Please help, I just can't cook and it is getting me down!

(96 Posts)
dubaipieeye Thu 17-Feb-11 16:29:26

Just thrown away another horrible effort (beef in red wine in the slow cooker) - third time this week. Am in tears and have had huge row with DH after he tasted it and meekly suggested that we order out. sad

I'm new to all this stay-at-home-Mum-do-the-cooking thing and the cooking element is really getting me down. I have bought a slow cooker and done a couple of lovely chickens in it, a nice spag bol and a good chilli but that is about the extent of my repetoire. My son is 4mo and I am getting worried about weaning him now - what will I feed him? We now live in Dubai (you may have guessed!!) but when we lived and both worked in London we lived on M&S food - the like of which is not available here and I am now lost. My Mum was a terrible cook when we were younger (baked beans and pasta, as spag bol!) but she has suddenly become a domestic goddess - not sure how envy

I have tried the Delia cookery course but honestly I just find that this and lots of cookbooks just encourage you to buy loads of expensive and fancy ingredients that you never use again. Food is incredibly expensive here and I hate waste. I need to learn to cook standard, basic family fare. I don't want to bake, make my own pasta etc etc...just know how to feed the three of us without relying on pasta n sauce every night. Please help - this is really getting me down Thank you.

iPhoneDrone Thu 17-Feb-11 16:32:50

you need to build up to a 4/5 simple meals you can cook easily

lasagna
roast
korma (using the left over roast)
jacket potatoes, quiche, salad
sausages, mash, onion gravy, veg

(these are the first meals I learnt to cook)

scurryfunge Thu 17-Feb-11 16:39:38

Just stick to one trusty book for all the basics. Don't bother with fancy tv chef's book who do encourage extensive and expensive ingredients.

this has all the basics and I use it all the time.

dubaipieeye Thu 17-Feb-11 16:43:13

That book looks brilliant, thank your scurry. IPD that's what I need but getting there is the challenge - I am useless!

iPhoneDrone Thu 17-Feb-11 16:47:12

lasagna is the easiest meal there is

if you can master a basic tomato sauce you are halfway there to about 5 dishes already

bronze Thu 17-Feb-11 16:49:46

Actually I'm going to go againsy Scurry and say try Jamie Olivers Ministry of food

GandalfyCarawak Thu 17-Feb-11 16:52:33

I agree with scurry. I have one basic cookbook, and was absolutley crap 5 years ago. But I've followed really simple (and inexpensive) recipes from this book, and as my confidence increased, I wanted to do more.

Good luck

dubaipieeye Thu 17-Feb-11 17:12:23

Thank you all, I am heading to the bookshop tomorrow and will look at both books. I think I need to be really disciplined about following recipes - I generally get and overwhelming urge to "just chuck stuff together" thinking that it'll be fab - but it generally SUCKS! Doesn't help that my mother in law is a brilliant and smug cook. She sat me down at Xmas and told me she was worried that DH was malnourished shock! LOL things are not that bad ...

painfullyhonest Thu 17-Feb-11 17:48:36

I love cooking and have given lessons to novices before. You can pm me if you like and tell me what you'd like to learn and I can talk you thru it.

ShirleyKnot Thu 17-Feb-11 18:00:59

Hello!

I think you have been given some great advice so far, and I just wanted to say that when you are learning to cook, you must Follow The Recipe to the letter!

I believe that cooking is a learned skill the same as reading. You wouldn't give a 6 year old War and Peace to read, and by the same token, when you first start cooking you can't expect to be able to throw a few ingredients in a pan and create something wonderful!

So don't feel embarrassed, follow some simple tasty recipes, get used to the different ways food react with one another, how long they need to cook for etc, and before too long you'll be Nigella-ing all over the show

Good luck

I love our Good Housekeeping cookbook as it has recipes and also instructions on complete basics - like how long to boil or steam carrots for. It is really easy to follow.

Maryz Thu 17-Feb-11 18:12:46

You need to learn one new dish a week. No more. When you have mastered that (made it a few times), then move on. Bear in mind that every second recipe will be crap, so don't beat yourself up and move on.

Remember a couple of meals a week can be done with chicken fillets, cut up small and browned and a bottle of pasta sauce thrown on top and served with pasta (or curry sauce thrown on top and served with rice), until your repetoire increases.

Beef is the hardest, because the meat quality varies and it can take hours to cook. Delia Smith does a very easy "cheat's" Beef Stroganoff, and an equally easy "Beef Goulash" which is beef with onions, green pepper, tomatoes and paprika.

I would avoid wine for the moment - if it isn't cooked off it can taste raw and bitter. Beef in Guinness is easier (with mushrooms and onions).

pongonperdy Sat 19-Feb-11 12:24:17

There is a book called what to cook and how to cook it. My husband loves it as it shows you what to dp step by step.

bodencustomer Sat 19-Feb-11 12:31:43

I'll second the 'Good Housekeeping Cookery Book' that Breatheslowly linked to, nice recipes and all the basics in it. Fancy ingredients not needed but you can make a posh meal if you want to. I use it most days for everyday and am on my second copy because the first one got worn out. It's the one cookery book that I wouldn't be without. Did I say that I like it?

EmmaBGoode Sat 19-Feb-11 12:33:20

I live in Dubai and I'm a great cook. You can come round to me for some lessons or to borrow some cooking books, if you like.

Teapot13 Sat 19-Feb-11 12:44:44

There are lots of families that live on chicken, spaghetti bolognese and chili!

I agree that you need to use a good, simple cookbook. As I have cooked more and more I have really learned that some cookbooks are great and in some the recipes just aren't tested very well. It isn't always me when a dish doesn't come around.

Get a good fritatta recipe as well.

There are lots of things you can roast that are delicious -- like potatoes and sweet potatoes, and chicken! (All good weaning foods, too!)

Here is a really, really easy recipe that makes a good impression:

www.marthastewart.com/recipe/roasted-cod-with-pota toes-and-olives

Martha Stewart's Everyday food has a lot of great recipes and they are mostly simple and healthy.

Chil1234 Sat 19-Feb-11 15:12:45

I started cooking with the Delia Smith Complete Cookery course when I was 19... about a hundred years ago!

My best tips for cooking succes are....
- Use trustworthy, basic recipes. Delia v good for this as she does 'try and test' her recipes.
- Use good ingredients. Garbage in = garbage out.
- Prepare/find all your ingredients before you get cooking and set them out in bowls ready to go in the pot. This means you're not thrashing around looking for something at a crucial stage and it makes things go more calmly.
- Use a timer. Some cooks can get away with glancing at the clock occasionally but, if you're a novice, it's really easy to over/undercook something accidentally - especially if you've got children to distract you
- Make the same dish several times because, each time, you'll find it easier, quicker and you'll also be able to tweak things that you didn't like first time around. NB.. do not make something for others that you haven't tried on your nearest and dearest first!!!

I'd also say 'sling the slowcooker'... never understood why people have those. Good luck

dubaipieeye Sat 19-Feb-11 16:56:08

Thank you all for the great advice and kind offers of help! I have dried my eyes, hauled myself to the shops and bought the Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food book. The recipes look great and are exactly the kind of food we like to eat. I am starting with the spag bol recipe as a) I feel reasonably confident with it and b) his recipe contains more veg than I would usually use so it's got to be an improvement. I will post back and let you know how I get on.

Painfully honest and EmmaBGoode I am really chuffed with the offers of one on one help! I will start with my spag bol then pm you both. Thank you smile

I am going to keep coming back and reading this thread as you've all given me so many good ideas. You are all very kind! grin

Catsmamma Sat 19-Feb-11 17:03:47

well if you can do spag bol and chilli you can also do moussaka and cottage pie, so there's two more recipes to try

also you can use the cooked mince base to make a pie, use ready made pastry on a dish, fill and cover, serve with veg.

can only echo other advice really...a good basic cook book, master a few dishes and vary those to suit until you gain your confidence.

One tip is to please remember to season, never underestimate the difference a good pinch of salt and pepper make.

Good luck!

You are halfway there with the jamie book, i'm great at complicated recipes but i couldnt do the basics, jamie is great at this.

however, and i'm putting my hard hat on as i say this.... i'm not keen on my slow cooker, ive tried, i really have, but things come out tasteless. try jamies beef in red wine on the hob, its lush, however i would add a bit of stock as i found that it dried out without!

Oh and try his roasts, i'd never made my own gravy till i got MOF and its just so fab!!

Good luck and keep asking questions its the only way you will learn!

abgirl Sat 19-Feb-11 22:28:31

Really really recommend the chicken tikka masala in the JO Ministry of Food book - it's lovely, as are the meatballs too actually. Hope your bolognaise goes well tomorrow.

Also don't sling your slowcooker, getthis and try the lamb pilaff - gorgeous!!!

fivegomadindorset Sat 19-Feb-11 22:30:08

My sister is not a good cook and has done really well with Jamie. If you live in Dorse more than willing to come and help.

I think you just need to learn a few basics tbh. Dishes containing red wine need reducing on a hot hob, only once they have sweetened and lost that vinegary taste, should you transfer to the slow cooker.

givemushypeasachance Sat 19-Feb-11 23:52:33

The internet has a lot of free stuff - video demonstrations on youtube or videojug, and guides for students like www.studentcook.co.uk/ which are aimed at novices.

dubaipieeye Sun 20-Feb-11 04:46:43

Thank you all, I am reading and absorbing (unlike my beef!) x

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