Saturday, March 17, 2012

Women and Cooking - How to make cooking enjoyable.

Warning: Plenty of foodie pictures ;)

This is one of the most popular photo I posted on twitter as many friends started to ask me for the recipe.

Now, at least one friend told me she thought I had been cooking all my life. Like seriously, apart from the instant noodles and fried eggs, I am one who never thought I would enjoy cooking. I dreaded my teen life being a girl because unlike most friends and my female cousins, I D O N O T L I K E to enter the kitchen nor get my hands dirty. I dislike being forced to cook only because I'm a girl and my mom comparing me to all my other cousins who are pros at cooking and baking, and I hated that I was supposed to cut veges in a specific way or being told that I was a slow coach at dicing onions. Hence, I hated cooking.

Before I got married to Mr Oosband, I even asked him if he expected me to cook everyday after work... and I breathed in a sigh of relief when he told me he didn't.

Lucky me, though, that I received a windfall like a couple of months before our wedding and I decided that I was gonna spend that money to renovate the kitchen to our apartment... and that was probably one of the best decisions I had ever made - going over board doing up a gorgeous kitchen even if I didn't know I was gonna enjoy cooking later on.

this was how horrible the side of the stove looked when we bought this place...

and I hated the finishing and colour. so dull and gloomy...

and this is how gorgeous the kitchen looked, after renovations :)

So, when the kitchen was all made up, according to my specifications, it became my favourite place in our home. But the magic of it all, I guess was the wedding gift from a good friend of mine who gave me a Tefal non-stick pot. It was just a simple pot but it became so meaningful to me not only because I had always admired her for being such a pro in the kitchen since the day I got to know her (we were only 17-18 then!) but also because I think, the non-stick pot made ALL the difference to the way I see cooking.

magic pot
I call it, the Magic Pot.

If you have been following my cooking tweets every once in awhile, you will find that most of the dishes, no matter how simple they are, are cooked in this magic pot. With this gift, Dela (who gave me this pot) indirectly taught me that firstly, I should use non-stick utensils to make cooking more enjoyable and bearable.

Secondly, she taught me that I really don't need a separate pan or wok... because the pot kinda holds everything perfectly and there is less spill over of ingredients out of the utensil and my vegetable dishes are cooked more evenly.

From that love of all non-sticks, I later on got myself a pan and a wok... but realised that all I ever really need is the pot. Jada & Jebat's chicken stocks were prepared in it, Mr Oosband's favourite gulai lemak is usually cooked in it and many many dishes are cooked using this one lovely pot which I've used since 2007. It is amazing and I couldn't be more grateful for this simple gift.

From then on, I began to experiment many recipes but what made cooking much more enjoyable would be the tools and the tricks that I learnt through the little experiences and experiments...

The trick would be to not be afraid to try something new and for me, I love to experiment using instant/quick fix that can help me in preparing a delicious meal. And I am not afraid to reveal some of them to you...

you see the Shepherd's pie pix on top? i sprinkled some of this grounded country herbs on it.

I have lots of bottles like this in my kitchen, all filled with different herbs and mixes. I think seasoning helps give a little oomph to your bland dishes and I love herbs for the added fragrance it provides. Once in awhile, I would get those fresh herbs from Cold Storage or Village Grocer but as they do not last long in the fridge, this can be a good substitute. I have tomato & basil in a bottle and onion & garlic as well, to be used when time is not on my side for me to prepare dinner for the family.

I am also not afraid to admit that every once in awhile when I feel that I need some 'life' into my cooking, I would have some stock cubes added into a dish. As I don't quite like to keep anchovies because I hardly prepare much dishes using fried anchovies, I would have the anchovies stock cube handy for meals that include seafood or plain vegetables.

sotong pak choy
This is squid with Bak Choy which I've added one anchovies cube to the liquidy oyster sauce and fish cake. It's delicious!

sotong kacang buncis
And once you've graduated in preparing squids, you can be a little more creative by making patterned slices half way into the squid just so the cooking experience becomes more fun and a plain dish would look really enticing.

I don't believe that by using short cuts like seasoning and sauces make you a lazy woman. I mean, cooking itself is not lazy. If you're lazy, you wouldn't even cook, right? Therefore, I call these tools, my cooking assistant. If you've only started to cook, like me, you need all the help you can get. After awhile, you either master the right dosage of mix into your cooking or you improvise and prepare ingredients from scratch. But like I said in my previous post, if you need help, you must learn to be efficient in the kitchen so that we do not waste too much time focusing on just one portion of a married life while you let other important focus fly by.

I don't just use them instant stuff on its own and add water. I improvise. I add stuff to it so that the dish will be exclusively, mine.

pasta sauce
Like this pasta sauce I got from a Dolmio bottle, by adding herbs, sausages, mushroom and broccoli, you help make the dish more balanced and somewhat healthier too. The best part is, the taste is consistent everytime you prepare it and it only takes less than 20 minutes of preparation before it goes into the pot. While it simmer, you can play with your little baby or do a little bit of reading with your little princess :)

And to make your cooking experience more fulfilling, feel free to be creative... like this dish that I prepared which was inspired by Coffee Bean's Salmon Scramble - my ultimate favourite! I love it so much that I decided to try it out for myself. Although I know nuts about the ingredients they use except for those basic eggs, salmon, butter and milk, I decided to just give it a go. Even if it doesn't come out the same, I know I would still enjoy it ;)

salmon scramble
I got lazy and placed salad on top of a piece of Gardenia bread, and plonked all that scrambled mix on top. In reality, it should look like the below picture...

coffee bean
ahaa.... ;P

I think cooking is something that can grow on you. I don't think a mother should be all worked up when their daughter does not show any interest to go into the kitchen. A mother should encourage but not make cooking a form of punishment.

I don't think a mother or a big sister should nag at another female family member if she doesn't even know how to cook the simplest fried rice because cooking can be acquired and cooking can be learnt.

Of course, I am saying this because I based it all on my own experience.

Seriously, I think cooking should be enjoyable and you should have that 'want' in yourself. It cannot be forced or you'll find people who've been cooking for 20 years yet their cooking taste just ok lorr, and not wow.

There are a lot of factors that can make a woman want to cook and one of it, if not all those other factors listed above could well be, love.

But despite that feeling of loving your family so much, it is probably not as easy as many would think. Some friends ask me how do I do it. Well, I hope I don't sound extreme if I say that firstly, the kitchen must be yours... not your mother-in-law's, not your mother's. Yours. When you have the ownership, its yours to control, it's yours to experiment... and you will eventually cook when the kitchen is yours. Only then, should you look into the utensils you use - the blender you like, the microwave with a convention oven/grilling element, measuring cups and spoons, whatever you think you would need for you to make cooking enjoyable for yourself. This also includes good cook books for you to refer to and get some helpful tips from other considerate mommy friends as well. Like the shepherd's pie, the recipe was given to me by a friend, and I got the recipe for homemade burger patties from an episode of Oprah.

Once you've explored all these possibilities, the world is your oyster ;)

Do you like cooking?

6 comments: said...

i love the red in your kitchen!!!! i wouldn't even want to step into the kitchen if it were the old one =/ i do agree that a beautiful kitchen is an enticing factor for cooking and better if you OWN it. so i guess i cant be blamed now if i am lazy to cook right? :P

Connie De Alwis said...

A great read! I enjoyed cooking very much as a teenager and even thought about going to culinary school but mostly because my mom gave me the freedom cook whatever and she'd eat whatever :p But when I moved out, I started to cook a lot less and also having a "future mom-in-law" who's really good at cooking can be very intimidating. That was when I experienced the "cut veggies a specific way". Luckily, my boy doesn't expect me to cook for him but even when I do, I find it challenging cuz his idea of food is either mom's food or unhealthy stuff.

Recently cuz I started the whole healthier eating habit thing, I found it easier to just cook my own meals rather than eating out so I've started to cook frequently again! Love the creativity it involves :)

Anonymous said...

Your kitchen looks so snazzy! Food looks yummy too! Love it :-) And I agree with you, it has to be your OWN kitchen. I've never felt comfortable cooking at my MIL's and I'm sure she feels the same at mine. I can't imagine sharing because I like my things to be a certain way.

Paris B / Pink Parisian said...

I love cooking! I don't do it very often and I'm a bit of an experimental cook but I find it therapeutic. Picked it up as a student where if I didn't cook I'd starve to death and loved the escape from studies. I love your kitchen. My new kitchen will be better designed than my current one and I can't wait! :D

beetrice said...

I love your kitchen! Used to cook heaps as a student (and doubled up as a cook for those that couldn't) but alas, had to give it up when I came back to KL after having to fight for space in the kitchen with my mum who would always try to sneak ingredients into my cooking!

Recently got back to cooking simple fare in SG, and I'm loving it. Can't wait till I have a kitchen to myself though!

Cosmic_GurL said...

Juan, can i have the Salmon scrambled egg recipe pleaseeeee? hehehe