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How to Learn the Basics of Cooking

How to Learn the Basics of Cooking

Cooking is therapeutic for some and for a few others, it is just another daily errand. If you are still a stranger to the culinary world, then here are some cookery basics that one has to know.
Anuja Marathe Kanhere
There are so many of us who watch Nigella Lawson cook some amazing delicacies on the TV cookery show. And believe me, there are plenty who feel they could be in her shoes, not for becoming a celebrity TV chef, but to cook with ease and perfection just the way she does. Cooking is not something to be dreaded. It is a science of perfectly blending food and spices and it is an art of choosing the best ingredients to enhance the taste of the food. Now let us learn the basics.

Some Basic Cooking Styles

This is a dry and high heat cooking method mostly used for making bakery products. Baking usually involves usage of an oven or kiln. It requires very little fatty or oily contents to bake the delicacies. Solid foods like fruits and vegetables and mashed foods or batter are typically set on a timer in the oven at a specific heating temperature. The food usually gets thoroughly baked when carbon dioxide gets released from the food. Baking was first done in countries like Egypt and Greece in charcoal and brick kilns.

Delicacies that taste well with their natural flavors are usually boiled in boiling water or pressure cooked. The basic idea is to cook with the help of steam and with absolutely no oil content. e.g Boiling rice or making vegetable and chicken stock.

This is again a dry heating method where food substances are either directly exposed to heat flames or kept on roasting pans. Roasting techniques also use a method called spit roasting where food is attached on sticks and suspended at a safe distance over the fire. The food gets cooked by sheer high temperature. Some popular methods of roasting are barbecues.

Frying involves usage of oily substances like vegetable oils or butter for cooking purposes. The food can either be deep-fried or stir fried in a wok or shallow fried in a shallow frying pan. Stir fry methods have always been used to prepare Chinese delicacies.

This involves gentle cooking of food at low heat in a covered pot. The food to be cooked is first marinated with spices, sauces and herbs. The food is then simmered in liquids. You can gradually add more spices and sauces as the food gets cooked. Braised food is usually rated as best tasting food out of all types. This method is popularly used in making Indian curries.

This method involves cooking food on high heat wherein food substances like meat or beef cuts are placed on grills. As the food gets cooked, its natural oils start trickling into the fire below. This makes for a really healthy food. The food may be marinated with spices and salt in advanced stages of grilling process.

Some Popular Food Chopping Styles

Julienne Method
This method involves chopping vegetables into fine, thin and long slices very similar to match sticks. This method is usually used in chopping hard vegetables like carrots and beet root.

This method involves making tiny square cubes out of food. This method is popularly used for chopping cheese cubes.

Roll Cutting
This method involves chopping vegetables by holding the knife straight or in a diagonal fashion so as to get straight or slanted vegetable chops. This technique works well for vegetable like French beans or cucumber.

This method involves cleaning vegetables and spices like garlic and ginger. The spices are then alternately pressed with the tip of the knife and the flat knife surface to get a smooth paste.

Fine Mincing
This method uses a two-handled chopping knife. Users need to apply pressure on vegetable surface by shuttling pressure between two handles like a teeter-totter or a see-saw. This method is used when you need to finely chop vegetables like onions or spinach.

All Time Essential Cooking Ingredients

It is difficult to enlist all the essential ingredients of cooking in my list. But I have still tried to list out some that need to be stored at home all round the year. One or more ingredients from this list are always required to cook foods at home.
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Cheese (any variety)
  • Wheat flour
  • Low fat salad dressings
  • Italian herbs e.g. oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage
  • Dry fruits
  • Baking powder
  • Indian curry spices, e.g. cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, chili powder, turmeric powder
  • Cooking oils like olive oil
  • Sauces like mustard sauce, soy sauce, tomato sauce
  • Ginger and garlic paste
  • Vinegar
  • Food essences like vanilla, rose, etc.
  • Uncooked noodles and pasta
Some Basic Appliances for Kitchen

Here is a list of 'must have' kitchen appliances that can make cooking seem interesting and easy!
  • Refrigerator
  • Cooking range
  • Dish washer
  • Microwave oven
  • Food processor
  • Hand mixer
  • Griddle
  • Rolling pin
  • Pressure cooker
  • A set of all sized knives
  • Chopping board
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Cooking pots and frying woks
  • Sieves and mixing utensils
  • Metal and wooden spoons in variety of sizes
  • Crockery and cutlery
  • Grater and shredder set
  • Kitchen timer
  • Weigh cups and weighing machine
These are some of the basic necessities to be a good cook. Mastering these techniques will simplify cooking for everyone, especially the bachelors, young brides and all those who hate cooking!