Developing Kitchen Skills
Last week Sahan (number two) turned eight years of age. We had a tribe afternoon of games and dinner for him on Sunday. When you have two brothers that's a party! I had asked him what cake he would like and he said that he would like a 'proper' cake (not one of my healthy ones haha) which I was more than happy to do - it is his birthday after all. I made Annabel Langbein's ultimate chocolate cake which actually inspired my Sweet Potato Chocolate Cake in Feed the Tribe (which I credit in there).
Sahan also wanted butter cream icing. I am not practiced at making cakes like this having only made less than....I would say 10....possibly five even..... in total in my whole life! I took this as an opportunity to have a go without the pressure of it needing to be perfect. In fact Sahan even said to me "mum it does not need to be perfect!".
We had so much fun! Sahan really go into this and choose the colours himself. I explained how to level the cake, make the crumb layer and why we put it in the freezer. He said to keep the top swirly (aka rustic...phew) and dug around in my cake decorating box and found a snake and the candles. The irony was both my older boys said it was the best cake I have made. Bless, Arjun even said I should be a professional cake maker! I showed him Magnolia's Kitchen cookbook which I got signed at a workshop I did with Bets - he was blown away by the cakes in there!
My point behind sharing this is to first show you that you never stop learning and secondly to encourage you to also just give some things a go in the kitchen! I have been cooking in a professional capacity for a decade now. I never stop learning. I will never forget stepping into our commercial kitchen for the first time and feeling both excited and daunted at the same time.
Cooking and managing food for your tribe is truly about confidence and learning on the job. The more you do it the better you get it!
So here are my top tips for developing your kitchen skills:
Start at the Beginning
If you are planning on having a baby perfect! Pre-conception is the best time to get practicing. This is before the early stages of pregnancy when fatigue and morning sickness can make being in the kitchen a challenge. Of course the more you do in pregnancy you will still have more time than.....you most likely will for a while! The recipes in The Nourished Bump are designed with this in mind - why I included a lot of them!
In terms of making baby food I know this seems very daunting. This is your best time to start which is one of many reasons I strongly encourage this. I say this as gently as possible but it will be the easiest cooking you do for your little one (s). This is also exactly why I have developed as many resources as possible (and more to come....cue a special release from Dr Julie's Kitchen coming very soon).
I promise this will save you money in the long run. Do not feel you need to get everything all at once and second hand options work really well. It took me until I was working on Feed the Tribe to get a proper cake mixer! So this was six years after I first started my website and making recipes 'professionally' including multiple cookbooks!
This is a photo of making my healthy ANZAC cookies (a long time favourite) with Arjun using a second hand food processor.
In my cookbook Feed the Tribe I have a list of helpful equipment which is a good place to start adding to your list.
A well organised pantry is a good place to start. This you also do not need to do all at once. I have learnt a lot (quickly) about the need to be well organised working in a commercial kitchen. Having places to key ingredients, containers well laid out and labelled is vital. This is not only for speed but also in terms of managing supplies as you can clearly see when things are getting low. I created customised pantry labels for this very reason which match all the specialty ingredients in my cookbooks.
Cooking in bulk is a very important skill. This helps to speed up your learning in the kitchen plus you learn how to manage food more efficiently as well. I am at the stage in parenting with three boys that left overs are a long lost dream - my only option is to cook double or often multiple meals at once. I know I have mentioned my book Feed the Tribe a lot but it truly covers a lot of skills I have learnt including bulk cooking meals.
Have Back Ups
I have learnt this the hard way! When developing recipes I wish I could tell you how many fails goes into them. There is nothing worse then making a mistake with a certain ingredient and then not having a back up. This also applies to an entire meal - when recipe testing or even making a recipe for the first time do not do it for an actual meal! When you cook under pressure it stops your ability to problem solve and half of all cooking is navigating the issues or mistakes! I certainly learnt this in the cake workshop I did with Bets - she was a master of fixing mistakes. Even doing a recipe once will mean you know all the pitfalls so you can then incorporate into your weekly plan.
For me on the weekend the joy that came from the creative process of making a cake for Sahan with him was everything. His 'snake' cake will be a strong memory for us and here is the thing it did not matter at all it was far from perfect in my boys eyes it was (to quote) an 'epic' cake. As a side note the older boys even found the icing "too sweet" which I was quietly chuffed with as well.....not Ray....he shoved that in gleefully which I was also happy about - learning about sugar and when and how to enjoy it is an equal part of learning about food too.
As always I hope this gives you some inspiration and tips,
x Dr Julie