How I started cooking
I was always cooked for – from the time I was a child right up until I started my first year at university. I confidently started my cooking journey at university and I loved it! I even went to the extent of making samp - umngqusho as we call it in the Xhosa language: do you have any idea how long that takes?! I didn’t care, as long as I was cooking. I suppose it was the excitement of starting something I did not do before. I did not like buying at the dining hall, and have always been picky about what I eat. I simply love home-made food.
My love for cooking
To this day, cooking excites me. I absolutely love it. One thing I try to make sure, which is also what I’m trying to communicate in this blogpost, is to make a proper, fulfilling, reasonably healthy and affordable meal. As I said earlier, I love home-made food. That means take-aways are not my first option – I eat them occasionally. It helped a lot that my mother seldom bought take- aways while I was still under her care.
I'd like to share some home-cooked meals I’ve made.
Meal no. 1
Pasta is one of my most favourite dishes to make, chicken and mushroom pasta being at the very top of the pasta list. This is spaghetti and meat balls. It’s one of the simplest and quick dishes one can make.
The only ingredients used here are:
- Minced meat
- Spaghetti (whole wheat or any other type if you’re not too health – conscious. A smaller portion of wholewheat spaghetti than the normal spaghetti fills you up.)
- Canned tomato and onion mix (All Gold is one of the best brands for this)
- Sugar and salt - to bring out the flavour (brown sugar if you must, to ease your guilt conscious about not being too healthy, but I mean this is not unhealthy to the core. Are you really going to deprive yourself of such good food? Lol!).
That’s it! I promise you. The flavour is in the onion and tomato mix. You need not add any spices.
Meal no. 2
This one is very common to just anybody – you have to admit. It's rice with chicken curry. There are spices used here, but the trick is to not put too much or too many, and if you do, to play around with the amount of water you put in during the cooking – not to the extent of losing the flavour though.
The ingredients used here are as follows:
- Frozen ready vegetable mix (carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Tomatoes (they make the gravy - making the curry juicier)
- Onion (and oil of course to fry the onion)
- Rajar Medium curry powder
- Spice for chicken
- Some sugar for the tomato
That’s it. It's not difficult to actually find those ingredients. You can find them anywhere.
In terms of getting the right flavour of the curry, it's also in the way that you make it. I start with the oil, onion, the curry powder and chicken spice; then add the tomatoes and cook the chicken in the tomato curry.
Chunky vegetable soup - I learnt to make this one from my mom. She puts cabbage as well, but instead of cabbage I add butternut, and oh my goodness is it delicious! The natural sweetness and how the vegetable melts in your tongue is just unexplainable – I have no words for it. Exaggerating much – I know, lol! It’s emphasis on how mouth-watering and delicious it is! If not too fulfilling for you, you can eat it with home-made baked bread, rolls, or normal sliced bread from the shops if you like. This is also a great meal for when you want to avoid or want to eat less of meat.
The ingredients used for this are:
- Onion and oil
- 1/3 or half of 1 chili-beef stock cube (Knorrox)
- The vegetables: potatoes, carrots and butternut
- Knorr Minetrone soup
- Some sugar (optional) to bring out the sweetness of the butternut
Tip: start with the carrots and butternut – the potatoes take faster to soften. Also, be careful not to boil the vegetables for too long before adding the soup, because you’ll still need to add the soup and let it boil further with the vegetables.
Meal no. 4
This is also one of my most favourite dishes. It’s very close to chicken and mushroom pasta. The only difference is that instead of adding mushrooms, I added broccoli. This is not frozen broccoli. It’s the actual broccoli that you find wrapped in a tray, ready for purchase, and it also tastes more fresh. You can taste its goodness and natural taste.
The ingredients used here are:
- Onion and oil
- Strips of chicken (The cheaper option is to buy chicken breasts and cut the skin off)
- Milk (I prefer skim milk. You can also use pasteurised cream which you’ll find in any milk/cheese/yoghurt section of a grocery shop. It makes the pasta sauce thicker and more rich in flavor)
- Knorr Chicken-a-la-king / Chicken and mushroom Cook-in sauce. The chicken and mushroom sauce is more oily. Rather use skim milk with it. Otherwise you can use any other milk and play around with the amount of water you pour in to make the sauce less oily.
Meal no. 5
Beef stew and dumplings - I’d say this is my most favourite hearty family meal I’ve ever made. In fact, I only made it once for my family back in the Eastern Cape, with the help of my grandmama. I took my time here- started early in the morning, because I wanted everything to be perfect, and you know how long it takes for the beef to be soft and juicy. This meal does take a long while to make. It's ideal for a Sunday lunch/ supper, unless you're like me who doesn't care how long it takes and you just make the time during the week (lol).
The ingredients are:
- Onion and oil
- Vegetables: carrots and potatoes
- Diced pieces of beef
- Knorr brown onion soup
- 1 or 1 and a half Knorrox chili-beef stock (it depends how much you want to make and for how many people. It brings out the chili flavour and the flavour of the stew)
- Dough for dumplings made of:
Meal no. 6
This is barely a meal – some would think. I had this for supper when I felt that I ate a bit too much snacks or ate too much during the day. Somehow I just feel that my body was craving for the boiled vegetables.
The ingredients are pretty evident:
- Broccoli with sauce (as per above when making the chicken and broccoli pasta)
Meal no. 7
The ingredients are pretty much evident, once again, but I’ll share what I used to bake the fish.
To make fish use:
- Raw fish
- One egg
Mix the flour, egg and milk to make a semi- thick, semi- runny mixture. Marinate the fish in it and fry on warm to hot oil.
- White cheese
- Cherry tomatoes (or just simply buy normal tomatoes and dice them)
Well, I certainly hope you enjoyed that. One thing for sure is that I hope you at least see how you can actually cook without spending too much or using too many fancy ingredients. There are quick meals and the ingredients used can be used in making other meals you can think of as well. In fact, you can even make a meal that will last for the next 2 days to avoid cooking all the time - saving electricity, time, and groceries.
Please note as well that YOU CAN COOK! These meals can be made by just anybody. All it takes is to care about what you are doing, watch over the pots, be conscious of whether you're putting too much or too little ingredients. Either way, the more you try out these meals, the better you will become, because you will make note of the mistakes you make and ensure that you do it right the next time.
Let me know what you think about cooking and food in general: health concerns, affordability, time to make food. Please feel free to share your experience with cooking as well.
Until next time.