11 December 2008

Home cooking - how to

One of the things we all do every day is eat. If you're looking for a way to start simplifying your life, if you're a new wife or husband, or if you've just moved away from your parents home, learning to cook from scratch is a very important step on your road to independence. Cooking from scratch is home cooking or comfort food - it's those meals your mum or grandma made that used wholesome, fresh ingredients and staples. There was no recipe book for those meals, they came from a long history of understanding food, how to mix it together with good results and from recipes passed from mother to daughter.

No matter how many times you see a food item in a box named "Mama's Choice", "Grandma's Favourite" or "Nana's Pie", those foods would rarely have been used by our mums and grandmas. Food producers know the appeal of comfort food and try to use that longing for old fashioned home cooking to sell their products. Don't be fooled, many of them contain preservatives, artificial colourings, stabilisers, firming agents, colour fixatives and flavour enhancers. Even some precooked organic foods contain these additives, so if you're trying to eat healthy food, the best way to do that is to cook it yourself.

Here is a list of Australian food additives here and here. The FDA USA food additives list is here but I have to tell you it's quite confusing (I wonder why). Information here about UK food additives and colourings. Readers in other countries, I encourage you to Google "food additives ...." < - add the name of your country, to find out more about your food.

Buyers beware.

What you cook will be healthier, cheaper and fresher than any convenience food you buy, and it will contain only what you put in it. Now, I'm not telling you that you'll never buy another take away meal or convenience food, but I want to encourage you to move towards home cooking and to try to make most of your food. I know there are times you need a quick bought meal. Just the other day I bought a vegetarian pizza for our dinner. I'd been at work all day and Hanno was busy, but I doubt we'll do that again for another six months.

Home cooking does take longer, that is why you pay so much for convenience food. You are paying for someone else's time and experience to make your food, along with all the ingredients they use. But over time, as you develop your skills, and hopefully your desire to cook, you'll realise you can cut back on the time it takes for many things. You can cook double the amount and freeze another meal for later, you can pre-prepare and just do the cooking when it's needed, you can use a slow cooker that will cook while you do other things. There are ways around the time issue.

Over the coming weeks I'll add to this, and probably make it a series of how to's, giving hints, tips and short cuts to help you in your kitchen. But in the meantime, please look at the list below and make a start. From scratch cooking is one of the most empowering skills you can have and it will help you on your road to a simpler life.


Here is a post I wrote a long time ago about developing flavour in home cooking.
Home cooking recipes - USA, there are some good recipes here but it pains me to see them using cans of soup and something called browning sauce. I don't know what that is. Nevertheless, I believe these recipes are a good starting point for the new cook and when you get further down the track, you may wish to use something other than cans of soup to flavour some of the recipes here.
Egg recipes
For UK recipes, who else but Delia
Australian recipes - the cook and the chef
Slow cooker recipes
Australian vegetarian recipes - Kurma
Traditional Christmas dinner (Australia)
Casseroles and stews
Recipes for all meals
Food for baby
Baby food recipes
Food equivalents and substitutes
International measure calculator
Explanations and old fashioned conversions
Can sizes

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