someone who can't cook*, is fairly skint, and finds himself home alone all day, porridge is brilliant. Super cheap, takes no effort whatsoever to nuke in the microwave, is really filling, and is actually very good for you. Perhaps not the best bet for a dinner party, but will tide you over while you learn to cook.

* although today I'm making a pizza from scratch - making the dough and the sauce and everything!

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If I turned up for a dinner party and the host said "Hope you all like porridge!" I'd instantly propose marriage or a civil partnership, whichever was appropriate. If I was a younger man with more options I might hold back to see if there was any subsequent mention of doughnuts.

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Smitty, what sort of things do you like to eat?

For instance, do you like things to be neat and tidy and all lean (a chicken breast person), or are you happy to get down and eat some real honest peasant food (a chicken livers person)?

Because it's the stewing cuts of meat, the offal, lentils, dried pulses and things like that which are really, really cheap. But you have to have the taste for it, otherwise you'll just sit there sobbing into a bowl of stew made with neck of lamb, or holding a cube of belly pork going "Waaaaah! I wish I had some sushi!".

What are you up for cooking?

I'll eat most things. I like liver/kidney, although i'm not really sure about offal generally. Tripe sounds vile, for instance.

I hate jellied eels, marzipan and a few other things. Not much, though.

By the way, I might have mislead with my ''needs to save money'' subheadline - i'm fine for that at the mo. I just want to learn how to make the most out of the money I'm already spending on food. I want good value food, basically, and I know that involves cooking.

If I've decoded this correctly, and what you really mean is, "I'm skint, can't cook, but don't want to die," then I may have the answer... porridge!

The delicious bit is subjective, I guess, but as someone who can't cook*, is fairly skint, and finds himself home alone all day, porridge is brilliant. Super cheap, takes no effort whatsoever to nuke in the microwave, is really filling, and is actually very good for you. Perhaps not the best bet for a dinner party, but will tide you over while you learn to cook.

Yes, you're completely right. Porridge is filling, nutrious (complex carbs, low in fat, salt, sugar etc) and incredibly cheap. Along with some toast and a peice of fruit it's a very good breakfast. I'm already fully on-board with the whole porridge thing, Ste, but thanks.

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* although today I'm making a pizza from scratch - making the dough and the sauce and everything!

Homemade pizzas are the best, the sauce is so much better done from scratch. However I've never got the hang of the dough, so I buy the Napolina bases and then make the sauce and let everyone do their own toppings. Hours of fun.

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Clod isn't really offal, is it? It's cheap and can last for days in a tasty stew. Belly isn't really offal either, and is amazingly versitile. Belly and beans can be amazing together. I recommend these. And cheek, if you can get it, but I've never tried so don't know how easy it is.

What the frick is any of this stuff??

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What about the person you live with? Is there any chance of you sharing meals?

If left to my own devices i'll live on anything I can find in the cubbord, i'll only cook proper food more more than one person.

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I'd probably have a crack if only I knew what the heck a cube of belly pork looked like.

If you buy it from an Asian wholesalers like See Woo's in Charlton, it looks like this:

Pork.jpg

Oh man, just look at that crackling. Pork Belly is about the cheapest roasting "joint" you can get. A slab of it is £2.99 in Waitrose, so God knows how cheap it is elsewhere.

Smitty, a good cheap stand by is rice, but only once you use the absorbtion method of cooking. I always go on about this, but simply:

Bit of oil in a non-stick frying pan

Finely chopped onion and garlic - cook gently to soften

Add rice, raw. Stir it about in the onions, garlic and oil

Add twice as much hot stock or water, to rice. So 1 mug of rice = 2 mugs of liquid.

Heat up, lid on tightly. Boil.

Reduce heat, leave lid on, come back in 15 to 20 minutes, cooked

Now the whole point is that you add to that with whatever you have. So you could add peas. You could add chicken. Diced bacon. Kidney beans. Prawns. And so on. And more importantly, you can flavour it. If you add curry powder, cumin etc with the onions, then you get a lightly curried rice. If you add oregano, then parmesan at the end, you could get a vaguely Italian vibe. Chilli, Ginger, Lime juice, coriander at the end - Thai territory. It's almost impossible to add flavour to plain boiled rice once it's cooked - this is therefore the way to do it.

Once you've got the method down, you can make a rice dish like that very easily, and it's also good for popping leftovers in the fridge for work.

The other thing to get down pat is three or four simple pasta sauces that don't require you to buy a jar of Dolmio or whatever. Some of my favourites:

  • Simply a tin of tomatoes, reduced down with some dried chilli crumbled in, a tin of tuna and some olives. With penne, or fusilli.
  • Grated courgettes, reduced down in olive oil, garlic and chilli, with spaghetti.
  • Frozen peas, cooked in just a little water, crushed down with basil and mint (fresh, not dried) and tossed with spaghetti and toasted pine nuts. Parmesan to finish.
  • Sliced mushrooms, lots of garlic. Pasta, parmesan.
  • Orecchiette pasta with broccoli boiled in the same pan, drain, then stir in a large piece of blue cheese like dolcellate or gorgonzola.

Then you have carbonara and so on. Very filling, very cheap, and good for leftovers.

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Oh man, I can actually add something vaguely useful which is the meatball technique we've "worked out", a phrase I put in quotes because its suggestion of effort would be otherwise misleading.

Basically it's like Davros' first sauce. Just a couple of tins of tomatoes (we use whole plum ones) in a baking dish, and then just bung in a load of olives (black kalamata seem to work well) and whatever herbs you might prefer, and a couple of chilli peppers if you like. Then add the meatballs, drizzle some olive oil over the whole lot (seems to be an important step judging by the time we forgot to do so) and bake it for 45 minutes. Put some buffalo mozzarella or feta on the top and let it melt a little and serve it with whatever pasta's to hand.

It sounds like the work of lazy oafs but over the 45 minutes the olives do amazing things to the sauce, which then works on the meatballs and you end up with a delicious end product.

I should add that my other half is a far better cook than I am and this is a trivial, I-don't-have-time recipe for her as much as it's a roll-out-the-barrel gourmet adventure for me.

I'm going to start a thread where we take turns suggesting a recipe ingredient and Davros has ten minutes to reply with a photo of it.

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Basically it's like Davros' first sauce. Just a couple of tins of tomatoes (we use whole plum ones) in a baking dish, and then just bung in a load of olives (black kalamata seem to work well) and whatever herbs you might prefer, and a couple of chilli peppers if you like. Then add the meatballs, drizzle some olive oil over the whole lot (seems to be an important step judging by the time we forgot to do so) and bake it for 45 minutes. Put some buffalo mozzarella or feta on the top and let it melt a little and serve it with whatever pasta's to hand.

It sounds like the work of lazy oafs but over the 45 minutes the olives do amazing things to the sauce, which then works on the meatballs and you end up with a delicious end product.

That sounds genuinely scrummy.

I'm going to start a thread where we take turns suggesting a recipe ingredient and Davros has ten minutes to reply with a photo of it.

Ready, steady...

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