Beef Masaman Curry – rich and delicious


Watching Rick Stein on his Eastern Odyssey around Asia, I couldn’t help but be inspired to recreate this amazing Thai dish.

It’s aromatic, nutty, warm with chilli, but far from blowing your head off, and it fills your home with the beautiful spicy fragrances of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.

I was intimidated by the ingredient list – but one stop to my local Indian grocer and I was set. The lady at the shop was amazing – she whizzed around the little store with me looking at my list and grabbing everything I needed, including blade mase – which I had NEVER seen before. I strongly suggest you do the same – hit your local Indian/Asian grocer and the shopping list will no longer be a hassle!

I have to admit, I was also stressing about the chilli content – I mean 12 dried chillies sounded way over the top for a curry considered to be very mild in terms of Thai food. But, as you will see, this recipe calls for Kashmiri chillies – which I have since found out are hardly spicy at all. I’m glad I didn’t chicken out and reduce the amount of chilli, because at the end, it was just perfect.

This dish is definitely a weekend project – when you have time on your hands and just feel like having some “me” time in the kitchen with your mortar and pestle. It took hours to create this – but when we sat down and took the first bite – it was instantly worth it! Better than any jarred massaman curry I have ever tasted.

I have taken most of this recipe straight from Rick – but have added a few changes which I found worked well along the way.

Curry paste

  • 10 dried red kashmiri chillies, seeds removed, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp green cardamom seeds (from about 20 green cardamom pods)
  • 16 cloves
  • 1  cinnamon stick
  • 2 large pieces of blade mace
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, soft inner core chopped
  • 1/4 cup of coconut cream

The curry

  • 1.5kg of chuck steak, cut into large chunks
  • 600ml of coconut cream
  • 6 black cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes
  • 8 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp of tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1/2 a cup of peanuts, roasted and roughly chopped

Method

For the curry, place the beef into a heavy-based pan with 350ml of the coconut milk and an equal amount of water. Add the black cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and salt, then bring to a simmer and partially cover the pan with a lid, leaving just a small gap for the steam to escape. Cook for two hours, stirring occasionally, until the beef is just tender. While that’s simmering, you can tackle the curry paste.

Heat a dry, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the dried chillies and fry for 1-2 minutes, shaking the pan frequently to prevent the chillies from burning, until the chillies are lightly toasted. Transfer the chillies to a spice grinder or mortar.

Return the pan to the heat and add the coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon and blade mace and fry for a few seconds, shaking the pan frequently, until the spices darken slightly and release their aromatics. Add the toasted spices to the spice grinder or mortar and grind or pound to a fine powder.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic and fry slowly over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until caramelised. Add the shrimp paste and spice mixture and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the mixture into a food processor, add all of the remaining curry paste ingredients and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside until your beef has cooked for the two hours set out above.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut into large pieces.

Now that the curry has been simmering for two hours, remove the lid from the curry and discard the black cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Stir in the rest of the coconut milk, the potatoes, shallots, the curry paste, fish sauce, tamarind  and sugar and simmer gently, uncovered, for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes, shallots and beef are tender. Stir in the peanuts.

Serve with steamed rice and some fresh, chopped red chillies for those who like their curries a little hotter.

As for my music recommendation – due to the long process – I suggest your going to need an album … or three!

However, if you can get your hands on Adele’s new album called 21 – and if you appreciate a truly amazing voice and chilled melodies – you can simply play it over and over and … over again :)

In an act of support for how awesome this chick is, I’m linking to two of her songs – firstly Rolling Deep – which I admit is becoming a tad over-played.

But, here’s another awesome song from the album, Someone Like You. In this video, she also talks about her inspiration for writing this amazing song.

Happy cooking, eating and grooving!

Unplugged and getting back to basics


Have you ever felt the need in this crazy, busy technological world to just unplug and get away from it all?

I didn’t realise I was going to take a break – but before I knew it – that’s what I was doing. No writing, no stalking Facebook and Twitter. It felt good. To just cook and not write down all the ingredients along the way while worrying about whether the meal would be “blog-worthy” or not.

It was nice to get back to just cooking every night for Matt and I. The other thing when you write a blog as frequently as I was is the capacity to repeat recipes is decreased. You can’t exactly cook the same risotto over and over and keep blogging about it. You’ve always got to be trying something new and experimenting. While I love to do this – I just wanted to cook old favourites for a while. So, I did.

And I amused myself doing other things – like going out and having the most amazing dinner for my birthday (thanks to Matt) and going for walks on the beach. Here are some photos of my adventures while I have been silent in the online world.

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But I have missed writing here … and so I’m back to write about the food I love to cook and eat. But, there will be a few changes.

I’m going to post awesomely delicious recipes every Saturday morning to inspire you ahead of the weekend. But, I’m not going to push myself to post more than that. Sometimes our lives are just too full of computers and phones and not enough about the raw basics, like cooking, gardening, walking along the beach and just reading a good book. I have done all those things during my unexpected break – and it makes me a happier person. Unplugged = destressed = a happier me. That’s important.

Writing about food has always been so therapeutic to me – I don’t want it to start feeling like work again. My blog is about sharing food stories, great and yummy recipes and connecting with people. I don’t want to forget that again.

Do you think unplugging from the vertual world is important? Does being online all the time overwhelm you? How do you go about disconnecting and how did you feel about not being online? Was it easy, or was it hard to be out of touch? Leave your comments below. It would be great to hear about other people’s experiences.

It’s great to be back and I can’t wait to share an epic recipe I road-tested during my break – Rick Stein’s Massaman Curry from his recent Eastern Odyssey series. It was a labour of love – but worth the effort. Look out for it on Saturday. See you then!

Mussels in white wine, chilli and tomatoes


Mussels, without a shadow of a doubt – are my absolute favourite seafood.
They are full of glorious, meaty flavour. I love how they sound as you swish them around in a pan, the clickity clack as the shells hit the edges.
They look wonderful too – the shells all black and shiny. And amazingly, in Australia anyway, they are super cheap!!!

However, mussels aren’t all fun and games.
The reality is, it takes a fair bit of work to prepare them, and sometimes the rules surrounding whether a mussel is safe to eat or not, can be really confusing.

But, don’t be afraid! Once you get a hang of how to prepare them, cooking is a breeze. The best news is …. Mussels are sooooo worth the effort!

So, here are a few tips to help you prepare mussels.

  • Buy them from reputable fish monger.
  • Once you get your mussels home, you really need to use them that day for the best results. This is one thing that shouldn’t be stored too long. However, if you can’t prepare them right away – pop them in the fridge. Just make sure you don’t leave them wrapped in plastic – they should be kept in a container and covered lightly with a tea towel, to let them breathe.
  • As you are going through your mussels, some of them may be slightly open. Give them a sharp tap on the side of your kitchen sink. If they close tightly, they are fine cook. However – if they don’t – you must throw them away. They are dead and no good to eat.
  • To prepare the mussels, give the shells a good scrub to remove any barnacles – I use a rough cleaning pad to do this (a fresh one out of the packet, not one I have used to scrub pots and pans … eewww!).
  • Remove the beard (that’s the fibrous thing sticking out of the mussel) – give it a good, strong pull and it should come off.

That’s just about it – now it’s time to cook them and I have a really beautiful recipe that can be used as either a starter or a main. This one is a perfect dish to make your significant other for a romantic dinner – clean the mussels, cut up all the ingredients and cook immediately before serving. You’ll impress your significant other with your cooking skills, but the dish won’t take too long to get on the table. Perfect!

Mussels in white wine, chilli and tomatoes

  • 500gm of mussels, cleaned and sorted
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 3 rashers of bacon, cut into strips
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced (or you can add more, if you like it really hot)
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 400gm can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 handful of basil, roughly torn

Method

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-based pan.

Cook the bacon, until it’s getting slightly crisp – then add the onion, garlic and chilli and season with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat until onion is soft.

Turn up the heat and add the wine, allowing it to simmer briskly for a minute or two.

Add the canned tomatoes and once they start to simmer. Add the mussels.

Cover and cook for a minute or two, or until the mussels have opened (it doesn’t take long – and this is how you tell they are ready). Add the fresh basil and serve.

Important: As you serve the dish into bowls, ensure that you discard any unopened mussels. If they are closed, then they are no good.

If you are cooking this as a main course, toss through some freshly cooked pasta at the end. If not, just serve the mussels as they are, with some fresh sourdough bread to mop up all those awesome juices.

A romantic dish deserves a matching song with it. This song is by an Australian artist called Sia and featured on the Twilight Saga Eclipse soundtrack. It’s the song playing in the background when Edward asks Bella to marry him. A little corny, I know – but a very romantic moment and a truly amazing song. Google Sia and check out the rest of her music, she has an amazing voice.

Sia – My Love

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below. Also, if you have any other tips for cooking mussels or seafood in general – I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Weekly Cook Up – Roast chicken with the best crispy skin EVER!


As much as we are told that eating chicken skin is bad … isn’t the skin just the yummiest bit?

Provided it’s cooked right and lovely and crispy, the skin is something people fight over – just like really good pork crackling.

But, like crackling, perfectly crispy skin can be a bit of a challenge to achieve.

The trick is to bring the chicken to room temperature before roasting, and to ensure the skin is really dry by patting it with some kitchen towel. Where did I learn this? Neil Perry, of course :) This dish is inspired by a recipe of his on the Rockpool website. The chicken is flavoured with lemon and thyme and served with his beautiful aoli – which you can buy in the fresh food section at the supermarket. YUM! I also roasted potato, parsnip, swede and carrots making this an amazing one-pan dish.

Crispy-skinned roast chicken with lemon, thyme and roast potatoes

  • 1 x 1.6 – 1.8kg chicken
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A few knobs of butter
  • ½ bunch thyme
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 carrots, washed, cut in half and then sliced lengthways
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into rough pieces
  • 3 potatoes, washed and cut into rough pieces
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes

Method

An hour before you begin cooking take the chicken out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel. Place the thyme and lemon inside the chicken cavity. Drizzle all over with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat you oven to 220°c.

Heat a roasting pan in the oven. Add enough olive oil to barely cover the tray and a few knobs of butter, then add all of your vegetables except the tomatoes and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, toss well and place the pan in the oven. Cook the vegetables for about 20 minutes – they should be just starting to brown.

Remove the tray from the oven and add the cherry tomatoes and whole garlic cloves. Place the chicken face up into the pan and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. I found I needed to cook my chicken for an extra 10 minutes, as it was still a little pink.

Remove from the oven, lightly cover with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving. This step is really important as it allows all the juices to calm down from the cooking, making it lovely and moist.


Cut the chicken into quarters, and serve with the roasted vegies and Neil Perry’s fresh aoli on top. Some crusty sourdough bread is perfect too :)

My dog, Angel, got the leftovers. After a good feed, he was feeling pretty tired :)

As for a groovy tune to go with this delicious Sunday roast – I’d suggest this track by the Freelance Whalers. I came across this song on the Offspring soundtrack. I am totally addicted to this show and thought the music was amazing too! It’s kind of chilled and yet has this really cool rhythm to it. I think I love this song too, because it’s called Hannah, which is my favourite name :) Hope you enjoy it as much as I do – although the video clip is a little weird :)

Scruptious corn – a side dish that sings!


The meat component of most dinners is normally the feature of a dish – and the side-dish is something that just goes along for the ride.

However, this corn, tomato and chilli dish is that good, that it is the perfect foundation. Simple add some grilled meat, and you have a dinner full of great flavour, that took no time at all to put together!

Corn with tomato and chilli

  • 4 corn cobs, husks removed and kernels cut from the cob
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1   400gm can of chopped canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 a cup of chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Remove the outer husks from the corn cobs. Stand the cob on its end, and using a sharp knife, cut the kernels away from the cob.

In a large frypan, add some olive oil, the onion, garlic and chilli with a pinch of salt and fry gently, over a medium heat. Fry for 3 minutes, then add the corn.

Add the canned tomatoes and stock and simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes, or until the corn is tender.

Serve with some grilled meat of your choice. I did a rolled loin of lamb. It was absolutely delicious :)

As for a groovy tune – I highly recommend this rocking track my the Kaiser Chiefs. I got into this English indie rock band after the AFL started using this song for their footy promos. Love it!.

Check it out!

Prosciutto and pumpkin salad


I know, it’s cold and you’re not totally thinking about salad at the moment – but this one is warm and let’s face it – we don’t want to eat heavily all the way through winter. We have to give our body’s a break from the carbs! Well, that’s what I keep telling myself anyway :)

I love the nutty flavours of pumpkin in this recipe, mixed with the salty prosciutto and peppery rocket. If you don’t have prosciutto – you could also cut a few rashers of bacon into largeish pieces, fry them off and add them to the mix instead. It’s also great to take to work for lunch :)

Prosciutto and pumpkin salad

  • 1 butternut pumpkin
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 20 slices of prosciutto (you can get this at all good delis and even at your local supermarket)
  • 4 handfuls of rocket
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (please buy the best balsamic you can find – it makes ALL the difference)
  • 1 small block of parmesan cheese

Method

Preheat your oven to 190°C. Peel pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut into largish cubes. Lay in a roasting tray, season with salt and pepper, the coriander and chilli flakes and drizzle over a little olive oil. Use your hands to rub the mixture all over the pumpkin. This is the best way to get the flavours going – it beats using a spoon any day. Roast the pumpkin for half an hour or until soft and golden. Allow to cool a little.

Lay your prosciutto over a large serving platter – let it twist and turn so it doesn’t look neat and flat. Put the pumpkin around the meat and then sprinkle over the rocket. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil to dress the leaves, as well as the balsamic. Use a vegetable peeler to shave over the parmesan.

If you wanted something to go with it – some really simply grilled chicken would be great.

As for a song to groove to while you whip this up – I think something light and refreshing is in order. The Script are an awesome Irish band – and their song This Is Love is inspiring. You’ll want to play it over and over :)

What’s flicking through on your iPod at the moment? Share your favourite tunes in the comments section below and keep us all inspired!

The Weekly Cook Up: Morrocan Beef Tagine


Moroccan food, in my book, is absolutely gorgeous. This tagine is no different because it’s filled with delicate flavours, amazing freshness and the pangs of yumminess that come from lemon and olives.

I admit, there are a few ingredients in this dish – but that’s why it’s a Weekly Cook Up recipe. It needs a little love and time to ensure you are left with a succulent, tender and flavourful dish.

I generally get annoyed when people call dishes like this a tagine – when they didn’t actually use a tagine to cook it in. I mean, that’s the whole point! So, I apologise to myself right now. I am calling this a tagine, because the flavours deserve that title. I didn’t have mine handy because we were house-sitting for my brother and his girl while they were off sunning themselves in warmer places of Australia. Also, this is a large batch, which will serve 6 to 8 to allow for freezing, so it wouldn’t probably fit in a tagine anyway. Feel free to halve the quantities and break out your tagine, if you have one. They are definitely a worthwhile investment.

You will see below that the first component of the recipe involves making a chermoula. This is like the equivalent of a curry paste – but in this case the consistency is more like a watery salsa. This is a critical step in making this dish as it’s where you start to build the flavour base. Keep in mind when making this dish that you really need to marinade the meat for about two hours after adding the chermoula.

Beef Tagine with Lemon, Olives and Coriander

Chermoula

  • 6 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 3 tbs of fresh coriander root, finely chopped
  • the zest of a whole lemon
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large green chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cm of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of Moroccan spice paste (I used Dave Bittons – but there are others available in the spice section at the supermarket)

The tagine

  • 2 kg of chuck steak – trimmed of excess fat (but leave a bit on for tenderness and flavour). Cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 potatoes (I didn’t peel them, but you can if you prefer) cut into wedges
  • 1/2 a cup of water
  • 1 cup of green pitted olives (you can use kalamata, if you like)
  • 4 tbs of chopped, fresh coriander

Method

Combine all the ingredients for the chermoula.

Place half the chermoula in a bowl with the meat. Mix thoroughly and seal both bowls with cling film and place in the fridge for an hour – 2 if possible to allow the flavours to meld and marinate.

 Take the meat and chermoula out of the fridge and set aside. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a large, heavy-based pan and add the onion, cooking over a medium heat until nice and soft.

Add the meat, the remaining chermoula as well as the tomatoes, potatoes and water.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a very low heat for about two hours, or until the meat is lovely and tender. Add the olives, allow to heat through for a minute or two. Add the fresh coriander, then serve.

Serve with cous cous and some nice crusty bread.

This dish has amazing layers of flavour that will dance in your mouth. The soft, fluffy cous cous soaks up the juices perfectly. This really is an awesome dish.

As for my music recommendation – One Republic was definitely a feature of my playlist while I was making this. Make sure you look up their albums – but one of my favourite songs is called Lullaby. It’s a song about home, about feeling safe and content. Have a listen below. It’s a really beautiful song.

The tagine will freeze well for up to three months. Seeing as it’s the Queens Birthday long weekend, why not spend some time whipping up some dishes like this to freeze to make your life easier when work and life gets crazy again! Check out The Weekly Cook Up for more inspiration. Other than cooking – what are your plans this long weekend? I’m working at my brother and dad’s shop, and relaxing with my finacee. No doubt there’ll be some cooking going on too :)

Leek and chickpea soup


It’s so freezing outside that I thought I should share with you a soup recipe that has become one of my all-time favourites. I adore leeks and seeing as they are in season, now is an ideal time to whip this up. I really didn’t like the idea of chickpeas in soup at first – but although it only has a few ingredients, the flavour is amazing. I originally saw this made on a Jamie Oliver cooking show way back when. I’ve made it my own and no longer need the recipe to guide me. Everyone I have served it to has been impressed :)

So – introducing …

 Leek and Chickpea Soup

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 leeks
  • 3 desiree potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
  • 1.5 – 2 litres of chicken stock
  • Parmesan cheese (to serve, but optional)

Cut leeks down the middle, discarding the tough green part at the top, and clean thoroughly under running water. Chop fairly finely.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add leeks and a few good pinches of salt. The salt will not only add flavour, but allow the leeks to wilt, without colouring. This should take about five minutes over a medium heat – ensure you keep an eye on it and stir regularly.

Add the potatoes, along with the chickpeas and cook until heated through. Add stock at this point – enough to generously cover the mixture.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until potato cubes are tender.

Remove from heat and using a stick mixer (or blender), blitz the ingredients, but leave some chunky bits.

Blitzing ensures the soup is beautiful and creamy, but leaving some chunky bits of chickpea and leek means there is really nice texture too. However, feel free to blitz to a smooth consistency if that’s what you prefer.

Bring back to the simmer – now you can judge whether more stock needs to be added. Just add more until the texture is to your liking. Make sure you have a taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve drizzled with some olive oil and shavings of parmesan cheese.

This soup really is a meal in a bowl and also makes a fantastic lunch. You can freeze it too, if you want – but I find this one disappears out of the fridge pretty quickly!

My Groovy Kitchen Tunes track for this warm, nutty soup would have to be Dark Storm, by The Jezebels. Its title is reflective of our weather here in Victoria at the moment, but there’s something warming and hopeful about it at the same time. Curl up on the couch tonight in front of the TV, pop a blanket over you and enjoy this soup and just think, the weekend is nearly here!! Sounds like a perfect Wednesday night to me :)

Butter Chicken – the weeknight version


Butter chicken is one of those curries that won’t scare those opposed to heat and is great for kids. Not a chilli in site!

While curries are a bit famous for taking a very long time to cook – this version is actually quite quick (on the table within 40 minutes, including preparation) and doesn’t require going to the supermarket to purchase 10 different kinds of spice.

It’s a bit of a cheats version – but don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that! This uses a store-brought mild curry paste. Some brands of these are better than others. I find Sharwood to be superior and the flavour is really fantastic. It’s all fine to spend a bit of time on the weekend grinding up your own curry paste, but it’s not something for during week.

You’ll notice that the quantities are enough to feed a small army – and that’s because I was cooking it not only for our dinner, but also as additional meals for my dad to put in his freezer.

So, why not cook a large batch – serve it up for dinner, then pop the rest in an air-tight container for the freezer. It’ll give you a night off when you can’t face cooking.

Butter Chicken

  • 3 heaped tbs of mild curry paste (Sharwood is my prefered supermarket variety – but there are fabulous ones at Indian supermarkets)
  • 2 large red onions, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2cm nob of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs of dried ground coriander
  • 2 tbs of tomato paste (this is a key ingredient, not only for flavour, but colour as well)
  • 2 kg of chicken thigh fillets, chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 500ml of thickened cream
  • 1/2 a cup of water
  • 1 large handful of chopped, fresh coriander (optional)

Method


In a large, heavy-based saucepan add the paste, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste and dried coriander and cook until the spices become fragrant, about five minutes. If they start to burn and catch on the bottom of the pan, add a little water.

Add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until the chicken’s juices start to loosen the mix. This will take 5-10 minutes. Add the water and the cream and stir well. Allow to simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the curry is a lovely, rich orangey colour. Add the coriander, if using. and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with basmati rice and pappadums or naan bread, if you have it handy!

My Groovy Kitchen Tunes track choice for the cooking of this recipe would have to be something warm and comforting, just like this dish. As soon as this song comes on, I can’t help but smile, which is how I feel when I put the first fork full of butter chicken in my mouth. The Temper Trap is my new absolute favourite band right now, in and out of the kitchen! Their album Conditions was a big feature of the playlist at our engagement party in May. Their incredible – as is this song – Fader. Have a listen!

Cooking – not only cures hunger, but enriches the soul


Over the past few months I’ve been trying to figure out what makes cooking such a challenge for people. Why don’t more people love compiling the evening meal as much as I do?

So, I asked a few of my friends on Facebook about what makes cooking challenging for them. Most of them said it was time that made it hard to get a meal on the table. Others said it was the financial stress of having to cook for a large family. Other said recipes had too many ingredients or were too hard to follow. All very useful things to know for a food blogger like me.

But, while I can create and write simple recipes that taste great and are good on the bank balance, I was wondering what I could do to change the mindset that cooking is just a means to an end – something that has to be done.

I’ve decided, it’s all about how you feel when you cook. Busy schedules, screaming kids – all while dealing with hot pots and timers and everything else that goes along with cooking. Yeah, that sounds terrible to me too!

So, I came up with a recipe to help you think of cooking as not only a means of feeding your hunger, but feeding your soul:

1. Turn the TV off, and turn your favourite tunes on.

 One of my pet hates when I am trying to cook is having the TV mind-numbingly blaring in the background. I always cooked with the TV on growing up – then I brought a house that’s kitchen was a totally separate room from the rest of the house. Well, it was my little haven of happiness. I’d have my music on, and dance around the kitchen adding a dash of this and a drizzle of that to whatever I was cooking. I know most houses are open plan – but why not turn the TV off for a while and enjoy some music. It will do your creativity a world of good, it’ll reduce stress, plus it’s unhealthy to have the idiot box on ALL the time.

2. Ask your parner /housemate / friend to sit with you while you cook, or even lend a hand!

One thing my fiancée and I love to do is spend time together while we cook. Sometimes I cook, sometimes he cooks. Sometimes I chop and he stirs. You get the drift. If we had kids, they’d probably be there too looking on and making racket. But hey, at least you’re together and communicating, and there’s nothing better for the soul then that!

3. Be confident!!

Many people see cooking as being hard, and therefore not enjoyable. I can understand that! If you watch Masterchef or My Kitchen Rules – no wonder most of us are getting a complex that our food isn’t special enough or fancy enough or it doesn’t have enough ingredients. Well, I’m here to tell you that most of the stuff that they cook on those shows doesn’t have a place in anyone’s kitchen 90 per cent of the time. Unless you are a lady or man of leisure with a whole lot of money and a stack of time on your hands, then that sort of cooking is a unrealisitic expectation to put on home cooks. As long as it tastes good and makes you happy, that’s all that matters. In saying that, I think those “four ingredient” recipes are kind of dumb – but there’s a happy medium to everything.

4. Keep your bench tidy

The most stressful part of cooking for me, really is the clean up. I hate it! So, I have a plastic bag on the bench where I throw all my rubbish, and I cook with the dishwasher open so I can turf stuff in there when I’m done using it. After I have chopped stuff up, I wash my board and give the bench a wipe. It’s actually really easy and saves sooo much cleaning up later on. In saying that, don’t sweat it too much. When I make something new and complicated, there’s mess and jars and stuff all over the place (including the odd bit of vegie peel on the floor). The trick is, don’t make stressful recipes or new things when you are short on time and patience. Be kind to yourself!

5. Remember that cooking is about love and generosity

Change your mnindset by thinking about cooking not as a chore, but as a way of showing your love for yourself and for your family. For me, my love for food stems from the satisfaction I get from having people together, in one place – enjoying each other’s company. What better way to do that then to share food? The other thing I love about cooking is the generosity of it – and the way you can be so creative and artistic all at the same time. But what is so special for me is that cooking is the way I open my heart to people – it’s the way I feel most comfortable in showing the people I care about just how much they mean to me. If the one thing you can do everyday to show the people close to you that you love them is to cook for them, then I think that’s great. It won’t always be met with a thank you – but when it comes to food, most people appreciate the effort. And, if you live alone and cook for one – think of it as your treat to yourself. I used to do that when I lived alone and could cook WHATEVER I liked, with no complaints :) Fabulous!

Have a think about these tips and if you do nothing else – cook with music on. For me the two go hand in hand. Sometimes it’ll be Kings of Leon, other times Paramore – at the moment, it’s this awesome song by a great band called Stateless. It’s chilled, relaxing and very cool!

Now because I think music and cooking are a recipe for happiness, I’m going to share with you what I think are the most inspiring tracks when it comes to cooking in all my future posts!

But in the mean time, if you normally cook with music, what’s flicking through on your Ipod at the moment? Share your inspiring tunes in the comments section below!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

 

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