Being a good cook isn’t about having hundreds of show off fancy recipes at your finger tips. For most of us, it’s about serving a good, well cooked meal for the right social situation, and most situations fall into one of three main occasions. Here then, are the only three dishes you need to know how to cook well.
Whether a morning after the night before with a new beau or a relaxing brunch for your long term partner, a good hearty or healthy weekend breakfast is a time to relax and enjoy something more than toast and cereal. In most countries, this will normally mean eggs. In the USA this could be eggs over easy, sausage, bacon and toast. In the UK you might find baked beans, black pudding or mushrooms on the plate – a classic fry up.
Top tip: The key to making a good weekend breakfast is planning and timing. Plan your preparation and what needs doing when, and keep in mind the time things take to cook. Meats and fish can be cooked and kept warm, but eggs are always best served hot.
Other breakfasts around the world: Eggs aren’t the only option, however. In Japan it might be rice, a soup (usual miso) and protein such as grilled fish or tofu – as well as some accompanying pickles – washed down with green tea. In China, you might enjoy a cup of warm soya milk, and youtiao, a long deep-fried pastry similar to Spanish churros. Steamed dumplings with fillings such as king prawn are also popular, while in the north near Beijing they enjoy ji dan bing, a rolled egg and bread omelette filled with sausage meat scallions and lettuce.
You know this occasion; your parents are coming, along with aunts, uncles, and the odd grandparent. It might be a birthday, national festival or other cause for celebration. It’s a big, daytime family affair that happens once or twice a year and generates a lot of dirty dishes. In the UK, the meal served on this occasion is often Sunday roast; chicken, beef, lamb or pork with roast potatoes, vegetable and Yorkshire pudding. Depending on where you are in the US, it might be something similar, or an outdoor barbecue.
Top top: Family meals can be a little stressful. Try and prepare as much as you can beforehand; much of the peeling and chopping can be done the day before. On the day itself, try and get everyone involved, as people like to help out. Kids can set the table, grandparents open and pour any drinks, and everyone helps clear up at the end. If you try to do it all yourself, you’ll burn out.
Family meals around the world: In China, hot pot is a great family favourite, with vegetables and pieces of meat cooked quickly in a hot, fragrant stock. In Spain it might be a paella, while more to the north of Europe, cheese raclette is a great family get-together dish. India and the Middle East might opt for a pilaf to bring people together.
Showtime! This is your go to dish for those special occasions. It might be a ‘cooking to impress’ date night, or having some good friends over to catch up. The former tends to be a bit more impressive, but attempting a complex dish you’ve never cooked before can be risky. Also you don’t want date dishes to be too heavy, otherwise you’ll both be nodding off. Two things ensure a great dinner for friends, firstly offer a drink on arrival, and have some nibbles ready.
Top tip: Whether a date night or dinner party, you want to be spending time with your guests, not standing over a hot stove, so plan your menu accordingly. It either has to be something you can prepare and make in advance as much as possible, or something that cooks really quickly.
Dinner meals around the world: In Japan it might be miso soup followed by salmon teriyaki. Similarly, in Italy, you can’t go wrong with a fish or seafood dish.
So there you have it, find three or more good dishes you enjoy cooking that work for those occasions, and you’re well on the way to being a great cook. We’d love to hear what your go-to dishes are – tell us on Facebook or in the comments box below.