Beginners guide to cooking

Setting up a kitchen :

Don’t fret! You don’t have to go on a big-shopping spree. I’ ve listed here a few of the most essential articles you need to start a kitchen for a family or for 2-3 people.
Jars for tea/coffee/sugar and salt
Baskets for potatoes & onions Measuring cups
12 glass bottles for masalas Measuring spoons
12 plastic jars for grains & cereals Rolling pin & board
2-3 knives Steel tong’s
1 peeler Lighter
1 grater 6 teatowels
1 chopping board Kitchen roll
1 whisk Aluminium foil
2 pans Cling film
2 saucepans Serving bowls
1 tava/non-stick Serving plate
1 kadhai Table cuttlery
Pressure cooker Glasses
Sieve Dinner plates
Strainer Side plates
Bottle opener Blender or food processor
Can opener
1 ladle
1 flatspoon, serving spoons & wooden spoons
2-3 thalis
Slotted frying spoon
For your refrigerator
Plastic / glass bottles for water
Butter dish
Plastic containers for chilli / ginger / curry leaves / coriander / mint leaves
Containers for left-overs

How do you hold a knife correctly ?

The proper way to hold a chef’s knife is to grip it so that the back of the blade is firmly held between the thumb and forefinger, with the other three fingers wrapped around the handle. This would give much better control while cutting and also be much less tiring when there is lot of chopping and mincing to be done.

Safety first :

Dress safely when you cook. Wear cottons and other natural fabrics. Do not wear nylons and synthetics. Avoid loose clothing and long broad sleeves. If you are comfortable its safer to wear an apron during cooking.

  1. Keep some antiseptic handy for cuts and burns. If you get burnt, hold the burnt area under cold water.
  2. If you smell gas odour, immediately turn off the flames and open the doors and windows. Don’t put on any switches. Get someone from the gas company to check the leak.
  3. Store your electrical equipment like toaster, oven, blender, food processor away from the sink or any other water connection.
  4. Use dry pot-holders to remove things from the gas or the oven. Wet tea towel and potholders conduct heat and electricity and can be hazardous.

I am new in the kitchen, how do I start?
Cooking, today is as much a science as it is an art. Anyone can learn to cook if you follow some basic guidelines.

  1. The first rule is “don’t panic”. Relax and take it easy.
  2. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the kitchen and get comfortable. Put on a clean apron and tie your hair back.
  3. Choose a simple recipe from your favourite cookbook and read it carefully, preferable twice. If you do not understand any terms mentioned in the recipe, look up the glossary.
  4. Carefully lay out all the ingredients on your worktable and measure them carefully using standard cups, teaspoon and tablespoon measures, for best result.
  5. Look for any basic recipes, the recipe might contain and prepare for that in advance.
  6. Follow each step specified in the recipe correctly. Keep the improvising for later.
  7. Follow the serving instructions specified in the recipe, for example serve hot or cold etc. A perfectly cooked dish can taste all wrong if served incorrectly.

Cooking a whole meal for the first time :

Dress safely when you cook. Wear cottons and other natural fabrics. Do not wear nylons and synthetics. Avoid loose clothing and long broad sleeves. If you are comfortable its safer to wear an apron during cooking.

  1. Keep some antiseptic handy for cuts and burns. If you get burnt, hold the burnt area under cold water.
  2. If you smell gas odour, immediately turn off the flames and open the doors and windows. Don’t put on any switches. Get someone from the gas company to check the leak.
  3. Store your electrical equipment like toaster, oven, blender, food processor away from the sink or any other water connection.
  4. Use dry pot-holders to remove things from the gas or the oven. Wet tea towel and potholders conduct heat and electricity and can be hazardous.

I am new in the kitchen, how do I start?
Cooking, today is as much a science as it is an art. Anyone can learn to cook if you follow some basic guidelines.

  1. The first rule is “don’t panic”. Relax and take it easy.
  2. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the kitchen and get comfortable. Put on a clean apron and tie your hair back.
  3. Choose a simple recipe from your favourite cookbook and read it carefully, preferable twice. If you do not understand any terms mentioned in the recipe, look up the glossary.
  4. Carefully lay out all the ingredients on your worktable and measure them carefully using standard cups, teaspoon and tablespoon measures, for best result.
  5. Look for any basic recipes, the recipe might contain and prepare for that in advance.
  6. Follow each step specified in the recipe correctly. Keep the improvising for later.
  7. Follow the serving instructions specified in the recipe, for example serve hot or cold etc. A perfectly cooked dish can taste all wrong if served incorrectly.

Baking Novice?

By baking, I am referring to actually cooking\ baking in the oven, not just grilling or gratinating baked dishes. Keep these pointers in mind when you start:

  1. Always start with a relatively easy recipe and one that you feel comfortable with.
  2. Measure all the ingredients perfectly using standard cup and spoon measures for flawless results.
  3. Follow the recipe correctly taking care to understand terms used for example creaming, whisk, fold etc.
  4. Always ensure that the raising and leavening agents such as baking powder, soda bi-carb, yeast are fresh to guarantee a good baked product.
  5. It is important to use the correct size of baking pan \ tin as specified in the recipe. Always fill the cake pan \ tin no more than half full leaving room for it rise while baking.
  6. Grease the baking tray/ pan generously, using hydrogenated oil so that the baked product unmoulds neatly.
  7. Unless specified otherwise always place the baking tray \ pan in the middle rack of the oven to bake.

Conversion chart of temperatures will be of great help while baking

Slow 250-300 121-149
Moderate 325-375 163-190
Hot 400-450 204-233
Very Hot 475-500 246-260

How do I use Microwave Oven ?

Here are a few tips, to use your microwave effectively:

  1. Use heat resistant glass, ceramic, china or thick plastic containers to cook in.
  2. Cut the food into equal sized pieces to ensure that it cooks quickly and evenly.
  3. Covering the food, holds in the steam to keep the food moist, distributes the heat evenly and causes less splatter. Use close fitting lids or microwaveable plastic film.
  4. Some foods such as cakes and food with a crumb are cooked uncovered to promote a dry surface.
  5. Stirring curries, rice and vegetables during cooking is most effective in distributing heat.
  6. Whole vegetables like potatoes should be pieced before microwaving, as the heat generated during cooking creates pressure in the potato causing it to explode in the oven.
  7. If the recipe has standing time, be patient. It is important for complete cooking.
  8. Cook only one dish at a time, you will get better results and the flavours of each dish will be different.
  9. Always use oven mitts while removing food from the microwave.

Is it OK to double recipe portions?
Yes, for most recipes it is perfectly all right to double the principle ingredients in the recipe, for example vegetables, pulses, flours etc. However, a little caution should be exercised when adding the spices and condiments. Start by adding 1½ times the specified amount, adding more, only if you require it.To double recipes for cakes, cookies, breads etc. It is essential to double all the ingredient exactly. Also remember to use a larger baking tin \ pan. The baking time will increase a little, but not the baking temperature.

How should you shop?

Do you feel like a fish out of water, when you have to shop for your grocery. I did, when I first started.
I found it easy at that time to roughly plan, my needs for the week and jot down my grocery list accordingly, vegetables, fruits, canned goods, bread etc.
Finally check on basics like salt, flour, dal, masala powder, which we all take for granted.
Be curious about foods and their uses. You will get many exciting ideas and discover interesting foods that you can bring on your table.

Shopping suggestions
Learn how to recognize good quality in fresh foods. Before picking up a “bargain” in fresh fruits, check their condition carefully. Make sure that they are firm to touch and smell fragrant.

  1. Buy spotted or bruised fruits only if you know you can use them soon after purchase so that they will neither spoil nor loose their food VALUE.
  2. Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, as they will be lower in price and better flavoured.
  3. Look for bargains, but keep in mind cheap deals are not always the best and neither are the most expensive. Buy sensibly.
  4. If you buy bulk quantities of food at a lower price, be sure that you have enough space in the kitchen and also make sure that you use up the ingredients you have bought in bulk quantities, before they get spoiled.
  5. Buy brands you trust and those that provide value for money. Look for special deals i.e. free gift, 33.33% more, free samples etc.
  6. By reading foods labels and through observation, study and find out the difference in price quantity and cost.
  7. Keep a pad and pencil in the kitchen. They are your best insurance against forgetting some staple, you may need. Also know how much you need, when you get to the market, stick to the shopping list.

Fridge :

Save market trips, avoid wastage of food by installing a wonderful appliance – A refrigerator
A refrigerator is a boon to any housewife. It cuts down on cooking hours, market trips, avoids wastage of food and last but not the least the housewife gets more time to relax. It is almost a necessity in today’s day.

Installing a refrigerator

  1. Locate your refrigerator away from direct sunlight or from a heat source such as cookers or heating equipment.
  2. If the refrigerator is to be placed on a thick carpet, it should be kept on a stand, ensuring free airflow beneath it.
  3. To check whether the refrigerator is properly level, open the door at 30° angle and leave it. If it moves towards the cabinet and closes without a jerk, the refrigerator is properly levelled.
  4. Always keep the refrigerator at least six inches away from the wall so the heat from the compressor at the rear is easily dispersed.

Precautions to be taken while operating a refrigerator

  1. Do not keep the refrigerator door open for a long time as a rise in temperature leads to extra burden on the compressor.
  2. Do not bang the door while shutting.
  3. Clean the refrigerator condenser coils. Built up dirt and dust will prevent circulating air from extracting heat from the coil.
  4. Defrost the refrigerator regularly to reduce the burden on the compressor. Never try to hasten the defrosting process by chipping off the ice as this may damage the freezer chest. If you have a frost free refrigerator, you need to close it and clean it once every six months or so.
  5. Hot foods should never be placed in a refrigerator. Cool them to room temperature before storing them. Keeping hot foods into the fridge reduces its cooling capacity in the long run.

About refrigerator
General tips on storage of food

  1. To use the space in the fridge to best advantage, wash all vegetables, trim off useless parts, wrap in polythene bags and store in the vegetable tray in the fridge.
  2. When keeping packed foodstuffs in the freezer, label each of them with the name of the foodstuff and the date of storage.
  3. Cheese should never be stored in the fridge without being protected in an air-tight container or wrapped in its original cover or aluminum foil. Otherwise, it develops a hard surface.
  4. Do not overload your refrigerator as overstuffing the refrigerator with foods interferes with air circulation and puts extra stress on the compressor. The storage life of foods is also increased with good air circulation in the refrigerator.
  5. To prevent odours from spreading, make sure that all food is wrapped, covered and bagged in plastic.

Keep a freezer inventory list. This list should give a detailed idea of what is stored in the fridge. This will help you to look out for food and use older items first.

Cleaning of a refrigerator

  1. While cleaning the fridge, do not use strong alkaline solutions like borax.
  2. Do not use harsh abrasive cleaners as they scratch and damage the smooth surface.
  3. Never use soap or detergent to clean the refrigerator. A cloth dipped in lukewarm water should serve well.
  4. The door liner should be cleaned with a small quantity of liquid detergent added to warm water.
  5. Ice trays should never be washed with hot water as this can damage the protective coating on the trays and make the cubes difficult to remove.
  6. Do not remove ice trays stuck in the freezer with a knife. Using sharp instruments can damage the cooling tubes.
  7. When storing leftovers in the refrigerator, use airtight containers.

How to use measuring cups?

Accurate measurements are essential if you want the same good results each time you cook. Use standard measuring cups and spoons.

  1. For dry ingredients like flour and sugar, spoon ingredients lightly into cup, then level with a knife.
  2. For cereal and breadcrumbs, pour into a cup and level with a knife.
  3. For solid fats, spoon into a cup and pack down firmly with a spoon, it’s easier to measure fat at room temperature.

How to measure?
To measure dry ingredients like flour, sugar etc. spoon the ingredient lightly into a cup and then level with a straight edged knife.
For solid fats like butter, spoon into cup and pack down firmly with a spoon.
For ingredients such as shredded cheese, grated coconut chopped nuts, spoon into cup and pack down lightly.

  1. For thin liquids like milk, pour into a spoon until full.
  2. For thick liquids and dry ingredients pour or scoop into a spoon until full and then level with a straight edged spatula or a knife

Measuring spoons (nested)
Sizes: – Spoons used for measuring come in sizes ranging from ¼ teaspoon to 1 tablespoon, i.e. (¼ teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1teaspoon and 1 tablespoon).
Uses: – Spoons are used to measure liquids and dry ingredients.
Nested measuring cups sizes: Cups range in sizes from ¼ cup to 1 cup. i.e. they are available in ¼ ,1/3, ½ and 1 cup sizes. They are used to measure dry ingredients like flour, sugar etc. and solid ingredients like fats like butter.

Measuring Jugs
Uses – They are used to measure liquids. Always read the line on a measuring jug at eye level when checking the volume of liquid. Place the measuring jug on a level surface and slowly pour the liquid into the jug until it reaches the required mark.

Relationship between teaspoon, tablespoon and cups
1 tablespoon (15 ml.) = 3 teaspoons (5 ml. Each)
3 tablespoons = ¼ cup
4 tablespoons + 1teaspoon = 1/3 cup
6 tablespoons = ½ cup
8 tablespoons = 2/3 cup
13 tablespoons = 1 cup

Measuring Liquids
¼ teaspoon = 1.25 ml
½ teaspoon = 2.5 ml
1 teaspoon = 5 ml
1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = 15 ml
¼ cup = 50 ml
1/3 cup = 80 ml
½ cup = 100 ml
¾ cup = 150 ml
1 cup = 200 ml

Deep frying :

How to deep-fry food correctly? or What points should be considered when deep-frying food?

Deep-frying is subjection of food to heat while it is completely immersed in hot fat. The process is very quick as heat penetrates from all the sides. The fat must be hot enough to seal the outside surface of the food being fried. If not, the food will absorb the fat and begin to release its juices into the fat.

A few points to remember about deep-frying.

  1. There must be enough room in the pan to allow the bubbling of fat which takes place when frying.
  2. Never fill the frying pan more than half full.
  3. In case the fat should ever catch fire, keep a metal lid handy to smoother the flames.
  4. Keep a slotted metal spoon ready to lift the food from the fat.
  5. To judge the temperature for frying. The best way is to use a frying thermometer but the next best is generally what is used most of the time. When you think the fat has reached the right temperature drop a cube of bread on a small piece of dough. If the bread turns evenly golden and comes on the surface, the fat is ready.
  6. If the fat is not too hot enough, the food will sink and will be greasy when lifted out. If it is too hot, it will brown before it is cooked inside. Never allow the fat to smoke, as it not only spoils the fat for re-use but also overburns the food and makes a hard crust.
  7. Fry the items a few at a time.There should be enough space for the food to fry comfortably without touching each other. Also adding too many items for frying, lowers the temperature of fat.
  8. Drop the food, one at a time gently into the fat, to avoid splashing. In case, you are apprehensive in the beginning, place the food to be fried over a slotted spoon and gently immerse the spoon into the fat along with the food and remove it, leaving the food behind.
  9. After one batch of food has been fried, increase the temperature for a few seconds after adding the second lot. Skim out bits of food crumbs while the oil is being heated.
  10. When you lift the food out of the fat, place it on a newspaper or tissue paper, to drain out excess fat.
  11. Butter or margarine are not suitable for deep frying, since they smoke very fast. Oil and vanaspati are the best.
  12. After you have finished frying, cool the oil and strain it through a metal sieve and keep aside.
  13. Do not use the same oil to fry more than twice.

How to keep kitchen clean?

  1. Keep the counters, appliances, utensils and dishes absolutely clean with the help of soap and water.
  2. Discard the unnecessary items from the refrigerator, as overcrowding the refrigerator will put unnecessary stress on the compressor and prevent air circulation.
  3. Arrange the utensils and food products in a pleasing accessible way.
  4. Wash the chopping boards with a mixture of liquid detergent and water. Scrub properly to remove the stubborn stains. Rinse, pat dry and put it in an appropriate place.
  5. Keep pets out of the kitchen. Be sure to wash hands after playing with pets and before handling the food.
  6. Wash kitchen linen e.g. towels and cloths because bacteria can stay in towels and clothes which are used over and over.
  7. Clean up as you cook. It makes less work at the end. After you finish using a utensil, put it in warm soapy water to soak. Wash sharp knives separately and be careful of the sharp blades.
  8. Wash and dry all the utensils you have used and put them away. Wash the counters and leave the kitchen neat and clean.
  9. Check the range, oven and any other appliances to make sure that you have turned them off. Put away any appliances such as a hand mixer that you have used.
  10. Rub the countertop stains such as mustard, tea, oil or fruit juice with baking soda and a damp cloth or sponge. If the stain persists, wipe it with a cloth moistened with a little chorine bleach.
  11. Keep a garbage pail in the corner of the kitchen to prevent odours. Line the pail with a plastic bag and collect the garbage in it. Discard the bag after you have finished cooking.

Emergency substitutes :
Instead of 10 gms fresh yeast,
Use 5 gms dried yeast dissolved in lukewarm water.
Instead of 1 teaspoon baking powder,
Use 1 teaspoon baking soda plus ½ teaspoon cream of tartar.
Instead of 1 cup self-raising flour,
Use 1 cup plain flour (maida) plus ½ teaspoon baking powder.
Instead of 1 tablespoon cornflour,
Use 1 heaped tablespoon arrowroot.
Instead of 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped (for example parsely, basil etc.)
Use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.
Instead of 1 cup salad oil,
Use 1 cup refined oil.
Instead of 1 cup desiccated coconut,
Use 1 whole fresh coconut, grated.
Instead of 1 tablespoon parsley,
Use 1 tablespoon fresh coriander.
Instead of 1 cup sour cream,
Use 1 cup cream plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 2
tablespoons thick curds

How to follow correct recipes?

To get perfect results every time you cook, follow these simple rules

  1. Check out for the preparation time, which is mentioned on top of the recipe. Please do not lose heart if you find it takes longer than the time given. After you have made the dish once, you will find the preparation much speedier on subsequent occasions.
  2. Check out for the cooking times also. The size of containers, individual cookers or the ripeness or tenderness of the foods being used can cause a slight variation. So do not be worried, if there is some difference in the cooking time.
  3. Read the recipe carefully. If you cannot follow any terms mentioned in the recipe, look through the glossary.
  4. Weigh or measure the ingredients accurately to get perfect results.
  5. Read the ingredients carefully and check to see whether you have all the ingredients ready with you in the kitchen.
  6. The first time you try a recipe, follow the directions exactly. You can alter the recipe once you are confident in the kitchen.
  7. Read the instructions carefully as sometimes marinating the food is required to be done 2 to 3 hours before hand. Time yourself accordingly in the kitchen.

All about Microwaves :

The microwaves generated by the magnetron are distributed uniformly as the food rotates on the glass plate. The food is thus cooked evenly.

The microwaves are absorbed by the food up to a depth of about 25 mm. (1″). Cooking then continues as the heat is distributed within the food.

Cooking times vary according to the following properties of the food :

Quantity and density

Water Content

Initial temperature (refrigerated or not)

As the centre of the food is cooked by heat distribution, cooking continues even when you have taken the food out of the oven. Standing times specified in recipes must therefore be respected to ensure both even cooking of the food right to the centre as also achieving the same temperature throughout the food.

Microwave cooking isn’t really so different from traditional cooking and the factors that affect the cooking time for conventional methods of cooking also apply here. However, the following factors need to be borne in mind.

Microwave cooking time is greatly affected by the QUANTITY of food cooked. This means that the cooking time increases if any ingredient is added to the recipe.

The SIZE of the pieces of food also affects the cooking time. Small cubes of potato cook more quickly and evenly than large ones. Also, thinner slices cook faster than thick ones.

Appropriate ARRANGEMENT of food in your microwave can help the food cook better. Arrangement with thicker, slower cooking pieces towards the outside edge usually works best. The food in the centre is generally the last to cook.

Using the proper UTENSIL makes a difference too. Food tends to cook more evenly in round dishes than others, and food spread out in a shallow dish will cook faster than the same food placed in a narrow deep dish.

To cook food in the microwave oven, the microwaves must be able to penetrate the food, without being reflected or absorbed by the dish used

Care must therefore be taken when choosing the cookware. If the cookware is marked microwave-safe, you do not need to worry.

The following table lists various types of cookware and indicates whether and how they should be used in a microwave oven. To test if your glass / china / earthenware / plastic ware is microwavable, place it in a microwave oven filled with a cup of cold tap water. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. If the water is warm and the container is cool, the container may be used.

Aluminum foil Avoid
Can be used with care in small quantities to protect areas against overcooking. Sparks can occur if the foil is too close to the oven wall or if too much foil is used
China and earthenware Porcelain, pottery, glazed earthenware and bone china are usually suitable, unless decorated with a metal trim

Covering a container in which food is cooked helps to hold the steam, keeps the food moist, distributes the heat more evenly and contains splatters and spillage.

Here are a few handy hints to help you choose the best cover for your container.

Close fitting lids of microwave-safe material may be used

Plastic wraps though more versatile may melt if they touch hot food. Hence always ensure that the plastic wrap you are using is microwave-safe

When you want retain a minimal amount steam in the dish, cover the food loosely with wax paper or damp cloth

A paper napkin when used as a cover absorbs the grease or excess moisture.

Rice and dals are cooked uncovered to prevent spillage of water due to boiling over.

Do not use air-tight or vacuum-sealed bottles, jars or containers as microwaving might cause increase of pressure inside them and in turn may cause them to explode.

Some recipes call for standing / resting time to complete cooking and to allow the heat to distribute evenly throughout the food. For this, you may place the container without removing the lid on a flat surface or simply leave it in the microwave with the power off. It is easy to overcook foods in a microwave oven, so if the food seems nearly done, let it complete its resting time and then check for doneness. If it is still undercooked, you may microwave it further.

Doubling or halving a microwave recipe requires careful consideration

To double a recipe, you would have to increase the liquid content by 50% only and not double it as evaporation is slower. The cooking time also increases, so it is advisable to start with 50% more time

When you halve a recipe, keep the same sized dish but reduce the cooking time by half and then increase it as required.

Always keep your microwave oven clean and handle it gently. Do not bang the microwave doors when shutting them.

Do not cover the ventilation slots with cloth or paper. The cloth or paper may catch fire as hot air is evacuated from the oven.

Never operate the oven when empty to avoid damage to the oven walls.

Do not use metal containers, non-microwaveable plastic containers, chinaware with metal rims and recycled paper. Details given in section on Microwave cookware.

For quick microwave clean-up, heat about 1/2 cup of water to boiling point. The steam will help any spills or stains to come off more easily.

If your microwave is damaged in some way and there is leakage of the microwaves, stop using it immediately and have it checked by a professional microwave serviceman.

Given below are some handy tips and quick fixes that will make your daily cooking less of a chore.

Dried Mint : Just place one cup of fresh mint leaves in a glass dish and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Remove and crush them lightly.

Popcorn : Just place half or cup of popping corn in a glass dish covered with a lid and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes with 2 tablespoons of butter and salt.

Roasting : Half a cup of cashewnuts or almonds when microwaved on HIGH for 1 minute and 30 seconds make crisper nuts. Papads and spices can be roasted by microwaving for only a minute.

Blanching Almonds : Just combine ½ cup of almonds with a quarter cup of water and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Allow to stand for 2 minutes, drain and then peel the skins.

Zero Fat Potato Wafers : Slice the potatoes thinly, soak them in ice cold water for about 10 to 15 minutes, drain and pat dry on an absorbent cloth and microwave on HIGH in a flat plate for 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp. Salt and spices may be sprinkled over later.

Speed up! Optimize your time !

  1. Choose ingredients like paneer, sweet corn kernels, bean sprouts etc. when you are in a hurry as these require less time to cook. Also use faster cooking methods like stir- frying as compared to boiling and baking
  2. Remember to cut the vegetables into small pieces to enable them to cook faster
  3. It is always handy to keep the following things in your refrigerator.
    1. Boiled Vegetables: These can be used to rustle up delicious subzis in minutes.
    2. Boiled Potatoes: Potatoes are very versatile and can be used in lots of recipes
    3. Pastes: Onion paste, garlic paste, ginger paste, green chilli paste etc. last for a long time and can be used as required
    4. Gravies : Like kadai gravy and green gravy should be made in bulk and frozen. These last for upto two months and are very handy and help optimize on time
  4. It is also a good idea to rely on ready made pastes if you are too pressed for time
  5. Innovative recycling of left-overs not only saves your time but also gives a variety to your meals. Try and make an idli burger or a chapati frankie.
  6. One usually wastes more time in planning a meal as compared to actually cooking it. It is always a good idea to make a list of things you would like to make when in a hurry and make sure you stock all the ingredients required.
  7. Innovative use of ready food mixes helps to shorten an elaborate recipe. Here are a few tips
    1. Make a sponge cake using a cake mix and then decorate it with different kinds of icing. Your mouth- watering gateau is ready
    2. Gulab jamuns and rasgullas can be made using the mixes. They can then be converted into various desserts like malai koftas, rasmalais, meva batis etc.


Ever wondered about the components of your food that would provide you with good health? Well, here is some information that will not only help you know your nutrients but also tell you where to get its daily dose.

What’s the nutrient? Why do I need it? Where do I find it?
Carbohydrates Considered to be “energy providers”. Provide fuel for the functioning of each and every cell. Vital organs (heart and brain) function due to the energy they provide. All cereals e.g. wheat, rice, bajra, millets, sugar, jaggery, honey, root vegetables like potatoes, yam, sweet potatoes.
Proteins Considered as the “building blocks of life”. Amino acids join to make up your hair, nails and muscles. Building of new cells and tissues make use of proteins as raw material. Repair of tissues that are worn out. All the fluids of the body i.e. blood, hormones, milk, enzymes, mucus and sperms are made of proteins. Antibodies, the soldiers that fight infections are protein based. When energy required is more, the body proteins are broken down, though it is not a preferred source. Non-vegetarian foods like meat, fish, and eggs. Vegetarian foods like cereals and pulses especially soya bean, milk and milk products and nuts
Fat Normal growth and development require fatty acids to be present in the diet. It can also be used as a source of energy. Source of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Both vegetable and animal foods will help you meet the requirement of fat. Vegetable sources: Sunflower oil, safflower oil, groundnut oil, and coconut oil, nuts and oilseeds.Animal sources: Butter and ghee.

Vitamins And Minerals

They are required in small quantities but play a big role in determining the health of an individual. Hidden within the foods you eat, they go on with their task of keeping one free from disease. Revealed here are the secrets present in food for a healthy life.


What’s the nutrient? Why do I need it? Where do I find it?
Vitamin A For proper eyesight. Keeps the mucus membranes healthy. Provides resistance to infections. Yellow –orange coloured fruits (papaya, mango) and vegetables (carrots, pumpkins), green leafy vegetables, fish liver oil, liver, whole milk products (yogurt, cream, butter, and ghee).
Vitamin D To provide health and strength to the bones and teeth. For the uptake of calcium from the diet. Exposure to sunlight activates a form of vitamin D lying beneath the skin.Foods fortified with vitamin D like milk and butter.
Vitamin E Works as an antioxidant to protect the cells from free radical damage. Required for normal reproductive growth. Nuts like almonds, egg yolk, wheat germ, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin K It is required for normal blood clotting. It controls bleeding and hemorrhage. Green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, cheese and egg yolk.
Vitamin B 1
Metabolism of carbohydrates to release energy. Needed for proper functioning of nervous system. Grains like rice, whole wheat. Also made by the bacteria in the intestines.
Vitamin B 2 (Riboflavin) Required by the cells to release energy. Determines health of eyes and their sensitivity to light. Deficiency causes fissures to occur at corner of mouth, nose and ears. Yeast, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, peas, milk and milk products, organ meats and eggs.
Vitamin B 3 (Niacin) Deficiency causes skin disorders, problems of the nervous system, depression, diarrhea and in severe cases death. Whole grains, legumes, peas, nuts, meat, fish, poultry and milk.
Vitamin B 6 (Pyridoxine) Essential for maintaining the normal hormone levels. Important for the development of the nervous system. Involved in metabolizing fat and carbohydrate in the body. Milk, egg yolk.
Vitamin B 12 Raw material used to make red blood cells that are carriers of oxygen to the body. Liver and kidney are the best sources besides milk, eggs, meat, cheese, yeast and seafood.
Vitamin C Needed to heal wounds and repair tissues. Protects against infections. Richest source is amla followed by citrus fruits like oranges, sweet lime.
Folic Acid They are essential components needed to make red blood cells. Deficiency leads to anemia that is life threatening. Functions as a co-enzyme within the body Green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, fruits, yeasts, non-vegetarian foods.
Biotin Required to mmetabolise carbohydrates and fat. Liver, kidney, egg yolk and most vegetables.


What’s the nutrient? Why do I need it? Where do I find it?
Calcium Formation of strong bones and teeth. Muscle contraction. Proper functioning of nervous system. Regulates functioning of the heart. Helps in clotting of blood. Milk and milk products, sesame seeds, garden cress seeds, pulses like soya bean, cereals like ragi.
Phosphorous Required for developing bones and teeth. For cell functioning. Regulates acid base balance in the body. Milk, cheese, egg yolk, meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
Iron Part of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all the cells of the body. Needed for improving the immunity as well as cognitive (Intelligence and memory) performance. Organ meats, green leafy vegetables, dried dates.
Sodium and Potassium Essential to maintain the balance of body water. Regulates muscle contractions and sending messages through the nervous system. Maintenance of normal acid- base balance. Maintenance of normal muscular function. Common salt is the common source for sodium. Besides all cereals, pulses, vegetables and fruits provide it provide both sodium and potassium.
Iodine Required for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland that produces thyroid hormones. Controls the metabolic rate of the body. Affects the growth rate. Affects neuromuscular function. Influences reproductive functions. Common salt, sea food, foods grown on iodine rich soil.
Zinc Needed for skin integrity and immunity. Part of many enzymes and insulin. Milk, liver, shellfish, wheat bran.
Selenium Associated with fat metabolism. Works as an antioxidant along with vitamin E. Grains, meat, milk, and vegetables like onion.
Magnesium Needed for protein synthesis. Plays a role in nerve functioning. Needed for enzymes to work. Calcium is needed for muscle contraction whereas magnesium is needed for relaxation. Hence, both are important for heart muscle functioning. Nuts, legumes, whole cereal grain and dark green vegetables.
Chromium Required for normal glucose metabolism. Corn oil, Whole grain, cereals and meats.
Manganese Activator of enzymes Beet greens, berries, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, tea.
Copper Cardiovascular and skeletal integrity Central nervous system structure and function. Hair keratinization and pigmentation. Liver, shellfish, whole grains, cherries, legumes, chicken, oysters, chocolates, nuts.

Introduction To Champagne

Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of wine to effect carbonation. It is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, from which it takes its name. While the term “champagne” is used by some makers of sparkling wine in other parts of the world, numerous countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the Champagne appellation.

Health Benefits

A recent research finding states that moderate consumptions of Champagne may help the brain cope with the trauma of stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The research noted that the high amount of the antioxidant polyphenols in sparkling wine can help prevent deterioration of brain cells due to oxidative stress.  The report also noted that it was too early to conclusively say that drinking Champagne is beneficial to brain health.

Procedure Of Making Champagne

Méthode Champenoise is the traditional method by which Champagne (and some sparkling wine) is produced. After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast and several grams of rock sugar.  A minimum of one and a half years is required for the flavour to develope. For years where the harvest is exceptional, a millesimé is declared which means that the champagne will be very good and has to mature for at least three years. During this time the champagne bottle is sealed with a crown cap similar to that used on beer bottles.

After ageing, the bottle is manipulated, either manually or mechanically, in a process called remuage (riddling, in English), so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in solution. Some syrup is added to maintain the level within the bottle.

How To Open Champagne Bottle

• While opening a champagne bottle your primary goal is to control the cork and, of course, not to let much of the drink spill.

• Every bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine (with a few low-end exceptions) has foil wrapped around the outside of the cage.  You just remove this foil.

• From this point onward, keep the cork pointed in a safe direction, and keep one thumb on it just in case. Undo the wire cage. This cage ensures that the cork does not pop out of the bottle until you are ready to have it do so. Loosen it gently, being sure to keep a thumb on the cork to prevent unexpected surprises.

• Hold the cork in one hand (usually under a towel, if you have one) and the base of the bottle in the other. Turn the bottle, not the cork, slowly and gently. You want the cork to ease off with a soft “woof”, not with a pop.

• Once the cork has been eased off, and you have managed to save the bubbles and air from being lost and quickly pour it out. Slide the towel around to the neck of the bottle for pouring. Pour down the sides of the glasses to minimize head and therefore bubble waste.

• The glasses are poured! Raise them, and give a toast to celebrate! Champagne is good for almost any occasion – don’t put it off!

Important Note: Never use a corkscrew on a bottle of Champagne! The bottle is under strong pressure and could explode.

Some Premium Champagnes

• Cristal
Cristal is the brand name of a well-known champagne produced by Louis  Roederer.
• Grand Siècle
Grand Siècle is the brand name of well-known champagne produced by Laurent-
• Dom Pérignon
Dom Pérignon is the brand name of well-known champagne produced by Moët &
• Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill
Cuvée Sir Winston Churchil is the brand name of well-known champagne
produced by Pol Roger
Champagne Based Cocktail

1 shot gin
½ shot lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar

Shake the gin, lime juice and sugar with ice cubes. Strain and pour into a Champagne flute. Pour Champagne on top and garnish with a lemon twist.  Serve immediately.


Change the look
If you have a kitchen that has been squeezed into a window less corner of an open-plan room, then this kitchen needs a colourful makeover that will brighten it up and improve the view from the living and dining area. This kitchen also calls for you to shell out some expense. If there is a budget that you need to follow, take home these easy tips.

In a room with yellow walls the sun never stops shining, so it’s an obvious choice to cheer up a dark space. Team it with mint and pistachio green, which give a fashionable 1950s retro feel. Accessories in yellow and silvery metallics keep the look smart and simple, while you can choose to go for wood flooring to add a more retro touch.

The original units could be of any colour, but if they look too utilitarian, let us change them to make the kitchen a multipurpose room. Colour gives it a more dressy look; mint –green paint transforms the doors and drawers, and long curved metal handles add a stylish finishing touch. New laminate worktops in pistachio green complete the colour show. Go for a white fridge.

Most kitchens do not have a splash back. This little protection at the stove prevents damage to the wall and can also help you to save money! How? Removing old wall tiles is a horrid job, and replacing them can be pricey. But doesn’t mean you have to live with them. Painting is an option, but even easier is covering them with another material. It is a good idea to have the splash back covered with sheets of yellow laminate, glued onto the existing tiles.

Most modern kitchens do have a microwave.  If you have a small household, a hob and a microwave may meet all your cooking needs. Building in microwave beneath the worktop gives a streamlined look, but make sure you allow for ventilation.


1. Aluminum pans are relatively easy to clean. Scrub with a mild abrasive cleanser. If the pan has darkened, fill it with water and vinegar or lemon juice and boil for fifteen minutes.

2. Cast iron pans need to be cleaned carefully in boiling water using paper towels or a soft cloth (without soap). Use a nylon pad to scrub off any food. Dry thoroughly after each use to prevent rusting. Wiping with oiled paper helps.

3. To rescue burnt pans spread some washing powder over the burnt surface of the pan. Add some water and simmer for ten minutes. Pour the contents away and scrub.

4. Enameled cast iron should not be scoured. If food sticks, soak it in warm water and then use a plastic pad to loosen.

5. Copper pans should be washed in hot, soapy water with a soft cloth and dried immediately. These pans need relining occasionally. Reline if you see copper through the lining. Copper tarnishes quickly so the outside needs to be polished regularly. Clean by rubbing with a cut lemon dipped in salt.

6. Stainless steel pans are easy to clean, as it does not scratch when scoured. Wash in hot, soapy water with a nylon pad. Polish the outside with newspaper for extra shine.

7. Glass and porcelain are easy to clean. To remove grease soak in hot soapy water.

8. Pans with nonstick finishes must be cleaned using a soapy sponge.


A pressure cooker is a great friend and time saver. Let us hold it in high reverence and look after it well so that it gives us trouble free service.

Washing up in the ordinary way is all that is required for the base and inserts of a pressure cooker. Soaps and detergents are suitable. If using an aluminum pressure cooker, washing soda should not be used as it has harmful effects on aluminum. Should the inside of the base or the containers become discoloured, steel wool is recommended. The cover requires a little extra care. After each use, the steam vent should be examined, to make certain that it is not blocked. If it is blocked, running water or a skewer will clear it immediately.

It should seldom be necessary to remove the gasket. If it is obvious that food has boiled over it or into the rim of the cover, then it should be washed in warm soapy water, the rim wiped and the gasket replaced, with as little handling as possible.

Neither the cover nor the base should be left standing in the water. This will spoil their fine, high polish.

The rubber like gasket may shrink slightly after a considerable time, so it is a good idea to stretch it gently while it is cold. If, in time, the steam starts to escape from under the lid, it means that the gasket needs replacing. This along with the other spare parts can be obtained direct from the manufacturer if you cannot find them at a local shop.

Store the pressure cooker with its lid upside down on the base. This way there is no stress on the gasket and all the parts will be well ventilated. If the weight is separate from the lid, make sure that it is kept somewhere where it cannot be damaged.

Although microwave ovens have been around and in use for many years now, a certain amount of confusion still prevails specially on their workings and their maintenance.  Microwave oven is an equipment like any other that needs to be maintained properly so that it can be used for long.

• Like for all electrical gadgets, it should be unplugged before being cleaned. This is a safety precaution, which should not be overlooked. If for some reason you are unable to unplug, keep the oven door open, which will prevent an accidental starting of the oven.

• Since the walls, base and ceiling of a microwave oven stay comparatively cool during cooking, this equipment is very easy to clean. You can wipe both the exterior and the interior of the oven with a soapy cloth, taking care that no water drips through the vents into the electrical workings of the oven.

• To make your own cleaning and deodorizing agent, place a bowl containing three parts of water to one part of lemon juice in the oven cavity and cook on full power for five to ten minutes. Wipe the surfaces dry with a clean cloth.

• The door seals should be free from dust, grease and general food debris so regular cleaning is a must. Check latches and hinges, too, to ensure they are in good working order.  If ever there is a doubt that there is damage anywhere, do not use the oven and call in a reputable service engineer at once.

• The turntable and rotating ring can be removed and hand washed. Use non-abrasive cleaners and scrubbers. Once they are clean, rinse well and dry with a soft cloth and then put them back.

• Microwaves can pass through most materials, such as china, glass, plastic and paper but cannot pass through metal or foil containers since they are reflected by it causing sparks. This could damage the oven.  Therefore do not use metal or foil but invest in a range of microwave cooking equipment.  They are easily available and not too expensive.

• Do not use baking dishes that are too large to allow the turntable to rotate freely for this can cause the motor to overheat or cause dents in the oven sides and door thus lowering efficiency and affecting safety of operation.


Freezing preserves food because it arrests bacterial activity and thus prevents any further deterioration. But it does not destroy bacteria. When the food emerges from your freezer months, or even a year later, and again reaches room temperature the dormant bacteria will re-awaken and multiply. It is, therefore, particularly important to freeze only the freshest of foods, in perfect condition and to handle it for packaging with great attention to hygiene and cleanliness.

Ideally, all seafood is best eaten fresh. However, you can freeze it when it is very fresh. If you are buying from the fishmonger, make sure the fish has not already been frozen and thawed. Clearly label and date of freezing. Do not defrost frozen seafood at room temperature. Let it thaw in the fridge. Some seafood, such as fish fillets or prawns, can be cooked while still frozen. Avoid refreezing seafood as this alters the flavour and texture and can lead to spoilage.

Storing fish, fillets and cutlets:
Scale, clean and gut fish. Rinse under cold water, pat dry with a paper towel, and then freeze in an airtight bag.
Fillets and cutlets could be frozen in bags in smaller portions for upto three months. If the portions are awkward in shape, mould each one in foil, freeze the foil packets, and then pack altogether in a large polythene container.

Do not peel. Place in a plastic container and cover with water – this forms a large ice block, which insulates the prawns and prevents freezer burns. Freeze up to three months. When required, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Another way of freezing prawns is to put them into salted boiling water for two to three minutes. Drain and immediately dip in cold water and shell. Pack into polyethylene bags or boxes leaving one-inch headspace, seal, label and freeze.

Crayfish, lobsters and crabs:
For ease of handling, wrap these in foil, then place in an airtight freezer bag before freezing. Octopus and squid should be gutted before freezing and can be frozen for up to three months. Oysters should not be frozen, as the flavour will alter.

Freezing cooked fish:
Cooked fish is better frozen in prepared sauce to prevent it from becoming dried out. Do not overcook or it will tend to break up when defrosted and reheated.
Thin fish fillets, which have been coated with egg and breadcrumbs ready for frying, can be packed uncooked. Use foil separators. When all the fillets are coated, bring two opposite ends of the sheet of foil together, fold over and turn in the ends, press firmly so that the foil is sealed. Label clearly and freeze. Preparing items like this before freezing means that you always have a supply of food available in the freezer for use when you are in a hurry or when unexpected guests call. As each fillet is separated by a foil divider, it is easy to remove the number required, returning those left to the freezer in the foil pack.


Most people dislike washing up more than any other household chore, this is usually because they do not set about in a methodical way and have no idea how simple it can be if it is attacked systematically.

There are five processes, which make up the washing method, preparation, washing, rinsing, draining and drying-in that order.

The most essential requirement for washing up is a constant supply of hot water, this should be as hot as the hand can bear for the actual washing and very hot indeed for the rinsing, so that as well as sterilizing the articles the heat can help to dry them.

The various agents used for washing up are largely a matter of personal choice. Synthetic detergents are perhaps better for this than soap because of their greater grease removing properties. Mops, cloths, scrapers, sponges and other means for removing particles of food from the articles being washed are all useful. Those made from plastic or nylon are best as they have a long life and do not get greasy or slimy easily.

Food should be scraped off plates, dishes and pans and very stubborn particles should be put to soak in lukewarm water. Cups, glasses and teapots should be emptied and should be given an initial rinse in cold water. Washing, rinsing and draining are continuous operations, the temperatures of the wash and rinse waters should be maintained throughout and both waters should be changed if they become dirty. The articles should be washed and then transferred immediately to the rinse water, and then put straight onto the draining board or into a drainer. The order in which the articles are to be washed is important: glasses, cutlery, crockery and finally pots and pans and other utensils, which have been used in the cooking operations.

If the rinse water is really hot, as it should be, then most articles will be dry in a minute or so and will need only a final polish with a clean soft cloth or a kitchen paper before they are put away.


The purpose of a kitchen ventilation system is to completely remove the cooking contaminants of heat, steam, grease, smoke, odours and hazardous gases, before they have a chance to mix with the air in the rest of the home. While you cook, do you smell cooking odours in your home? How about the next day – can you still smell dinner from last night?  If so, your ventilation system is not working as well as it should. Good ventilation all year round is important. The various processes, which are carried out in the kitchen invariably, produce condensation, and although modern semi porous surfaces cut this down considerably, something further is still needed.

Windows alone are not enough, because people shut them sometimes. An exhaust fan in the room gives a chance for the odours to escape, but where no such appliance exists some form of extraction is necessary. Without it, cooking contaminants will float freely about the home and sticky grease will settle on surfaces, making them difficult to clean. Grease will also settle into draperies, furniture and carpeting, creating a permanent odour in your home.

A kitchen exhaust fan is definitely a good investment if a lot of frying is done. But an exhaust fan located far away from the cooking area (as often is the case) serves little purpose. Ideally it must be located right above the gas or the cooking range to allow the cooking fumes and odours to exit.

Electric chimneys now available are a more efficient system of clearing kitchen fumes as these are fitted just two feet above the gas range. It sucks up fumes straight from the source and throws them out via a pipe outlet. Expensive but worth it!


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    3 Responses to “Beginners guide to cooking”

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    very good very help full to all of us whether Beginners or not

    gr8 tips

    I love this… you have elaborated on the real basics of cooking and made some things clear to people the seem obvious but aren’t. 🙂

    Do you think there’s a difference between cooking by men and women? I have written a small article for men, do you agree with these basics?

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