‘Let what you like to eat tell you how you should cook’
Ferran Adria, ElBulli
Why do you enjoy cooking?
If you’re anything like me there are many reason. Cooking is a chance to be creative and make things, it’s a way to relax and unwind, it’s fun and it’s a way to nurture my family and friends And of course it can be an excellent source of compliments.
While most people say nice things when someone cooks for them, there’s nothing like the feeling of your guests being genuinely excited about something you’ve made. I love when it happens so I thought I’d share a few tips to help your cooking go from polite thankyous to rave reviews and possibly proposals of marriage.
If you have any sure fired tips I’d love to hear them in the comments.
7 tips for kitchen glory
1. show up & cook something
Basic stuff right – first you need to find someone to cook for and then actually get busy in the kitchen.
I find that people are always happy to talk about their favourite food. Make a point of taking the time to ask and then try and remember the answers. I haven’t yet gone to the extreme of taking notes – but this may not be a bad idea. I remember reading something about a couple that loved to entertain and kept a diary of what they served and to whom so they wouldn’t repeat.
3. play favourites
The easiest way to get rave reviews is give the people what they love. So if I’m cooking for Colette there’s always chocolate on the menu, for Juanita – zucchini and if I’m trying to impress my brother it’s my Mum’s lemon meringue pie.
4. don’t be afraid to try new things
I believe that beginner’s luck applies in the kitchen. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve made something and it’s been perfect the first time and then a disaster when I’ve tried it again. I think it’s because I tend to concentrate harder when I’m out of my comfort zone so there are less silly mistakes.
I’ve also found there is more kudos when you casually drop that it’s the first time you’ve made a souffle or whatever into the dinner conversation.
5. learn from the past
You’re probably already doing this but if something is really well received, don’t be afraid to keep it on high rotation. There’s a reason why some dishes become greatest hits and others just fade away.
6. pair up challenging dishes with safe options
Recently I was cooking steak for my Dad and brother. If it was just me I would have served it alone with some sauteed zucchini, but I didn’t think the boys would go for that so put a simple potato bake on the menu as well. Surprisingly while the steak and spuds were well received, the highest praise (“very yummy”) was reserved for the zucchini.
7. keep the warts to yourself
Now I’m not suggesting you be deceptive here, but over my years working in the food industry I’ve experienced the power of suggestion first hand. If you tell someone that the stew got burnt on the bottom they will without a doubt taste some smokiness. But without prior knowledge it’s unlikely that someone will notice little faults.
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
chorizo with chickpeas & tomato
I hate to make sweeping generalisations, but I’m yet to meet a pork eating bloke who doesn’t get excited about chorizo. Ladies (and gentlemen for that matter), if you’re ever looking to get a guy excited about your cooking, this is the dish to do it. To be fair I’m yet to actually test the seduction powers of this dish myself – but I have made it for some male members of my family and got rave reviews.
If you had more time, you could substitute in some boiled kipfler potatoes for the chickpeas.
Most cooks (myself included in the past) recommend cooking dried chickpeas from scratch rather than using canned but to be honest, I often undercook dried chickpeas. And I’d much prefer canned chickpeas to undercooked dried ones – no more guilt about using canned chickpeas.
2 chorizo (approx 200g or 7oz), sliced into coins
1 can chickpeas (400g or 14oz), drained
2t smoked paprika, optional
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Preheat a frying pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil on high.
Stir fry chorizo until nicely brown on both sides.
Stir through chickpeas & paprika and cook for another minute or 2.
Taste, season, and stir through tomato and parsley.