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Learning to cook: Where to start?
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Thread: Learning to cook: Where to start?

  1. #1
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    Learning to cook: Where to start?

    I have recently bought a new house and have been living with the in laws for a few months since we sold our old house.
    So I am looking forward to getting into our new kitchen to cook some food and play with some new, sharp, shiney things I have aquired.
    I want to learn how to cook. Where should I start? What books are worth getting for a beginner?
    I mean, I can cook an omelette, and stir fry type things, but I just throw everything in and give it a go. Even if it doesn't turn out great, I'll eat it anyway because I'm really not a fussy eater. I think this makes me sound like a much worse cook than I am. My best dish is chicken wrapped in bacon with a tarragon cream sauce (with or without white wine). I just don't know how to use herbs and spices. What goes with what? I know tarragon goes with chicken, and corriander goes with carrot, but thats about it.
    I quite like spicy food and think I might like to start learning Chinese cuisine. Is this a good place to start?
    I come from an Irish family and my staple foods growing up would have been, beef stew, roast beef, gammon steaks, fired pork chops and some smoked haddock on a Friday, all served with spuds obviously and usually peas and/or carrots.
    Looking forward to cooking up some delicious meals for the family on our new one of these http://www.rangemaster.co.uk/range-c...fessionalplus/

  2. #2
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    Congrats on your new house and your exciting journey in cooking. Taking a few night classes from a professional cooking school is a good way to get a handle on the basics.

    Of course there is no shortage of YouTube videos out there. Perhaps someone who knows the good ones will chime in here.

    Great books for beginners include Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (which I consider to be this generation's Joy of Cooking) and The Flavor Bible by Page and Dornenburg will give you some idea of how to use herbs and spices in your cooking (it's not really a beginner book, but since you mentioned concerns in this area I'm recommending it anyways).

    If you are interested in Chinese cooking in particular, you can't do much better than Grace Young's The Breath of a Wok. It has a ton of information on woks and technique, but the ingredients and recipes sections are just as good. If you want to learn spicy Sichuan cooking, there is Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty.

    What other spicy cuisines are you interested in? Let me know and I can recommend other cookbooks.

  3. #3
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    I just wanted to add that Madhur Jaffrey's From Curries to Kebabs is an excellent book on Indian cooking and it's influence around the world. Being that you're from Manchester, I'm making an educated guess that you just might be interested in curry.

  4. #4
    Senior Member brainsausage's Avatar
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    +1 On the Flavor Bible. Great book. I'd also highly recommend The French Laundry. The recipes are daunting to the un-initiated, but the technique and procedures are explained in depth, and apply to all things culinary.
    The AI does not love you, nor does it hate you, but you are made out of atoms it might find useful for something else. - Eliezer Yudkowsky

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    Senior Member Dardeau's Avatar
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    I can second "How to cook everything". I would also suggest "The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan. It is very self explanatory and technique driven. But the most important thing you can do is eat. Eat things that you like, and ask yourself why you like it. You like tarragon with chicken and white wine. Think about tarragon. Now put it in mayonaise with capers and serve it with a pork pâté. You just made the leap from one classic to another. Your other example, coriander, has a much greater global range than tarragon, it shows up everywhere from South Asia to Latin America paired differently in each place. Ask yourself why each combination is delicious to you. Then look up a recipe or two on the Internet and cook something you like. Taste it. Learn the technique to make it have a nice flavor and texture, then taste it and think about your observations of things like it that you have eaten. What does it need to make it taste better to you? That is to me the essence of cooking for yourself. Repeat this and you will build a repertoire of flavored and techniques that will make this effortless. Until you decide to learn something new, then back to work. That is the best part, you never stop learning how to cook.

  6. #6
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    television? heck even youtube has some kickarse recipes.

    i think a good cookbook is a nice tool, but seeing it done on video is immensely better. even the lowly omelette. watch a pro do one and you realize what you just made was just scrambled eggs with stuff scattered throughout. (<---okay, i was talking about myself). now my omelette rock!! my wife loves a nice tomato omelette served next to a fresh green salad. easy!

    i think the Americas Test Kitchen cookbooks are great for beginners. they always have sections on the side that explain the "Science" of the process, or a sidebar showing how to do a technique..like bone a chicken. you get that thomas keller book and it will assume you already know the basics.

  7. #7
    Senior Member brainsausage's Avatar
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    I disagree regarding the Keller book. Every step is delineated in great detail, and the relevance of each component of the dish/technique is made very clear. It's a very educational book. Not trying to start an argument, just trying to stay true to the OP requests.
    The AI does not love you, nor does it hate you, but you are made out of atoms it might find useful for something else. - Eliezer Yudkowsky

  8. #8
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    When buying cook books, please remember that books written by professional restaurant chefs are normal aimed at that market and the recipes are often not fool proof or written in a hurry. Also many of the ingredients used by professionals such as Keller you would never be able to purchase unless you went to his suppliers in the US; ingredients do matter.

    As you are based in the UK ‘Roast Chicken And Other Stories’ by Simon Hopkinson has been repeatedly voted the most useful cookbook in multiple surveys by people who would just like to learn to cook at home. I personally started with Delia Smiths complete cookery course when I was 10 years old, when a family friend gave me an old battered copy, and it has travelled the world with me. It is great for those fool proof recipes. These books are written by people who have the time to test every recipe multiple times with ingredients from UK supermarkets which you can purchase.

    Alternatively apply to Trafford College in Manchester who have a great reputation.

    Happy cooking

    JJ

  9. #9
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    Good point about the OP being from the UK.

    Having seen the highly entertaining biographical film Toast about food writer Nigel Slater and having him on the brain, I would highly recommend his The Kitchen Diaries series of cookbooks. They are definitely by and for home cooks.

  10. #10
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    I usually just point people who aren't that big into cooking and food toward the food network to tell you the truth, Ina Garten is good. I started there years ago, when it had mostly cooking shows. That said just alot of practice and messing up enough food and you'll have it! I like serious eats and Michael Ruhlman's blog for online souces.

    The books mentioned above are good, but I wouldn't try the french laundry cookbook unless you had at least one helper lol. I also like Ratio or Ruhlman's 21. Those would also get you by.

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