I was never taught to cook growing up and so the internet was my friend when I found myself at University and wanting to try my hand at foods I’d never made before. Looking back now it’s almost hard to believe I arrived there with one sharp knife, a pan, a chopping board, and a tin opener! You can just imagine the amazing meals I was cooking up using just those! My boyfriend at the time took great pleasure in laughing at me because I’d never even diced a chicken breast before. Breaking up with him gave me the motivation to move from my comfort zone and try cooking proper meals. In a like “I’ll show him” kinda way because he was pretty mean about it!
Now don’t get me wrong this isn’t a dig at my family life growing up. I was one of four to a single mother and she simply didn’t have time to show us stuff like cooking when we were younger. Usually because if there was one of us with her, that meant all four of us were and it’s not ideal in a kitchen! Also, secretly, I’m not sure her cooking skills were practised. Though to this day I’ve never had a nicer roast dinner from anyone but my mum! Just I don’t think she was able to experiment with flavours and that. One of my brothers was really fussy with what he ate and, again, she just had no time.
Food Technology lessons in school weren’t brilliant. In fact they were pretty useless. We were taught how to make specific things. A rice salad. Pizza with a pre-cooked base. I think quiche was our most adventurous bake but then we were taught nothing about seasoning and spices. About nutrition or healthy eating. The teacher was more concerned with the washing up at the end of the lesson.
So, back to Uni life. I started off by buying some better equipment. A knife block (multiple sharp knives!), a pan set, a slow cooker, Pyrex dishes. Then the basic food store stuffs. Oils, spices, condiments. And then I had a go. I was using the BBC Good Food website (and still do to this day) and found a great recipe for roast potatoes. By great I mean that it worked and I still stick to the same recipe I found all them years ago today! I’ll write up my version and link to it here.
Now my roasties (Scouse slang for roast potatoes!) were something else. They even had their own rep in our halls of residence. I had to make them for every Christmas dinner we had and they won in a face off between mine and a friend’s roasties who insisted his were better. Since uni I’ve had so many compliments about them. Even my Nanna going back for more when usually she’s full after the smallest meal. She still gushes over my roast dinner to this day!
I learned how to use the Good Food website properly. I’d search recipes using specific ingredients. From stuff I had never tried before such as couscous and polenta to every day staples like minced beef. I’d print them off and take them home and try them out on myself. Then, if I liked it, I would carefully write it up in my notebook. I still have that notebook kept amongst all my recipe books and still go back to some recipes in there. It even has the recipe for a basic Victoria sponge cake and homemade lemonade!
One of my favourite recipes that I found on Good Food and still use to this day is one for Moroccan Meatballs. Though it’s taken on several forms since I first followed the recipe, the one I’ve developed from it has been a hit whenever I’ve used it on anybody! If you’re interested, find the recipe for it here. It was the first recipe that taught me about the importance of using spices in cooking, something most people take for granted but a concept I’d never considered.
With my cooking I don’t stick to, or specialise in, just one cuisine. I love to experiment with different flavours and combinations to create meals that are healthy(ish), tasty, and away from the same old. Being a single mum means that I can quite easily get into the same routine of the same meals; especially since children can be your biggest critic! I like to travel and have visited a fair few places around Europe and it’s become quite the obsession to pick up books and spices wherever I go. A spice stall in Morocco has been a personal favourite of mine and I’m not sure what I’ll do when I run out of my spice mix for lamb tagines!
The picture above was taken in the Old Town in Rhodes Town and was a gold mine of different spice mixes for different dishes. I love my gyros mix though it is running pretty low now. But since I love travelling is it not just another excuse to go visit another of the Dodecanese islands…?
Expect a blog post once I return!