“I can’t cook.” That’s a statement a lot of people make. We watch these cooking shows and see all these masters making 12-course meals with one hand while talking with the show host and think there is no way we could ever do such things. Sometimes it is easier to think that it is better if we just avoid the kitchen altogether.
What we need to realize is almost no one in regular life is like those master chefs. Most of us are just people trying to get many things done, and are not as unskilled as we think when watching those feats on TV. There are a number of things that really aren’t all that hard to cook. You just have to jump in and follow some simple directions. Here are 7 foods that are easier to cook than you think.
7. Boiled Eggs
The perfect hard-boiled egg should have a moist and bright center. It should not be pale yellow and powdery, and there should definitely be no signs of green around it (this signifies overcooking). To perfectly boil an egg, you need a pot which is large enough to hold the number of eggs you want to cook without them touching – but do not let it be so big that the eggs can move around the pot. Fill it with just enough water that the eggs will just be covered when you add them. Bring the water to the boil and add the eggs one by one with a spoon so that you don’t crack the shells. Set a timer for 8 minutes. After exactly eight minutes, take the eggs off and run cold water into the pot until the eggs are completely cold (this stops the cooking process). You will now have perfect hard-boiled eggs.
There is really only one rule with an omelet – it must not brown. For one omelet, take a small pan and melt a small pat of butter in it. Turn the heat to medium-low. While the butter is melting, crack your eggs in a bowl, add a good pinch of salt and pepper, and mix until only just combined (do not overmix). When the butter has melted and is just beginning to sizzle, pour the egg mix into the pan. Using a soft utensil like a wooden spoon, stir the omelet the whole time, breaking up any curds that form. When you have only a little runny egg left on the top, take the pan off the heat and put it under the grill. Grill until the top has dried completely but has not browned. Remove from the grill, fold the omelet in half and slide on to the serving plate. You can add additional toppings before putting it under the grill if you wish, and you can also drizzle a little cream over the top at the same time.
This is the French method, which is always rarer than non-French methods. You need a good heavy-bottomed pan or grill and you need to put it on a fiery-hot heat. You should use a thick cut of steak (at least 2cm thick). Lightly salt and pepper the steak on both sides. If you are using a grill, brush the steak with oil, otherwise, the rest of the technique is the same. To your hot pan add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil (it should be just enough to coat the pan – you don’t want to boil the steak in oil). Add a good-sized pat of butter to the oil. It should sizzle. Ensure the bottom of the pan is well coated with maybe 1-2mm of butter. Add your steak to the pan and do not touch it. It must not be moved in the pan while it is cooking. This will give you a nice crisp on the outside of the meat. Cooking times are:
- Bleu (very rare – the best way to eat steak in my opinion): 1 minute on each side
- Rare: 2-3 minutes on each side
- Medium: 4 minutes on each side
- Well-done: 5-6 minutes on each side
Just before turning the steak, you can add another small pat of butter to the pan. Turn the steak and, again, do not touch it until the cooking time is done. Remove the steak from the pan, put on a plate, cover with foil and leave to rest for 3-5 minutes before serving. This allows the meat fibers to relax – giving a more tender bite.
4. Perfect Roast Chicken
Roasting a chicken well is actually a very simple task. Add salt, pepper, one bay leaf, one crushed clove of garlic, and a small bunch of thyme to the body cavity. Salt and pepper the outside and rub a thick coating of soft (but not melted) butter all over the skin. Place the chicken breast-side down in a roasting pan (this will help to prevent drying of the breast). Cook in a pre-heated oven (200c, 400f, gas mark 6). The total cooking time is 15 minutes per pound (450g) of chicken, plus 15 extra minutes. Place the chicken in the oven and leave for half the cooking time. Turn the chicken over and finish cooking it breast side up. Once cooked, put the chicken on a warmed platter and let stand for 15 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle and the meat to relax. You can use a little boiling water to deglaze the pan and use this as the gravy. This method will give you crispy skin and moist flesh.
3. Mashed Potatoes
This method is the French restaurant style of mashing potatoes – it will give you perfect mashed potatoes with no lumps. Peel and halve 6 medium sized potatoes and put them in a pot so they fill the pot about 2/3 of the way. Cover with cold water and add a very liberal amount of salt to the pot (you should be able to taste the salt in the water). Bring to a boil and partially cover the pot with a lid. Depending on the type of potatoes you use, cooking time can range from 10-20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft but not falling apart, remove them from the pot and strain all the water immediately. Put half to 3/4 of a cup of cream on the stove and bring it to a boil (as soon as it boils turn off the heat). Place the potatoes in a sieve (the same type you use for sieving flour). Using a sturdy spoon, force the potatoes through the sieve (this is hard work but it is well worth it). Once all of the potatoes have been sieved, put them back in the pot and place this on a low heat on the stove. Add a large pat of butter (30-50g) and, using a wooden spoon, mix the butter into the potatoes. While mixing, start pouring some of the hot cream in to the mix – this will help melt the butter and adds depth of flavor and creaminess to the mash. Use only enough cream to make the potatoes into a thick paste. Add a good grating of nutmeg. Taste for seasoning and add pepper and more salt if it is needed. Serve immediately.
2. Roasted Potatoes
First of all, the best fat for roasting potatoes is goose or duck fat. If you cannot get either of these, you should try to find lard or dripping. Peel your potatoes and cut them into medium-sized pieces (halve small potatoes and quarter large potatoes). Melt 50g of fat per 500g of potatoes in a roasting dish. Add the potato pieces and roll them around until they are fully coated. Season with salt and cook at the top of a preheated oven (190c, 375f, gas mark 5) for 40 minutes. Baste frequently with the fat until they are golden and cooked through. Some people like to partly boil the potatoes first, tossing them in the pot until they get a fluffy outer layer. This is perfectly fine to do, but you will need to reduce your cooking time in the oven.
1. Scrambled Eggs
There are a number of ways to do scrambled eggs. Among the most popular is the French style, which is much more like a sauce than the English style (which is usually dry). In the early days of this method, the chef would use a double-boiler to cook the eggs so that the result was similar to custard. You can do it faster and have more body. Use 2-4 eggs per person, depending on how hungry people are. In a large pot put a pat of butter (between 25-40 grams) and turn the heat on low. While the butter is melting, crack your eggs into a bowl. Once the butter has fully melted (it should not be bubbling or the heat is too high), add a large pinch of salt and ground pepper to the eggs and mix with a fork until just combined (don’t overmix the eggs). Do not add anything else to the eggs at this time. Pour the egg mixture in the pot and stir constantly. If the mixture does not seem to be thickening, you can turn the heat up just a little. You should soon start to see curds appearing, which are the parts of the egg that have cooked. keep mixing at a moderate pace until almost all of the egg has changed to curds. There should still be a small amount of runny egg left. Take it off the heat immediately. Add another pat of butter and stir until it is melted, then add 3-4 tablespoons of cream (you can use more if you prefer the eggs slightly runny). Taste for salt and if needed, add more. You should be able to pour this thick mixture.