I have a friend that often tells me he can’t cook. The way I see it, if you can read you can cook. The instructions are right there in the recipe!
There will be times when things go wrong. Pasta will boil dry. The base of your pizza will singe to a crisp because you thought it’d be OK to just put it on the bottom of the oven (ahem).
But aside from the odd mishap there’s nothing better than a home-cooked meal so it’s good to learn a few go-to recipes. Here’s 12 classic recipes from around the web that we should all know how to cook.
12 basic recipes to master
Whip up an omelette
Eggs are not my forte. Poached egg? No idea how you do that. Even frying an egg makes me nervous as it always sticks. But eggs are a great option for dinner because they’re so quick to cook. Add some vegetables to an omelette and you’ve got yourself a meal.
Here’s an easy omelette recipe to get you started. A few suggestions for things you can add include onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and ham. Mix it up. Go mad, add everything.
Oh and don’t forget that adding a tiny bit of baking soda to your omelette can make it extra fluffy.
Simple pasta sauce
I won’t lie. I’m not a fan of tomato pasta sauce. My mother, as an Italian and perfect-er of said sauce, will never know.
But this isn’t about me. This is about you.
So, here’s a simple recipe for those days when pasta and tomato sauce is what you crave most. Only seven ingredients are involved and although that sounds like a lot, some of them are just things like olive oil, chopped tomatoes and garlic. Basically chuck it all in a pan and wait for your tomato pasta sauce dreams to come true.
If pasta bake is more your kind of thing, then you can follow the same process and then pop it in the oven. Here’s a tomato pasta bake recipe that’s similar to the above sauce, so you can get an idea of cooking times.
Hearty chilli con carne
I like chilli because you can customise it. Add sour cream, guacamole, salsa and some tortilla chips. Have it with rice, garlic bread, tortilla wraps, or baked potato. The options are endless.
It’s easy to do and if you’ve got spices in your cupboard, you’ve probably already got the basics to make chilli seasoning. The good thing is you can control what goes in, so if you’re not a fan of something just skip it. It’s all good.
Here are some chilli seasoning basics:
- Chilli powder
- Ground cumin
or follow this chilli seasoning recipe.
Here’s an easy chilli recipe to follow (including seasoning). If you want it to be meat-free, you can swap the meat for vegetables like sweet potato, peppers, courgette and add extra beans or lentils.
Tasty roasted veg with chicken and chorizo
If you’ve never had a tray of roast vegetables for dinner you’re missing out. My mum made a tray bake using chicken, chorizo and vegetables when I was visiting home and I was sceptical at first but it was very tasty.
- sweet potato
- red peppers
To make it she:
- chopped everything up into chunks
- put it all in a tray
- drizzled with olive oil
- seasoned with salt and pepper (with a sprinkling of paprika)
- and popped it in the oven until the chicken was cooked and the veg was roasted
- added sour cream and rice when it was served (not an essential but I wouldn’t turn it down)
It’s healthy and a good way to use up vegetables. Here’s a guide to roasting vegetables, so you can mix it up and have whatever takes your fancy. When I made this the other day I used, sweet potato, onion, tomatoes, garlic and carrot with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. So tasty!
Stew is very hearty, especially when you add dumplings or crusty bread. The good thing about stew is you can use cheap root vegetables. Some supermarkets even do a stew pack for about £1, as James wrote about in our frugal recipes post.
To make stew you chop everything into chunks, add some stock and put it in a pot to cook. Simple! Here’s a beef stew recipe.
Need the dumplings? I feel you. Here’s a more complex stew recipe AND a recipe for dumplings.
Perfect baked potatoes
Baked potatoes are easy to make and you can have anything with them. Here’s a guide to making the ultimate baked potato.
If you don’t have time to pop one in the oven for an hour or so, microwave it first and then finish it off in the oven so you still get the nice crispy skin.
Before you pop it in the oven, spike it with a fork, drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkling of salt.
I like to make a criss-cross on the top in the centre too, I’m not sure why. I just like seeing the skin go all crispy.
Serve it with some butter and as for toppings, use whatever you want:
- Beans and cheese
Tasty mac n cheese
When this recipe declared itself as ‘best-ever mac n cheese’, it was not lying. I once found myself in a constant loop of making it or craving it because it was so tasty. It uses vegetarian cheddar but I just use the normal stuff.
The best thing about this recipe is the bread on the top. It takes it up a notch to a carb on carb level. If you’ve got a baguette lying around then definitely break it up and add it to the top of the dish while cooking. Or you could use crunched up ready salted crisps as an alternative. A perfect comfort food!
I know. I know that rice isn’t a meal by itself. However, it’s a great side dish to many meals – provided you don’t cook it into a disgusting gloop. So it’s good to know how to cook it. Jamie Oliver has a video guide to making the perfect rice. Perfect it and go forth and add it to your meals.
The good news is, once you’ve perfected rice you can whip up any left over vegetables and meat into a fried rice dish. Here’s an egg fried rice recipe to get you started.
Healthy stir fry
Stir fry is quick and healthy. You can use:
- Meat of your choice (thinly sliced) or veggie alternative
- Carrots (grated)
- Beansprouts – a cheap way to bulk it up if you’re on a budget
- Spinach (just add it in it’ll wilt away into nothing)
- Rice or noodles
Here’s a stir fry recipe that includes a simple sauce too.
Here’s a little tip. When I make stir fry with rice I:
- boil the rice until it’s just about cooked
- add it to a frying pan with some hot oil
- add sweet chili dipping sauce and soy sauce to the rice (add this to taste however try to add an equal ratio of each)
- fry, mix it together and serve it with the rest of the meal.
If you like ginger, consider buying a small fresh piece, grating it up and adding it during the cooking process.
If you look up ‘Bolognese’ online you’ll find overwhelming recipes involving celery, wine, fresh tomatoes and bay leaves. This isn’t overly necessary. I’m guessing those extras just make it super delicious or something.
Truth is you can make a simple Bolognese with a few basic ingredients and it’ll still be edible.
Here’s one of the more simple Bolognese recipes I could find online.
Want a top tip? Cook the bolognese sauce for a few hours to make it extra tasty. I use passata too – to make it extra tomatoey!
The good thing about learning how to make a simple Bolognese sauce is that you’re already halfway to making a lasagne. All you need now is the white sauce and pasta sheets.
If we’re going for the proper name, it’s béchamel sauce. I’ve only made it once when I decided to cook a walnut lasagne (don’t ask) and I have to say it was very simple and much better than the usual pre-made stuff I get.
You only need butter, milk and flour. Here’s a video guide to making simple béchamel sauce.
I make the red sauce first (Bolognese), then the white sauce, so the red has longer to cook. Then, in a lasagne dish, add a layer of red sauce, pasta sheets, white sauce and repeat.
Here’s a basic lasagne recipe. It recommends you use a stock cube and wine but again, I don’t think this is necessary. And yes you could make one of the more complex Bolognese sauce recipes however if you want something cheap and simple the one above will work just fine.
Store cupboard chickpea curry
My flatmate made chickpea curry to use up some bulky canned ingredients we had. It sounded so simple I doubted it. I was wrong. It was basically chickpea and chopped tomatoes with spices but it was so tasty!
I’ve scoured the web and found a similar recipe and found this easy chickpea curry. It’s a great store cupboard recipe that’s healthy and simple. Of course, if you want to bulk it out you can add meat or other vegetables.
There you have it. 12 simple recipes to make from scratch. Not knowing how to cook is no longer an excuse. There were times at university when I thought it was acceptable to have a yorkshire pudding and gravy for dinner. Now that I can cook, those days are no more. OK, well sometimes I’m still guilty of doing that but what can I say? It’s delicious.
Anyway, the good thing about a lot of these recipes is that you can bulk make them and freeze any leftovers. If you’re going to do that, here’s a guide to freezing food with tips on how to defrost too.
Do you have any simple recipes to share? Let us know in the comments below.