At the beginning of this academic year, I decided to start cooking by myself instead of eating in the school dinning hall, and now my junior year is going to be end. I feel that there is a need to reflect back a little bit, and when I did, I do come up with a few tips that I learned from my one-year cooking experience. I would like to share those tips with you, and especially, with those who are also on the way to figure out how to cook for themselves.
When you suddenly feel like eating something, go ahead and try to make it for yourself, if the ingredients are available.
Based on my experience only, a craving for a certain dish is the perfect motivation to learn something new. I found myself searching online for recipes and watching Youtube videos just to learn about the dish I suddenly desired for.
Every time you read a new recipe, adapt it to your own.
We all have our own ways of doing something. In a recipe, sometimes the order of adding ingredients matters, but sometimes it does not. So, stick to the way that you feel most comfortable with, and by doing so, you actually learned a recipe, instead of memorizing one.
Start with something simple.
The very first way of cooking I learned is stir-fry. There are usually three steps involved -- pouring oil in, adding ingredients, and adding spices. Only when we are familiar with the basic steps, we can pay more attention to the extra staff that's written in some recipes.
If a recipe requires so many steps and ingredients, first try a simplified version of it. And only after you master the gist, go ahead and feel confident enough to learn what the extra steps and ingredients are about.
Do not be afraid about mistakes, and go with your instincts.
I learned something every time I made a mistake. Who knows how much salt is perfect without experiencing putting it too much or too less? Do not fear and go with your instincts. When you feel that one ingredients could go well with another, or you feel that this ingredients could match with a sour-sweet flavor, go ahead and try! New recipes are born each time when cooks experiment with their instincts. And isn't it the fun of cooking? Every time, you create and learn something new.
By the way, if you are only cooking for yourself, nobody will taste it but you, so what to be afraid of...
Start off by learning to cook some same ingredients in different ways.
In that case, you learned how to create several different dishes out of the same recipes. It is economical for beginners, because you would not waste a lot of money on the ingredients you do not know how to use, or, only know one single way to use it.
This congee recipe is my favorite. After about one and a half hours' cooking with enough water, the tastes of the three things all come into one, and every spoonful tastes really smooth.
1 cup black beans
1 cup rice
1 medium-size sweet potato
Rinse one cup of black beans and soak overnight.
PS: If you do not have enough black beans, feel free to add some other beans. In this case, I feel that red beans could be a good choice.
Personally, I do not throw away the soak water of black beans, in order to preserve the color and nutrients.
So, you could try throwing the beans in a pot together with the soak water.
Rinse one cup of rice. Add the rice into the pot.
Pour no less than 8 cups of water into the pot. Cook over medium heat without a lid.
Peel one medium-size sweet potato and slice in pieces.
Add in the sweet potato. Wait for a couple of minutes until water reaches its boiling point and big bubbles appear on the surface.
Reduce the heat and simmer for one and a half hour.
To avoid water spilling out, you could let the pot cook without a lid for some time, and add the lid after water gets reduced.
Even if when you cover the pot, leave the lid slightly open.
During the one and a half hour, you could probably take your books, homework, or laptop to the kitchen and do whatever you want. Leaving the kitchen is fine, but remember to check every half an hour. Stir the congee every time you check. Add more water if it becomes dry.
After about one hour, add around 1/2 cup of sugar in the congee, and stir.
PS: I heard that if you add sugar earlier, the bottom of the pot is more likely to be burnt, and it takes longer time for the rice and beans to get cooked.
For the amount of sugar, if you are not sure, add less in the beginning and adjust later based on personal taste when serving.
If you have sesame seeds, you could also add some in.
The reason for adding a lot of water and cooked for such a long time is because by doing so, the congee would have a more smooth,tasty and richer broth. And believe me, it is the thick broth that makes the congee taste extraordinarily great!
It only takes about 30 minutes to prepare and cook dumplings if you have dumpling wrappers ready for you. So...for someone like me, I used to buy the wrappers instead of making it by myself.
I use wonton wrappers in the following recipe, since they are easy to get in the nearby Walmart. Wonton wrappers are thinner, and they are great for steaming. However, if you want to eat boiled dumplings, you might want to consider sticking with dumpling wrappers. Wonton wrappers can hardly remain the shape in water, and I guess that is probably why wontons is usually stuffed with less meat.
But if you want to have wonton soup, that is a different story...Nevertheless, in this blog, we are going to talk about steamed pork dumplings.
Ingredients for the filling:
1 pound ground pork
2-3 spring onions
1 tbsp diced garlic (or garlic powder)
1 tbsp diced ginger
1 tbsp salt
Dice 1 tbsp ginger, 1 tbsp garlic, and 3 spring onions. I only used one spring onion, but two or three would make the dumplings more tasty.
Combine 1 pound ground pork with ginger, garlic, spring onions, egg, and 1 tbsp salt. You could also add garlic powder here, if you happen to run out of garlic like I did.
Stir together all the ingredients.
Wrap the dumplings!
There is a video online which shows how to wrap dumplings in
7 different ways.
I really wanted to try all of them...but for the time's sake, I wrapped my dumplings like how I used to...
My grandma taught me this, and it actually applies to the square wonton wrappers pretty well.
For the square shape,
such a way can wrap a lot, actually.
After water begins to boil,
steam for 15 minutes.
Serve with a dipping sauce.
Basically, back home in China, people dip dumplings into rice vinegar and have them. The vinegar can be added with some diced ginger or garlic, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp oil, and other things like chili powder or sesame seeds.
if you still want to eat dumplings for the next meal, simply wrap more and put them in the freezer. Before next meal,
take them out,
and you could steam or fry right away.
Flatbread used to be one of my favorite breakfast back home in China. I do not know how it is made, and I believe its recipe is way more complicated than mine.
My flatbread recipe is a much simplified version. I made it up based on my memory of the taste, and it is indeed easy, and tastes good.
5.Wheat or white flour
Mix all the dry ingredients together, including:
1. Flour (2 cups)
2. Salt (1&1/2 tbsp)
3. Baking soda (1/2 tbsp)
4. Garlic powder
5. Curry powder
6. Black pepper
7. Cumin seeds
8. Sesame seeds
Mix one egg with honey, oil (2 tbsp), and green onions. (Green onions could be added either in the first or the second step.)
Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Stir with a spoon.
Pour milk into the mixture. (A little at a time.)
Add some more milk, and stir again.
...Until the mixture is able to form a dough, which is not too sticky.
Knead the dough until smooth. Roll it into a sausage shape. (It is easier to roll if you divide the dough in half.)
Cut the dough into several equal pieces.
Sprinkle some flour on the chopping broad.
Take one piece, and flatten it into a rectangle shape. (A rolling pin is not necessary. I did it with my hands.)
Flatten the rest the same way.
Put the pan over medium heat until it turns very hot. (Usually costs 2 to 3 minutes.)
Place two pieces at a time in the dry pan.
When the bottom turns brown, flip them over. Cook until the bread rises a bit, and both sides get brown and crispy.
Usually, it takes 2 to 3 minutes to fully cook them. After the first two, repeat the same procedure for the rest ones.
While cooking, the pan is gradually getting hotter, and thus the bread would get cooked much more quickly by the end.
Therefore for the rest half, you may consider cooking over low or medium-low heat.
Eating those flatbread only may taste dry, so why not try with some cold milk. The two complement each other well and taste rather perfect.
Speaking of baking a chicken, the most important part (for the way I usually cook) is to make the right sauce.
So, I am going to show my favorite homemade sauce in this recipe.
1. 6 or 7 tbsp Brown/white sugar (I use brown sugar for the color)
2. Corn starch (used as a thickener of the sauce)
3. 2 tbsp Salt
4. 3 tbsp Vinegar
5. 2 tbsp soy sauce
6. Black pepper
7. Chilly powder
8. Cumin seeds
9. Sesame seeds
10.1 tbsp oil
11. One whole chicken (Or half)
Make corn syrup, which is easy and simple. Here is a short video online explaining the steps.
And here is my simplified version:
1. Put 7 tbsp brown sugar in a pan.
2. Pour in water just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Wait for it to boil.
3. Mix 1 tbsp corn starch with around 5 tbsp water, and pour the mixture into the pan.
4. Stir for a while until you see the syrup form, which costs around 3 minutes.
And here is how it looks like:
Add other ingredients, including:
1. 2 tbsp Salt
2. 3 tbsp Vinegar
3. 2 tbsp soy sauce
4. Black pepper
5. Chilly powder
6. Cumin seeds
7. Sesame seeds
8. 1 tbsp oil
Spread the sauce over the chicken with hands or plastic warp.
(Now, if you like a crispy taste, pat flour onto the chicken.)
Then bake in oven for around one hour.
After one hour, take the chicken out.
(Based on my own experience, half a chicken like the one in the picture could serve two people, and a whole chicken would be enough for three.)
So...call your friend.
5.One slice of lemon
6.Wheat Flour(Or white, as your wish)
Preheat the oven (Usually costs around 15 minutes).
Butter the pan (or a loaf pan). If you don't have butter, oil may work as well.（I haven't tried before though.）
Cut a slice of lemon, and squeeze the juice into a bowl. (I use lemon juice because the acidity in it could react with baking soda, generating salt and carbon dioxide, which helps the bread rise even more.)
In the same bowl, break one egg. Add honey, sugar(2 tbsp), oil(1 tbsp), milk (pour only little bit now so that you can adjust later). Stir until smooth.
In another bowl, add flour and 1/2 to 1 tbsp baking soda. Shake the bowl. (I do not add salt because it would be produced by the previously mentioned chemical reaction.)
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones. Stir until you have a semi-liquid mixture as the picture shows.
Once you get the texture right, pour the mixture into the pan immediately. (Once the baking soda meets moisture, the carbon dioxide generates right away.So, in order to make the bread rise nicely, it's good to move fast.)
Quickly put the pan in the oven. Bake for around 30 minutes.
Take out the pan. Let it cool down a bit.
Cut the bread into pieces.
Eat one and store the rest in the fridge.