New Year's Food Resolutions Worth Keeping

Who doesn't start the New Year pledging to begin a new healthier lifestyle?

Let’s face it we all do it…my resolutions are usually to eat less sugar, less fat, less salt and go vegetarian.  We make these resolutions annually in an attempt to start afresh and turn over a healthy new leaf.  I believe that the secret to a healthier lifestyle normally lies in the kitchen and if you are really serious about it, one of the answers is to become a better cook. So if you hoping to become a culinary wizard in your kitchen in 2017 here are my 7 essential food resolutions for the new year.

1.Get a knife that’s sharp and learn how to keep it that way.

Nothing slows you down more in the kitchen than dull knives. Invest in a good chef’s knife for chopping, a smaller paring knife for vegetables and a decent sharpener. Sharp knives might seem a little scary but they are actually much safer. That’s because when you have a dull knife, it makes it harder to slice through ingredients, which means you apply more pressure and the blade is more likely to slip off the food and hurt you. A sharp knife, on the other hand, can cut swiftly through most ingredients without a lot of strain or pressure from you. Once you have invested in a couple of good quality knives and they are nice and sharp, remember: Never put them in the dishwasher!

2. Mise en place- AKA..Getting organised.
Mise en place is everything to professional cooks. It’s a really cheffy term (meaning ‘putting in place’ in French).  Basically, if a recipe states ‘add chopped onions’, you’ll have the chopped onion ready in a bowl since you do all the chopping beforehand. It means you can then concentrate on the cooking and not the preparation. It’s a much cleaner way of working

3.Make your own chicken stock
Every good cook makes stock. If you don’t make your own stock, you should start immediately. There’s no better way to extract the full flavour of the foods you’re using, save money, and reduce waste all at the same time. Here’s an easy method. Buy a whole chicken instead of breasts or legs (it works out much cheaper). Place the whole chicken in cold water with a couple of garlic cloves, chopped onion, carrot, celery and a sprig of fresh thyme. Slowly bring it up to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Remove the cooked chicken that is now perfect for curries, stir-fries etc then strain the stock and remove any excess fat.  Stock isn’t just for soups and stews. Use it for sauces, wok-fried dishes, pasta sauce, anything at all really. It’s not called the foundation of food for nothing.

4. Taste, Taste, Taste!
You’ll never experience a bland dish if you learn to trust your taste. If something tastes bland, add some salt or spices. If it’s too tart, add some sweetener, like sugar or honey. If it needs some zing, add some acid or something spicy, like hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper. Remember, recipes are just meant to be guides; you’re the chef, and you get to determine how the final product tastes.

5. Stock your pantry with the right essentials.
Good quality olive oil, sea salt, peppercorns, anchovies, a couple of good quality pastas; Linguini, Garganelli, penne, etc and a few different types of rice; Basmati, jasmine and risotto rice are all good staples. Other grains such as couscous, bulgur, pearl barley and Quinoa are also great to have kicking around, as are lentils, chickpeas and polenta. A couple of cans of peeled tomatoes, thick tomato puree and sun-dried tomatoes are a must, along with soy sauce, chilli sauce and a good selection of spices and spice blends. … And don't forget the fridge, where there should always be good-quality Parmesan cheese, yoghurt, olives, free-range eggs and butter. It's much easier - and much less daunting - to cook if you don't have to go out to the supermarket for every ingredient in a recipe.

6. Fight the food Boredom.
Set yourself a challenge. Try a new recipe once a week or every fortnight. And get out of your comfort zone and experiment with different types of cuisines from different countries.

7. And finally, be inspired!
Take inspiration from newspaper recipes, magazines, cookbooks and food blogs, and remember…there is nothing difficult and complicated when it comes to cooking. Pour yourself a glass of wine, relax and enjoy cooking for family and friends.