In these strange times during lockdown that we currently find ourselves, let us take the time to do some home cooking. The benefits of home cooking are incredible, family mealtimes with everyone together around the table have been shown to reduce depression, we are likely to be healthier and happier and children will be less likely to try drugs and alcohol. People who regularly eat home-cooked meals tend to consume less sugar and salt and to be in general, healthier and happier. Eating less sugar and processed food can increase energy levels and even lead to a longer life. Buy ingredients from a local farm shop, even better grow some of your own and we will improve the environment reducing packaging and transportation, therefore, reducing our carbon footprint.

The kitchen is the heart of the home, we all congregate as a family and chat about our day and catch up on news. There is no better sense of satisfaction than seeing our loved ones tucking into something we have spent time cooking ourselves. Bonding and sharing food is what life should be all about. We should all care for our kitchen, create a clean orderly space, invest in some basic equipment and the kitchen will be an inviting place in which to create our home-cooked masterpiece. Home cooking is a tradition passed down through the generations, we all enjoy re-creating the dishes our mothers made which delighted us so much when we were young.

Don’t think you are too busy to cook, during lockdown is the perfect time to indulge in a new hobby, food is one of life’s great pleasures and at the moment we are all going through an unusual period in our lives so think of home cooking as therapy for the times.

Stock up your cupboards with all the basics, flour, sugar, oils, herbs and spices and it will be that much easier if you don’t need to run our to the shops every time you want to attempt a different recipe. Start collecting recipes, for now, we will all have to manage with magazines and downloads from the internet, but hopefully, before too long we will be able to collect recipe books from charity shops and car boot sales. Keep all the recipe ideas together in a box or folder. Now we all have more time on our hands, we have no excuse but to try something new in the kitchen. Another benefit to home cooking is to cook too much and make use of the freezer, what could be nicer than to be able to just warm something through that has already been made, Personally, I always find a dish tastes better the 2nd time around.

I like to cook a large joint for Sunday Dinner, served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding several different vegetables and last but not least the gravy, made with the meat juices, what could be tastier? what is even better there will be enough meat leftover for several more meals. If I have cooked a chicken, then a chicken curry will be another meal, cold chicken makes excellent sandwiches and lastly, I will boil the carcass to make soup. A similar result with beef, I like to make Biriyani with some of the leftover meat, I can usually make a dish that will feed 2 of us for 2 meals and then freeze another portion for use later. Salmon works really well in this scenario, after enjoying an impressive baked salmon, use the leftovers with salad, on sandwiches and my particular favourite serve with pasta and carbonara sauce.

Don’t feel pressured to cook something extra fancy, cook what you like to eat. If you like pizza, then the homemade version will make you more likely to stick with home cooking. My son’s partner recently sent me a picture of a dish she had made for my son, who loves a takeaway but unfortunately, the local takeaway is not open during this crisis. She made him a Kebab dish in pitta bread with salad and garlic sauce and to keep the takeaway feel she wrapped it in foil and served it in front of the TV!

If you have young children, what better way to keep them entertained and also teach them about food and nutrition than to invite them to help in the kitchen, children also love to eat something they have made themselves so a winner all round. Make it fun in the kitchen, cooking together is a good way to bond and make new discoveries. Another thing the children will love is to grow some of the food you eat, salad leaves are a great place to start and you only need a windowsill. While we are on the subject, consider teaching your children how to preserve food for later, lessons don’t have to be in a classroom, teach them about composting leftovers and become eco-warriors together.

And so to baking, my daughter in law loves to bake and is excellent at it, producing some delicious cakes and buns, while I do enjoy baking, I am not up to her standard. One thing I have learnt however is that when it comes to making cakes, follow a recipe and measure everything exactly as the recipe dictates, this differs from home cooking where a few more or less ingredients won’t spoil the end result and might even improve it. If you want to enjoy baking then the first essential is a set of accurate scales, there are very many on the market and you need not spend a fortune. I have a set of digital scales which can measure in many different volumes, Kg and Grammes, lbs and ounces as well as fluid measures, another advantage is that I can zero the weight, meaning I can add all my ingredients into the one bowl all at the same time, these are very useful and I certainly did not pay a lot of money for them.

Children will love to join in baking, weighing and measuring is a favourite with them, a general rule of thumb, the messier the kitchen gets the more fun they have had, and who doesn’t like cleaning out the bowl at the end.

One of the nicest smells that will ever come out of a kitchen is the aroma of baking bread, there is nothing like it. The ingredients required to make bread are definitely cheaper than buying a ready-made loaf, plus are you aware of all the added ingredients and preservatives in shop-bought bread? bake your own and you know all the good things that have gone into it, it won’t have the same shelf life as a shop-bought loaf because of the lack of preservatives but this will not be a problem since nothing tastes nicer than home-baked bread, just bring it out of the oven and watch it go. Make your own pizza dough and that homemade pizza I talked about earlier is halfway there. If you want the benefits of freshly baked bread are not quite confident enough to give it a go, then consider buying a bread maker. There are many various breadmakers on the market and the prices vary just as much, the principle, however, is just the same. Measure the ingredients into one bowl and switch on, hey presto a short time later one perfect loaf of bread.

When it comes to making a cake, well, in the interests of research I have just browsed the internet and there are hundreds of recipes to choose from, from the really easy all in one cake for beginners to a scrumptious Black Forest Gateaux. The next thing to talk about is how to decorate a cake but I will leave that for a later date………..

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