Do you employ a cook or housekeeper who seems to have real interest in expanding his or her culinary repertoire?
Here are five simple tips to nurture their curiosity to cook
- Buy measuring cups & spoons or a scale.
Most Swahili cooking is done by sight and feel. Recipes you find in cookbooks and the Internet, on the other hand, tend to use volume measurements (in cups and spoons) or weight measurements (in grams or ounces). It’s very hard to eyeball a recipe that calls for specific measurements, especially if it’s a new or unfamiliar dish. So grab a set of cups and spoons, which you can find at Nakumatt or other homewares stores, or a simple scale.
- Take time to explain all the tools in your kitchen.
My oven requires the adjustment of four different nobs in order to be on, at the correct temperature, and producing heat from the desired directions. The food processor has three different safety locks to make sure you can’t accidentally chop off a limb. The immersion blender is more like a complex logic puzzle than a kitchen implement. Save yourself and your housekeeper some heartache and just spend a few minutes explaining the way each of your appliances works.
- Start close to the familiar.
One of the first things we teach in our introductory cooking class is flour tortillas. Really, you ask, tortillas? Why? Simple: because they are like chapatti—but with the important difference of being much less greasy, less caloric, and quite a bit more adaptable. If you have a novice cook, try choosing initial recipes that connect to what they know how to do already. This builds confidence; before you know it, they’ll have the courage to make chicken parmesan, thai-style noodle soup, and apple tarts!
- Make clear what substitutions can be made.
When you’re new to cooking, the idea of replacing the ingredient listed in a recipe with another is pretty daunting. But not having the exact thing listed in a recipe shouldn’t be a reason not to make it. Don’t have buttermilk? You can use yogurt or maziwa lala. All out of bicarbonate? You can use triple the amount of baking powder. Does a recipe call for carrots, which you’ve just run out of? You can use potatoes, parsnips, or turnips in their place. Need a starch to accompany meat? Try brown rice, couscous, quinoa, ugali, polenta, or pasta interchangeably. Stress to your housekeeper that, while it’s important to pay attention to the recipe, common sense is one of the most important ingredients. (For a very comprehensive list of substitutions, you can look here )
- Accept the ups & downs of trial & error.
Every good chef has made something that didn’t turn out exactly as expected. (The first time I tried to make caramel? A disaster.) So if the frosting on your cook’s first batch of cupcakes is a bit lopsided, or the initial attempt at steaks comes out a bit redder in the middle than you’d expected, try to roll with it. As long as you communicate clearly and patiently, every goof can be transformed into an important culinary lesson.
If you think your cook or housekeeper would benefit from more involved training, send them our way! The Open Table Cooking School has half-day classes on offer for students at all levels, and we make dishes that address all dietary needs. Check the classes on mumsvillage or directly get them here or send us an email at april @opentableke.com.
Read more from April on her Blog.