I was reading articles in the food section and had the sudden thought that some of our younger readers may only be starting to learn to cook, and what our section lacked were some really basic tips to make delicious meals. Our recipes are fabulous, but might be a bit daunting for the novice cook. Also, if you aren’t a confident cook, some tips to make delicious meals every time might find you in the kitchen more often – and they do say practice makes perfect.
1. The Right Equipment
Cooking can be an expensive business if you feel you need to have the best of everything and every single gadget going. I have been cooking, successfully, for more than 40 years but I would say my collection of tools and gadgets is small but more than adequate. You can walk into many a kitchen to find cupboards bulging with so many tools and pieces of equipment, but the cook has a few choice and favorite pieces that are used over and over (my mother, grandmother and sister being cases in point). This is why one of the best tips to make delicious meals is to have a set of good quality basic utensils. You need a good set of varying size saucepans (stainless steel are best), a good non-stick fry pan, a set of sharp knives, spatulas and wooden spoons. These will accomplish most tasks in the kitchen.
2. Seasonal Ingredients
There is a fantastical array of ingredients in our grocery stores,; weird and wonderful exotic products from all over the world. These ingredients certainly allow you to have an extensive repertoire of dishes from many cuisines but, if you’re just looking for basic hints on how to create delicious meals every time, it is to concentrate on seasonal ingredients. Seasonal produce simply tastes fresher and better and it is tasty without you having to make much effort or mess around with flavorings and seasonings. You can also find a whole array of heirloom varieties of produce at your local farmers market.
So many health articles will tell you to cut down on salt. True, excessive salt in your diet is not good for you, but that’s the same with anything in excess. And yes, you could get to like the taste of food without or with little salt. All those pieces of advice that tell you to ignore salt and try other flavorings instead (which are simply not as good as salt) don’t tell you that pure sea salt contains 84 trace elements, nutrients and minerals that our bodies actually require. Being afraid of salt is definitely not one of the ways to create tasty food every time.
4. Cooking Methods
Knowing the best method to produce maximum flavor is another of the secrets to creating delicious food. Don’t be surprised if you read lots of articles by health professionals that tell you that the best way to cook is by steaming and boiling. This is restrictive and they aren’t the best methods for getting the most flavor out of some foods. You can lightly sauté in organic extra virgin olive oil for great taste and this doesn’t suck out the food’s nutrients. Olive oil is good for you and if you’re concerned, follow a Mediterranean style diet which maximizes flavors in simple ways and uses lovely healthy fresh ingredients and lots of different cooking methods.
5. Don’t Experiment
Experimental chefs will tell you that it takes a lot of failed attempts before hitting on winning combinations. Experimentation in the kitchen should be left to food hobbyists. Throwing together a whole pile of ingredients will 9 times out of 10 result in a mess. If foods don’t sound like they go together, they probably won’t. It takes a skilled cook who understands some of the science of food to be able to make raspberry work with parsnip. If your desire is simply to create delicious dishes without a great deal of fuss, stick to what you know or follow a recipe.
6. Up the Health Factor
If you are interested in making your meals more healthy but still want to make delicious meals every time, consider the addition of superfoods or switching main ingredients for superfoods. For example, quinoa is an excellent substitute for pasta. Many superfoods don’t have powerful flavors so they can be incorporated without changing the flavor profile of a dish. Another way is to be creative (not experimental) in how you use ingredients that are good for you. For example, instead of flour and cornstarch as a thickener, use wheat germ or soy flour. Add lentils and tasty stocks to stews and casseroles in the winter instead of jars of sauce or packets of dry sauce mix. When you are making things like spaghetti bolognaise or chili con carne using ground meat, substitute a quarter to half of the meat with soy protein meat substitute. Seriously, it will taste just as good. Try these things and you’ll be happy that not only are you serving up tasty meals but also they are healthier too.
7. Enjoy It
I will always argue that one of the best tips for making delicious meals is to enjoy the cooking process. My sister hates cooking, and it shows. If you don’t enjoy something, you aren’t so motivated to make a good job of it. Cooking is a skill that can be learned. You don’t have to aspire to cordon bleu cookery to turn out delicious meals every time. Stress is also another factor. Relax, and the process is a good deal easier and enjoyable.
I hope I have proved with these tips to make delicious meals every time, that cooking needn’t be arduous, nor time consuming. How do you feel about cooking? Love it or a necessary evil?