Do you shy away from cooking?
Does cooking a new dish not come easily to you?
Would you rather do a take-out than cook new food at home?
If the answer to these questions is yes and the reason is one or all from below-
You don’t think you cook well enough. or
You are either apprehensive or scared to try new dishes, or
You don’t think what you make will be as good.
Then, trust me.. you are not alone, this happens to almost everyone and to the best of us. Like most difficult tasks in life, cooking is mind over matter to a very large extent. If you think you can’t do it..and then you MUST read the next 918 words. Coz I will tell you how I overcome this fear every single time I enter the kitchen to cook.
Apparently, I cook well, at least that’s what people say. Well I don’t know if I am a good cook but a relentless one for sure. I have failed many times in getting it right but more than that, I make it differently the second time I make the same dish, more often than not. That is not a sign of a good cook. But surely this makes me the one who doesn’t give up on giving it a shot. In today’s speak it may be called positive affirmation. I know that I can try to make anything, and it won’t be inedible. So I just go for it. And that my friend is my Mantra#1.
My Mantra#1 – To never give up
Don’t give up on yourself when it comes to cooking or life for that matter. What’s the worst that can happen, it won’t taste the best, that’s ok. Call it your learning curve. You are cooking for your loved ones, love is your magic ingredient and trust me, it does wonders to food.
Like all things we do, there has to be a first time. Well begun is half done they say. Well then to begin is key. How do I get myself to do it ? I use my Mantra#2
My Mantra#2 – If they can make it, I can definitely try.
Very often I tell myself, I have same 2 hands, 2 eyes, 1 nose, 1 tongue and 1 brain that Chefs have. If they can cook well, I can definitely try to. Yes, I don’t have years of culinary school knowledge and experience but I do have years of eating experience and I know what I want my dish to taste like.. and that’s very important. So when I try to make a dish with a good recipe and total empowerment “I can do it”, I know for sure, there is very little that can go wrong with my food.
With my two Mantras in my tool belt, I know I can try to kill any recipe that I want.
Now there are some hacks to help me in the process. Even fairies need to stir pixie dust to make a good potion. Today I will let you in on my first hack.
Fortunately, now we have a plethora of tried and tested recipes, food videos on our finger tips and above all food eating experience, the biggest teacher of them all. There begins my quest for a recipe, and that’s Hack#1
Hack#1 - How to choose a recipe like a pro?
This is step one to making a good dish. Not only is there serious science in a good recipe, there is serious voodoo in it too. When I know this recipe works, I have already killed it in my head. I go back to Mantra#2, if they can, I can definitely try. And voila.. it works and if it doesn’t Mantra#1 comes into play- never give up- they love me.. they will love the food too.
Now how to find a good recipe?
- From your family heirloom recipe book or that of a friends’. I don’t feel shy to ask for a recipe. In fact I don’t give up till I get it. And if by chance I don’t get it, I take it up as a challenge to figure it out and that gives me a huge adrenaline rush to search it online and try till I succeed. I’ll let you in on a little story here, I am a self-confessed Pad thai purist. It’s my litmus test for a Thai restaurant. If their Pad thai is good, their other food will be good too. And I have tried a bazillion Pad thai recipes in the past two decades. Finally I hit gold.
- Sign up on Pinterest – Pinterest is a recipe GOLDMINE. There aint any recipe that you cant find there, well almost.
- Follow food bloggers & food groups on Instagram and Facebook. Those have excellent details about nuances of cooking and possible substitutes and come with reviews and comments from people who have tried them. I just give the reviews a cursory read, no need to spend too much time on it, save your energy.
How to know the recipe is worth a try?
- I always read 2-3-4 different recipes before I start.
- I see the ingredients- and mentally compare them with the other recipes.
- I go back to my food memory and see which one matches my expectation.
- Then I read the reviews of the recipe I like, if available.
- And possibly see the videos, if available.
- Now pick one and PRINT it out. Printing the recipe changed the game for me. When it’s on the phone or tablet, I tended to make many mistakes cause either the phone slept off in between or I got a call or I simply got distracted and then I waste a lot of time re-reading the recipe to make sure I didn’t skip a step. And that gave room for self-doubt.. bassss.. the moment you have self-doubt that food falls flat. Always have Mantra#2 in your head, if they can, I can.
- Read the recipe twice- this is essential.
- And go for it.
To sum it up, getting a dish right is has its own recipe-
- Cups of POSITIVITY
- Dollops of WILL
- Spoonful of PATIENCE
- Fistful of a RESEARCH
- Stir it with CONFIDENCE
And you will have killed it EVERY SINGLE time.
Let me share my golden Pad thai recipe. This after years of research, trial and many errors. I read it every single time I want to make it (leaving no room for self-doubt)
The key to Thai food for me is, it should be equal parts savory, sweet, tangy and spicy. So the Sauce is the magical pixie dust here. Taste it as you go and tweak it per your preference.
- 100 gms of rice noodles, 3mm (5mm I think it too much noodle)
- 2 tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 eggs, scrambled soft
- 1/4 cup onions, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3/4 cup pad thai sauce (1/8 cup each of fish sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and sriracha)
- 1 cup bean sprouts, blanched
- 1/2 cup crushed roasted peanuts
- 1/4 cup spring onions, cut 1”long
- 1/4 cup whole coriander leaves, no stem
- Salt to taste
- Chilli flakes & lemon wedges, for garnish
- Cook Pad thai noodles per instructions on pack.
- In a wok, fry onion in oil, add a pinch of salt, sweat the onions for a minute and add garlic.
- Cook them till light golden but not burnt or crisp on medium flame.
- Add noodles and scrambled eggs & Pad thai sauce & Salt.
- Top with bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, spring onions, and coriander leaves, and stir until well blended.
- Pour on a flat long dish and garnish with Spring onions
- Keep chilli flakes in a small bowl in corner next to lemon wedges.
I have been meaning to share my culinary journey for a while now. From years of talking to people about cooking, I get the drift that cooking good food for many people is travelling to mystic place they want to visit but don’t want to make the effort. I simplify it in my head and make it doable and that’s works for me.
Bon Appetite !!