May 15, 2012

The Secret to Good Cooking

I have spent the last few years experimenting with dinners. From experimental gourmet meals for grown-ups to different kinds of mash for toddlers, to family meals: quick & easy, slow-cooked, recipes from different countries, low-fat healthy meals, recipes torn from the pages of women's magazines, recipes scrawled down watching episodes of Nigella, Jamie, Gordon Ramsay and others, recipes from my mother's collection from the 1970s and 80s, recipes from my own first cookbooks bought in the 80s and recipes from flatmates in my university days.  I have made up my own recipes and adapted others, to make them fit what small children will eat, make them healthier or yummier, or suit what I had in my cupboard at the time. I have made meals from pre-made sauces and bases and added a pinch of this or that or tossed in a handful of greens so I could feel like I cooked.

And from this wealth of variously loving, despairing, fun, boring and desperate experience, I have found the secret to delicious, successful family meals. Meals that the whole family will eat.

I don't mean to imply that everyone eats and loves my food every night - far from it!

Also, I don't cook every night. We have a baked beans or scrambled eggs night and a "picnic dinner" night every week, and we get take-out sometimes.

But for successful cooked meals I now know what works, and it is this:


  • taking time (enough time - but not hours)
  • taking care
  • being relaxed (music helps)

One or more of the following, in very generous quantities:
  • salt
  • oil
  • butter 
  • cream

Cooking: do you love it or loathe it?
What works for you?

Creamy Honey Mustard Chicken. Serve with greens and rice.
Bribe children with a small dessert to eat some greens. Yes,
I know you're not meant to do this. Don't care.


  1. I *hate* it. I'm called 'One Pot' by the family because that's what they end up with if it's my turn to cook - pasta or curry usually.

    I know that LC enjoys the creativity of it and he can 'time' things so that the roast dinner and all the trimmings stay warm. I'm therefore more than happy to do the cleaning afterwards!

    1. Hi Kath,
      Cooking is definitely a chore for me too - cant say I love it

  2. Love cooking but thankful I only have to cook for myself - and what's on your list, though I like them - are on my banned items list. Ah well.

    1. Hi Pand,
      Yep they are unhealthy but the easiest way to make everyday cooking more delicious - purely to increase consumption rate by kids and reduce my stress levels!

  3. I don't mind the actual cooking part. I don't love it but I don't hate it either. It's just another one of those things I've got to do.

    It's the thinking about WHAT to cook that I hate. Trying to come up with something that everyone is going to eat every. single. night. Oh the pressure!

    1. Yep you're right - that is the worst part of it. Still causes me a lot of stress every week. I haven't got the hang of it yet, in fact it has got harder as the kids have got older and more fussy!

  4. I spend A LOT of time thinking about food and what I'm going to cook. Like you there's been a fair bit of trial and error involved, but think I've also found our happy food place.
    I was wondering if you'd be up for doing a meme Jackie? It's the 'How do I find the time to....' one, and it's quite long! (but you're great at lists) If you'd like to do it I'll tag you, if not, no worries - just let me know. I haven't posted my list yet - been distracted sorting out birthday stuff, but will try to do it by the end of the week xx

    1. Oh I'm so sorry I missed this comment earlier in the week! I would be up for a meme, I love them! (an easy way to write a blog post!). Count me in whenever you do it xx

  5. Great Jackie! Will post tonight (sat) x



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