When you’ve never had to cook for yourself and it’s the first time that you’ve lived away from home, boiling a whole chicken seems like a perfectly good idea. You think to yourself: It’s healthy since you’re not cooking with fat. It’s easy because there’s only one thing that you have to do: put chicken in pot of boiling water. It yields a lot of food for as little work as possible. The only hitch is that when you’ve never had to cook for yourself, the product is a spongy tasteless inedible mess.
I’ve come a long way since then. Today, I would butterfly that chicken and remove the breastbone to make chicken stock. After giving the lucky bird a spice rub down and a lemon juice bath, I would marinate it overnight. I like to roast this chicken in a cast iron grill pan to get the underside nice and crispy. I serve it with herb roasted potatoes and maybe a spinach salad.
I’ve taken cooking lessons here and there, but nothing formal. Here are my philosophies that I keep in mind when I’m cooking:
Don’t let anything go to waste: There’s an additional use for everything. Use chicken, pork or beef bones for stock or soup. Ditto for vegetable end pieces. Freeze or repurpose herbs and fruit that you can use at a later time.
Friend your freezer: Whether it’s soups, stews or pasta sauce, put it in an airtight container and into the freezer. Keep a bag of frozen vegetables for your stir frys, omelettes or side dishes.
You can save money by buying large portions of meat and freezing it. Break them into smaller portions and put it in a freezer safe bag.
Your freezer will do it all and won’t ask for anything in return.
Keep it simple, make it quick: Easier said than done. Not everyone has time, but if you prepare and don’t overextend yourself, you can still make something delicious and avoid eating dinner at 10 pm.
Plan ahead, save money: I know, takeout is tasty and satisfying. But it’s also full of salt and you don’t always feel awesome after eating it. As an alternative, plan ahead, feel good and save money. It’s a win-win. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of the week to plan out your meals. Jot down a grocery list and think about what you’re able to cook on a given day/night. I’ll get into more detail about meal planning in future posts.
Don’t be a slave to the cookbook: I own many cookbooks. Aside from a baking cookbook, rarely do I follow the entire recipe. They often require too many ingredients and kitchen tools that I do not possess. Cookbooks are a great place to get ideas. You can learn about interesting flavour combinations or cooking techniques for the ingredients you actually have at home.
Cook inspired: It’s tough to turn on the stove after a long day, so it’s important to find your inspiration for cooking. I’m inspired by the places I’ve travelled and the food that I ate with my family growing up. Your inspiration could be exploring new flavours, or trying out vegan cooking, or just eating healthier.
Photo by Viktor Hanacek