• Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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My top 10 cooking tips for beginners – Dina Begum

By: Manju Chandran

FOOD writer and author of Brick Lane Cookbook Dina Begum shares her top tips for people learning to cook and explains how you can master basic skills to gain confidence in the kitchen.

Familiarise yourself with the kitchen: The first step to learning anything is to see what you have to work with. It may seem obvious, but learn how your oven, grill or stove works and what the settings mean. If you’re cooking something in the oven, for instance, you need to ensure that you pre-heat the oven to the correct temperature. This is important, especially when baking.

Buy basic crockery and utensils: If you don’t already have them, then a good place to start would be to buy a set of different saucepans, a frying pan, mixing bowls, chopping board, whisk, measuring jug, weighing scales and measuring spoons.

Get inspired: Read and browse cookbooks and watch food programmes for inspiration. Get comfortable with enjoying the process of cooking and not being afraid of the kitchen. Cooking should be a fun experience, so don’t worry about being perfect – just start.

Build a spice and herb starter collection: Essentials include the following: salt, black pepper, mixed herbs, whole cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, bay leaves and cloves. Ground spices should include turmeric, cumin, coriander, chilli powder, garam masala and paprika. Also include pantry essentials such as rice, lentils, pasta, noodles, beans, oil and ghee.

Master basic recipes first: Start with making an omelette, learn how to cook plain rice and a simple dal or vegetable dish, which are all filling and don’t require advanced skills. Once you perfect these, you can add different fillings and flavours. For example, learning how to make pulao rice or a curry, as well as meat and fish dishes.

Get feedback: Test your cooking skills out on family and friends to practise recipes and see what they think. This will help grow your confidence as a cook. Making something that people enjoy is encouraging. Even if comments aren’t all positive, don’t let this put you off. Ask for constructive criticism and make notes for next time. Remember, practice makes one perfect.

Learn by doing: Practical experience gained by cooking with someone or watching how they cook is invaluable. Cook with a family member, attend cookery classes or watch YouTube tutorials. Classes can be at local community colleges/centres or at cookery schools.

Plan cooking time: Read recipes thoroughly and make shopping lists ahead of time so that you have all the ingredients available. As a beginner, it may be confusing and stressful if you have a wrong ingredient or something missing when you’re about to cook.

Plan properly: Prep ingredients to make the actual cooking easier. If you’re making lunch, peel, chop and refrigerate fruit and vegetables the night before. Just place them in an airtight container. For dinners, prep in the morning. If you’re baking a cake, which needs toppings and icing, bake it the night before and finish decorating just before serving.

Invest in a set of good knives: You’d be surprised at how much this helps when cooking. A blunt knife can mean that you’re using twice as much effort to cut things and can cause accidents. Make sure to ask a more experienced cook on how to use your knives safely, or watch a video tutorial.

Brick Lane Cookbook by Dina Begum is available at Waterstones, Foyles and on Amazon. Visit: Instagram & Twitter: @dinasfoodstory and www.dinabegum.co.uk

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