29 April 2014

Cooking good food is important

The forecast is for a cold weekend, the bright glare of sunlight has evaporated, leaves are turning yellow and soon the wisteria vine will be bare. The months from now till October are my favourites. I feel more energised, a fertile garden out the back is primed to produce abundant crops of fresh organic fruit and vegetables. Add eggs from the chickens to that abundance, and we have the warm promise of a self-sustaining home. In the cooler months, the sky is bluer, the grass is greener, the air is cleaner and all things seem possible to me.

 Cucumber salad.
Christmas fruit cakes.

One of the noticeable differences that cooler weather brings is the way we cook. I think being a good home cook is an important simple life skill. If you move away from expensive cuts of meat and seafood you need to be able to turn plain and simple ingredients into memorable meals using your expertise and experience. In our home we don't have many winter salads, we focus our sights firmly on hearty soups, stews and if we have meat and vegetables, we usually have a rich hot gravy with it. When I cook food here, I hope that it will be within budget, wholesome and delicious but one thing it is always - it's always cooked entirely from scratch and often from local, if not backyard, produce.

Brown rice and vegetable salad.
Chicken tenderloins with homemade herby crumbs.

I have a lot of cookery books but I use them to give me ideas rather than instructions. I very rarely use recipes but I like looking at what and how other people cook. If I like what I see, I try to do my version of it. I think the internet is a great way to help develop cooking skills. If you find someone who cooks your kind of food, and they do it from scratch with no cans of soup or packets of seasoning, keep going back to see what they cook and try cooking something similar. These culinary guides are valuable when you first start cooking, or cooking in a different way, and can lead you to success with your meals.

 Pork meat balls made using homemade bread crumbs, parsley, onion, egg, salt and pepper.

You need to think about your ingredients too and even a dish you've cooked often can be changed over the years.  Lately I've found the pork chops we buy have been dry so instead of having a pork chop each, I recently made pork meatballs and vegetables. It was delicious and thrifty and I'll use the same recipe to make a pork meatball pasta sauce as well. It was a timely reminder for me to not get stuck in my ways - to experiment, change ingredients and cooking methods and learn from the results of that.

I guess most of us are influenced in our cooking by our parents and what we ate when we were growing up. I still use some of my parents' and grandmother's recipes, but Shane, Kerry and Sunny are all chefs, so I ask them for recipes and advice too. Add to that all my cookery books, the thousands of cooking blogs and I know I'll never run out of inspiration or guidance. And that's good, because cooking good food is important.  What style of cook are you? How did you develop your cooking skills?

ADDITION: There is a great follow-up conversation about this happening over at the forum. Click here to go there.
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