Smells Like Teen Spirit
Can’t Cook, Wanna Cook? – for those beginner cooks out there. You
know who you are!
If you have always wanted to learn how to cook but weren’t sure
where to start, here’s a selection of ideas from The L-Plate Vegetarian/How
to Cook the Basics
Imagine what life must have been like in the UK before sixteenth century
explorers brought back potatoes from the American continent. Bread,
bread and more bread, that’s what! … They had no spuds (and
no rice or pasta either!) But now there is a range of fantastic types
of potato and lots of things to do with them. They are also a useful
source of protein and vitamin C. Try to use organic if you can – they
aren’t sprayed so heavily with nasty chemicals!
1. Peel in a bowl of water and cut into quarters (or just scrub and leave
whole if new potatoes).
2. Put in a saucepan and cover with water, add a sprinkle of salt and bring
to the boil.
3. Turn heat down and simmer for about 20 mins until they feel soft when
a knife is stuck into them. If you’re not sure, just take a chunk out,
cut it in half and taste it – you’ll soon know if it’s cooked!
1. Boil as above.
2. When very soft, add a large knob of marg, some salt and pepper
and a splash of milk or soya milk.
3. Mash with a potato masher or a fork (add more milk or marg if it’s
WARNING: Hot oil is potentially very dangerous and should be treated
with great care.
Maris Who? You can use any sort of potato for chips, but ‘old’ ones
(as opposed to ‘new’) are best. We suggest Desiree, Maris Piper,
King Edward or Majestic.
1. Peel the potatoes and then cut into chip shapes and drain on
clean tea towel or kitchen paper.
2. Pour vegetable oil (or sunflower) into a large pan (no more than one third
full) and switch on the heat to medium/high and allow the oil to become hot.
3. When it starts to smoke (but not bubble) turn the heat down slightly. This
should take about ten minutes.
4. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping a chip in – it should
bubble and rise to the surface.
5. When hot, add the potatoes and allow to cook steadily so that they first
become soft and then brown.
6. When fried, remove the chips, drain on kitchen paper and serve.
7. Or for an easy life – buy some oven chips and follow the instructions
on the packet. These are actually better for you as they are lower in fat!
1. Scrub a large potato – prick it in a few places with a sharp knife
and pop in a pre-heated oven, gas mark 8/220°C/450°F for 1-11/2 hours,
until it feels soft when a knife is stuck in.
2. Or scrub, prick and microwave on the highest setting for about 12 mins
depending on your microwave. (For that nutty, crispy skin taste, stick
potato in hot oven for 5-10 minutes.)
3. Serve with marg, salt and a little freshly ground pepper or a filling
of your choice. Tasty ideas include baked beans, curry, chilli, pasta sauce,
veggie sausages, coleslaw, bean salad …
1. Put some oil in a baking tin, pop it in the oven and heat the
oven to Gas Mark 5/190°C/375°F.
2. Peel the potatoes, cut into quarters and boil them for just
a few minutes (see boiled potatoes).
3. When the oil is hot, drain the potatoes, place into the tin and coat
well with the hot oil.
4. Sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven for about 1 hour until they
Last Night a Veggie Saved My Life
It’s true! All that 5 a day stuff really will help you stay healthy
and fit – so get cookin’! Just don’t boil yer lovely
veggies to mush – they taste yuk and you lose loads of vitamins!
Keep an eye on the clock, too – even though we give you timings,
these will vary, so test with a sharp knife or skewer.
• Keep the cooking water to add to stews, soups and suchlike
• Keep the lid on the pan – it seals in flavour and cooks veggies
• Even better, steam veggies in a steamer on the stove or microwave.
• For simple, quick ways of making vegetables more delicious, buy Green
1. Cut off stalk ends & divide into florets.
2. Steam or cook in boiling salted water for 8-12 mins until tender.
1. Peel or scrape off skins, slice and steam/boil for 10-15 mins in salted
2. Serve with a knob of marg and any chopped herbs eg, parsley or chives.
1. Wipe clean with a damp cloth or damp bit of kitchen paper(do
not wash unless very dirty).
2. Either simmer for 5 mins in a couple of tablespoons of milk
or soya milk and add some salt and pepper and a knob of marg
3. Or fry gently in a couple of tablespoons of oil (preferably virgin olive
oil) or marg for 2-3 mins.
French (green) beans
1. Top & tail (ie, chop off the tips of both ends of the beans)
2. Steam for 10-12 minutes or plunge into boiling salted water
for same time.
For frozen or tinned peas – follow the instructions on packet or
1. Top and tail.
2. Slice and fry in a couple of tablespoons of oil turning occasionally
until golden brown (add crushed or sliced garlic for extra flavour)
3. Or steam/boil for 5 mins.
White or red cabbage
1. Cut into quarters, remove hard centre stalk.
2. Separate leaves or slice into shreds.
3. Steam – or cook in a little boiling salted water for 8-12 mins.
Spinach cooks down enormously when cooked – in other words what starts
as a big pile ends up as a small one – so allow a lot per person.
1. Wash very thoroughly.
2. Discard any tough stalks and discoloured leaves.
3. If the leaves are big, chop roughly.
4. Boil in just a little salted water for 3-4 mins until tender.
5. Try adding freshly squeezed lemon juice and marg after you’ve drained
the spinach for extra flavour.
Did you know that pasta was brought to Italy from China by the explorer
Marco Polo? Well, you do now!
1. Weigh out approximately 75g/3oz dried
pasta or 150g/6oz fresh pasta per person.
2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the
boil, add a sprinkling of salt and plunge the pasta in.
3. Check the packet to see how long to
boil it for, but usually pasta takes about 8 to 15 minutes, depending
4. Drain in a sieve and toss in olive oil
or marg to stop it sticking together.
5. Pour your sauce over it and mix in well.
Did you know (here we go again!) that the Chinese expression for ‘how
are you?’ literally means ‘have you eaten rice today?’ Not
surprising, as rice is the basic diet for most of the world… and
here’s how to cook it so it’s fluffy and not a soggy heap!
Great with Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican food – amongst other things.
1. Use dried long grain/ easy cook or basmati rice.
2. Weigh approx. 75g/3oz per person
3. Put in a sieve and rinse through under the tap with cold water.
4. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, tip the rice in and boil for about
10 mins until it is tender.
5. Drain and then serve or add it to whatever dish you are cooking.
6. Don’t let it hang around in its hot water or it’ll turn to mush.
If you are going to use it later, rinse thoroughly in cold water.
7. For extra goodness and a lovely nutty taste, try brown rice – just
cook it for 20-30 minutes. Very nice with a splash of soya sauce!
Tofu is the Japanese word for beancurd. It is made from soya beans which
means that it’s very high in protein and low in fat. In fact it’s
the richest and cheapest source of protein available in the world and is
so popular in the Orient that tofu shops are as common as bakers are in
You buy tofu in packets – watch out for Cauldron Foods tofu in most
supermarkets in the chilled cabinets and Sanchi tofu, which is organic.
It looks and feels a bit like a soggy sponge(!!) – but don’t
worry, it tastes great. If you buy the plain version, make sure you soak
it in a sauce before cooking – otherwise it’s really bland.
You can also buy smoked or marinated tofu which are much tastier. These
are ready to cook without flavouring first. The soft stuff like Silken
tofu is better for savoury quiches/flans or puddings.
How to cook any kind of firm tofu
1 slab of firm tofu, drained.
Sunflower oil for frying
Shoyu (soya sauce like Kikkoman from the supermarket)
1. Mop up the tofu’s excess dampness
with kitchen paper.
2. Slice it longways into 2 ‘steaks’.
3. Sauté (fry gently) in a little
sunflower oil till golden brown on each side.
4. Add a bit of shoyu in the pan and let
it coat the tofu.
5. Drain on kitchen paper.
6. You can use these tofu steaks as they
are or else slice into cubes and add to the rest of the ingredients
near the end of cooking time.
Soakin’ sauce for tofu
If you buy plain tofu, take a few minutes to soak it in a sauce such as
the following before frying it:
- 1 heaped tsp. grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. veg oil
- 2 tbsp. soya sauce
- Mix all the above together and pour over chopped up pieces
of plain tofu.
- If you’re in a rush, fry it with other veg, etc,
- If not, soak the tofu in the sauce for an hour
or two and fry in a wok until golden brown and crispy on the
This is a great alternative to scrambled eggs. One block of tofu (approx
250g) is enough for two people. It’s good on its own on toast – or
add it to a big cooked breakfast!
- 1 block tofu
- 1 tbsp oil
- one small onion, finely chopped
- turmeric (mild tasting yellow spice – watch you don’t get
it on clothes as it stains! It’s available in all supermarkets,
health and Indian stores)
- chilli (only if you like hot spicy food!)
- chopped spring onion (if you like it)
- salt and pepper
- bread for toast
- Remove the tofu from its wrapper and drain all the water out.
dry using a clean tea towel and then squash it between two plates
so that the excess water drains out.
- Add one tbsp of oil to
a frying pan and heat gently.
- Add chopped onion.
- When the onion is beginning to soften and brown
(after about five minutes) crumble in the tofu – it should be
in small pieces about the size of peas.
- Gently fry for a couple
more minutes and add some turmeric, chilli and spring onion if
you want them and a little bit of salt & pepper.
- Serve with toast
and any other breakfast things you fancy!
Breakfast ideas –
You can use as many or few of these as you like
with the scrambled tofu. And check out this…