Posts Tagged ‘sandwiches’

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Learning to cook – the journey begins…

January 4, 2012

In my New Year resolutions for 2012, my first resolution was to learn to cook a new dish every month. Now, I haven’t decided what the month of January will hold yet, but just to give you an idea of what starting point I’m at… it’s basic. Things that I can cook include lasagne, mushroom risotto, pasta, a range of ready meals, sandwiches and toast, and combinations of microwaveable foods. I’ve never been very inspired to cook anything more complicated than this because a) I find the process of creating a meal frequently tries my patience, and b) why should I cook a meal for one which takes longer to make than it does to eat?

I am in the very lucky position of being in a relationship with a fantastic cook. He is in the equally lucky position of being in a relationship with someone who enjoys cleaning and household chores. So why should I even bother learning to cook? Well, I’m an adult now – no longer a student, or living at home; Toby comes round my place nearly as often as I stay at his, and I want to be able to make meals that are tasty, interesting and also occasionally healthy. Eating out is expensive, and eating takeaways can get unhealthy and uninspiring. Perhaps I’ll lose some weight and get healthier along the way? I also want to add to my skill set, and I kind of feel that cooking is something I really ought to learn, as a worthwhile (and sociable) human being.

I’m not a natural chef (see: lack of patience; lack of understanding what foods go together; issues around eating and weight), but I did have some cookery lessons at school. I made things like pasta carbonara, quiche, bread, triple chocolate upside-down cake, and they always turned out well – however, I might attribute some of this to my desire to succeed in a classroom setting, rather than any potential I had as a cook. The only thing I ever did mess up was crème caramel, because I burned the caramel in the oven. (I later found out that I didn’t really like crème caramel anyway.) But for the most part, I had a recipe which I always followed to the letter, and things always turned out fine. However, Toby has discovered that there are some basic things that I didn’t know. For example, don’t lick your fingers when you have been handling raw chicken or raw egg – this is bad for you. He asked me, “didn’t you have food technology lessons at school?!?” To which my reply was “No, we studied Latin instead.” I think I was due to have 6 weeks of cookery lessons in 6th form, but instead I was chosen to be a peer mentor and had 30 hours of training in mentoring and listening skills from a psychologist.

Moving on… Last month, I made a lovely meal of honey and mustard roast chicken breast (courtesy of Waitrose), with chips, salad and croutons with caesar dressing. I was pleased with this meal because I picked the ingredients in the supermarket myself and created the dish in my head as I walked through the aisles. It was delicious. Tonight (and this is not counting towards my dish per month resolution), I had a go at making steak pie (courtesy of Sainsburys) with steamed baby corn, beans and boiled potatoes. This presented some challenges to me as I have never steamed vegetables, and I have never boiled potatoes.

The easy part – I shoved the steak pie in the oven for 35 minutes. This gave me 35 minutes to:

  • discover that one of the hob rings on my mini oven doesn’t work when the oven is on;
  • boil the potatoes on the other hob;
  • realise that supermarket estimates for cooking are not always to be trusted;
  • learn how to steam vegetables in the microwave (thank you Google);
  • find out that it’s not worth using tablespoons to measure out water.

After accumulating all of this knowledge, dinner was served:

steak pie, potatoes and steamed vegetables

It was yummy! The pie and potatoes (after the initial panic that they weren’t cooking on the hob) turned out very well. If I could do it again, I would have steamed the vegetables for longer in the microwave, as the beans were quite crisp and fresh-tasting; but the vegetables were still perfectly edible. The whole point of this, and my cookery journey, is that I am going to learn skills I didn’t know (however basic they might be) and improve my culinary capabilities. I am not ashamed of being such a novice cook, because I am doing something about it. And if you are reading this and thinking that you can’t cook either, then let’s take this journey together. I will be completely honest about my failures and lack of knowledge, and hopefully the fact that I will be able to make successful dishes in spite of these will be proof that even though we aren’t all born chefs, we can all learn to cook something simple, yet tasty and interesting.

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day one.

August 16, 2010

I will keep this entry brief as I’m exhausted, but I had my first day at my new job at Cirencester College, and it was epic but a success!  I did not enjoy the 5:45 wakeup, especially considering I had trouble getting to sleep the night before as my body clock is programmed not to sleep before midnight and I was half-consciously hyper about the job.  In the afternoon I could feel my fatigue kicking in briefly, but 20 minutes later I recovered and got a second wind, plus Rachel (the new girl who also started today in my faculty) felt the same so it might have just been a result of the information overload.

My main worry was the transport, as this week Mike is on holiday in Cornwall (he starts next Monday, and he will give me a lift on the way) and so I’m getting the bus to the train station, then the train to Kemble railway station and a taxi from there.  If the bus in the morning was late, I would risk missing my train; if the bus went too slowly, I would miss my train; if the train was delayed (although this would have had to be by a considerable amount), I would miss my connection to Kemble.  But this morning bodes well as everything ran smoothly, and I was lucky enough to be able to jump straight into a taxi (despite my connecting train being held up 5 minutes) and get to Cirencester College before 8:30 (I didn’t have to be there before 9am today, but my official start time will be 8:30 so it was a nice trial run). The taxi driver was kind and friendly, which was another good omen for the day. Transport-wise, as soon as my new colleagues heard that I was relying on public transport this week, they organised between them to collect me from and run me to the local station every morning and afternoon more or less, so that will save on taxi fare (which is a financial burden lifted!). I was really touched how welcomed everyone made me feel, and how well I got on with Rachel and all my other new colleagues, both those I had met previously and those who were new faces.

As for what we covered, I was a little overwhelmed by the information (although in comparison to last year, apparently they’ve made it a much less intense start!) but most of it seems to make sense and I have more or less sorted out everything that I need; Thursday and Friday are enrolment days following the publication of A-Level results, so that will be the first day I get to meet students, which is both exciting and daunting, but after today I feel more confident about it.  I am finally a grown up, even though it still hasn’t sunk in that I am actually employed there, I have a real, full-time, professional job and I am not just pretending or on placement! My confidence will hopefully grow.  A sign of things to come is that I have just made my own sandwiches for lunch, whereas as a child (and even as a young adult!) my mother always made my sandwiches. It’s time to take control!  I’m feeling tired but feeling good and positive and I hope that this week goes well 🙂