I started to ponder today, about my life in catering.
I started working in County Stores in Taunton when I was 15 (ratbag mum made me work) and was soon producing everything from grills and quiches to salads and everything in between. This means I have never had a fear of food or recipes. I cooked my first dinner party for my parents back in 1985.
So I was thinking of my niece Susie Sue, who has just headed off to Uni, and I can’t remember what it was like to suddenly have to cook for yourself EVERYDAY. When i started Uni I was working in the S.U within the first few weeks and studying catering so never really had a problem with cooking….although for the sake of full disclosure there were a few Sunday lunches i had this………..
I know my big sis can cook. but most families have 10 staple meals they can cook without a recipe- these are;
- 1 Spaghetti Bolognese (65%)
- 2 Roast dinner (54%)
- 3 Chilli con carne (42%)
- 4 Lasagne (41%)
- 5 Cottage or shepherd’s pie (38%)
- 6 Meat or fish stir fry (38%)
- 7 Beef casserole (34%)
- 8 Macaroni cheese (32%)
- 9 Toad-in-the-hole (30%)
- 10 Meat, fish or vegetable curry (26%
It is a bit sad that a lot of these are processed meats and chicken is not on the list.
So taking this into account, what the hell does Susie cook? How do you go from being a consumer of food, to a producer of food with out having to pass through the OMG and WTF sections in your brain?
before I look at some tried and trusted menus, I would like to share a few tips that I have been taught over the years. These are some that will make the food better, with out costing money or increasing the faffiness of the food. These are not the be all and end all of making food better, but they will help.
- Always use a hot pan. cold pans let the food bleed and everything gets soggy or flavours lost.
- Prepare in advance Mise en place– translates as “put in place”…. get your stuff ready and check your ingredients.
- Smaller is better. chop small and you get better flavours and less horrible texture in your mouth.
- For gosh sake use a sharp knife! please! blunt knifes will cut you worse than sharp and a blunt knife smashes and does not cuts food,so the texture is rubbish.
- Let the meat rest at least 5 minutes after cooking- it will not go cold- joints can rest for 20 minutes with out issue. the flesh relaxes and the juice gets sucked back in.
- If you are trying a new idea or tweaking a recipe WRITE IT DOWN, i cringe at the meals that were fantastic and I can not replicate.
- If you are cooking for someone important or you are trying to impress DO NOT TRY SOMETHING NEW- old and tested are best.
- Oil the meat not the pan- as easy as it sounds, put the oil and seasoning on the food!
- Season and taste- if you have to taste more than three times, leave it and let your guests season.
- Always allow that the people you are cooking for will be late. better to have food almost ready and finish off than try and cook to an exact time.
One last thing, Meals should be balanced, Carbs, Protein and veggies. My great PT buddies like Glenn Cooper , will tell you that you need to get your calories from 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat, for a health life style. But then he will go into micro this and that and get really excited about things. So all I can say is that the marines I serve ever day, go for lean meats and veggies, with complex carbs on the side ( brown rice, pasta etc)
………………….O.K just rereading this and I realise that a hungover marine will consume about 4000 calories in one huge fat and protein blow out meal, but I might just ignore that.
The first recipe I want to introduce you to is a Nasi Goreng- This is an Indonesian meal which we use at work as a “use up” dish.
The name translates literally as “fried rice” There is no standard recipe, and it varies a lot, but this is my recipe and it will take about 15 minutes, from start to finish including prep time.
INGREDIENTS- FOR TWO
1 chicken breast or 6oz prawns
1/2 green or yellow pepper
1/2 red pepper
25 g chilli
25 g ginger
25 g garlic
soy sauce to taste
250g cooked rice – (I USE LIDL OR ALDI MICROWAVE PACKETS AT 50P EACH IT SAVES TIME AND EFFORT)
rapeseed oil ( much healthier when cooked than olive oil)
Thinly slice peppers and onions.
Thinly slice chicken if used.
Very finely shred ginger, chili and garlic.
Put a glug of oil in a frying pan or a wok.
When hot, add the chili, garlic and ginger and fry rapidly- try to not colour it, for about 1 minute.
Then add the chicken or prawns, stir fry until just cooked- this will take no more than 4 minutes . TIP don’t over fill the pan or you get sweaty soggy chicken. Crank up the heat as you want a lovely colour on the meats.
add the rest of the veggies and stir fry until they are cooked but still crispy, about 3 minutes.
then add the rice and stir fry until hot, again about two minutes, during this, add soy sauce to taste, you will not need salt as the soy will add that flavour for you.
Remove from the heat and crack an egg in, and slowly mix it in. You want to be able to see the yummy creamy egg bits in the dish.
If you are feeling posh, top with sliced spring onion and scoff.
Any questions feel free to ask,