Recipe: Chimichurri Steak with Avocado and Sweet Potato Fries

Instead of a long story about how my recipe is best served with a side of sassy backstory, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools are needed and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 2/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 2/5

This recipe makes 2 portions

Ingredients:

  • 2 portions of steak (flank steak works best, however, sirloin can also be used)
  • Coriander finely chopped (10 g)
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • Flat-leaf parsley (10 g)
  • 1 shallot finely diced
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped and seeds removed
  • 1 ripe avocado chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, cut into thin fries
  • Paprika, salt, pepper
  • Butter or oil for frying

Equipment:

  • 1 large frying pan
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Baking tray

Method:

  1. The night before, or the morning of if able to, marinate the steaks in salt, pepper, olive oil, small amounts of garlic and a dash of rice wine vinegar. Cover and put in the fridge.
  2. 30 minutes before cooking the steak, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  3. Combine rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 garlic clove, coriander, parsley, green chilli, shallot and salt and pepper into mixing bowl and stir
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C
  5. Toss the sweet potato fries in olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika and arrange flat on the baking tray
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes
  7. Once the sweet potatoes are in the oven, bring a frying pan with butter or olive oil up to high-medium heat.
  8. Add the steaks to the pan and cook as desired (2-3 minutes per side for a typical grocery store-bought steak to get to medium).
  9. Once the steaks are done, let them rest for 5-10 minutes.
  10. Serve steaks sliced with avocado and chimichurri sauce on top, with a side of sweet potatoes.

Recipe: Pan-fried Duck Breast

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of my first car, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools are needed and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 3/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 3/5

This recipe makes a one portion per duck breast cooked

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 4 duck breasts
  • White wine (100 ml)
  • Chicken stock (100 ml)
  • Butter
  • 1 orange

Equipment:

  • 1 frying pan

Method:

  1. Prepare duck breast by carefully scoring the fat side with a sharp knife
  2. Place duck breasts in frying fan that is at room temperature. The fat side of the breast should be down
  3. Bring frying pan up to medium heat until the fat starts to render. Adjust the heat to keep the fat being rendered, but not sputtering in the pan. If fat starts to build up in the pan, remove and store elsewhere (glass works well).
  4. Cook the duck breast on the fat side down until the fat has rendered and is nice and crispy (usually about 15 minutes).
  5. Turn the breasts onto the meat side and cook for a further 4-6 minutes.
  6. Remove duck from the pan, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Turn the heat down, and de-glaze the pan with white wine (make sure wine is at room temperature or it will sputter)
  8. Once the wine is completely reduced, add the chicken stock and squeeze half of the orange into the pan and let simmer. If you saved any duck fat, add back into the pan now.
  9. Once the stock has reduced into a thick sauce, add butter, salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve duck with mushroom risotto and green vegetables with the sauce.

Recipe: Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of my grandfather’s wristwatch, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools are needed and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 1/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 2/5

This recipe makes an appetizer portion for 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 250g of Asparagus tips
  • 12 slices of prosciutto, cut into quarters
  • Lemon juice
  • Butter
  • Sea or rock salt for blanching
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ice

Equipment:

  • Medium stockpot
  • Large frying pan
  • Tongs
  • Large bowl

Method:

  1. Bring the medium stockpot to a boil and salt it thoroughly. The water should taste like seawater.
  2. Fill the large bowl with ice and cold water. This will be your ice bath for blanching the asparagus.
  3. Boil the asparagus for 2 minutes. Immediately remove and put into the ice bath for 5 minutes.
  4. Once the asparagus has chilled, remove from the bowl and dry.
  5. Wrap each piece of asparagus in prosciutto and set aside.
  6. Bring the frying pan to medium heat and melt butter into the pan so it coats the bottom of the pan.
  7. Carefully add the wrapped asparagus to the pan.
  8. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  9. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
  10. Serve immediately

Recipe: Mushroom and Bacon Risotto

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of a long lost love, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools need and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 1/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 3/5

This recipe makes 4-6 portions

Ingredients:

  • 500g risotto rice
  • 1L of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 2 concentrated chicken or vegetable stock cubes
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 300g chopped chestnut mushrooms
  • 300g chopped closed cup white mushrooms
  • 250g streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Equipment:

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Small frying pan
  • Medium saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Ladle
  • Large cooking pot or deep frying pan

Method:

  1. Add the liquid stock to the saucepan and bring to a low heat.
  2. Cook bacon in the small frying pan and set aside.
  3. Bring the cooking pot up to medium heat with olive oil and garlic.
  4. Add diced shallots and let cook until softened.
  5. Add white wine and cook until the wine has evaporated.
  6. Add mushrooms and cook until reduced down.
  7. Add the risotto rice.
  8. Slowly ladle in the stock one ladle-full at a time, letting it fully be absorbed by the risotto before adding the next. Stir regularly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Once all of the stock has been absorbed, add the two stock cubes and mix thoroughly.
  10. Once mixed, turn off the heat and add the butter, cooked bacon and shredded cheddar cheese and stir through.
  11. Serve with grated parmesan on top.

Recipe: Mashed Potatoes

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of a cosy winter evening in the mountains, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools need and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 1/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 1/5

This recipe makes 4-6 portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg red potatoes (peeled or not peeled as desired)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 150 ml soured cream
  • 100g salted butter
  • salt, pepper and paprika
  • lemon juice

Equipment:

  • 1 large cooking pot
  • 1 colander
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Potato masher
  • Medium baking dish

Method:

  1. Fill a cooking pot with water and add a generous amount of salt and stir
  2. Chop potatoes into approx 1-inch cubes and add to the pot
  3. Bring the pot to a boil. If peels are still on, boil until peels just start to come off. If peeled, boil until a potato can be easily squashed by a spoon.
  4. Drain water using the colander and put potatoes back into the pot.
  5. Add milk, soured cream and most of the butter leaving about a 5th of it for later
  6. Mash potatoes until lumps are largely gone. If potatoes are still too thick, add a little more milk
  7. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of paprika and continue mashing. Season with salt and pepper to taste continuously
  8. Once complete, scoop the potatoes into the baking tray. Preheat the oven to 200C
  9. Coat the top of the potatoes with the remaining butter
  10. Once the oven is hot, bake the dish uncovered in the oven until crispy on top. Usually about 20 minutes, and can turn on the broil setting for the last 5 minutes to get extra crisp.

Recipe: Cherry Maple Salmon

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of a summers day in Spain, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools need and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 2/5
Equipment: 2/5
Method: 3/5

This recipe makes 2 portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Cherry Jam
  • 2 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 Salmon fillets

Equipment:

  • Cutting board
  • Baking tray or oven-proof baking dish
  • Small sauce-pan
  • Tin-foil
  • Spatula

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C (400F)
  2. Mix the soy sauce, cherry jam, maple syrup into the small saucepan
  3. Squeeze the lemon into the mix and stir
  4. Bring the saucepan mixture to a boil, once bubbling turn off the heat
  5. Put the saucepan into the fridge or freezer until the glaze has cooled and has a thicker consistency (this is really important to stop burning during cooking)
  6. Cover baking tray or dish in tinfoil and place salmon fillets on the tray
  7. Spoon the glaze over the salmon generously
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes
  9. Serve with basmati rice and roasted or stir-fried greens

Recipe: Chicken and Mushroom Pie

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of a summers day in Spain, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools need and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 3/5
Equipment: 3/5
Method: 3/5

This recipe makes 4 portions

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove
  • 2 cubed boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 200g button mushrooms chopped
  • 10g finely chopped tarragon
  • 10g finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 diced yellow onion
  • 250 ml chicken broth
  • 50 ml white wine
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg
  • Flour (on hand incase)

Equipment:

  • 1 large frying pan or skillet
  • 1 deep roasting dish or pan
  • Sharp kitchen knife
  • Plastic Cutting board (for chicken)
  • Cutting board (for vegetables and herbs)
  • Pastry brush (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C (400F).
  2. Bring the saucepan to medium heat and add olive oil and chopped garlic. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the chicken and cook until browned.
  3. Take the chicken out and put aside.
  4. Add a small amount of olive oil back into the pan and add the onion.
  5. Cook the onion until starting to soften (1-2 minutes) and then add the white wine and parsley. Cook until the wine has evaporated from the pan.
  6. Add the mushrooms and tarragon and cook until browned (usually 3-4 minutes).
  7. Add the chicken stock and reduce to a simmer.
  8. Add the cooked chicken back into the pan and stir regularly. After 2-3 minutes add the double cream and continue to stir on simmer.
  9. If after a few minutes the filling is still a runny liquid, slowly spoon a teaspoon of flour at a time until the liquid thickens. Stir well and repeat until the filling is thickened.
  10. Spoon the filling into the baking dish.
  11. Put the puff pastry over the dish and cut the edges to the correct size. You can also decorate the pie with the trimmings (I usually opt for the mathematical pi symbol but it’s up to you).
  12. Beat the egg in a small dish and then coat the pastry in a light layer of the egg (brush is preferable but delicately using a knife or spoon can also work).
  13. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
  14. Serve with mashed potatoes, gravy and roast Brussel sprouts.

Recipe: Chilli

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of a summers day in Spain, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools need and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 1/5
Equipment: 2/5
Method: 2/5

This recipe makes 8-10 portions

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Chopped garlic (approx 3 cloves)
  • 1 white onion, diced (here’s a great video for learning how to do this well)
  • 2 yellow, orange, red or green peppers, diced
  • 1.2-1.5kg lean ground beef
  • 3 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of kidney beans
  • 2 cans tomato soup
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • Dash of paprika, cumin and dried oregano
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Soured cream

Equipment:

  • 1 large, hob-safe cooking pot (3.5L at minimum)
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Cheese grater
  • Wooden Spoon

Method:

  1. Bring the cooking pot to medium heat on the hob and add the olive oil and garlic.
  2. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the onions and cook until they are browned and softened (2-3 minutes).
  3. Add the ground beef and cook until browned.
  4. Drain the beef and add the tomato soup. Stir regularly.
  5. Rinse the kidney beans until cold water and add, stirring regularly
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir regularly
  7. Add the spices and stir
  8. Bring the pot to a boil, before reducing down to a gentle simmer
  9. Simmer on the stove for 2-3 hours. The minimum is 30 minutes or so but will be better the longer it sits. Stir regularly and taste, add additional spices to achieve desired heat and flavour. Beware that chilli powder will get stronger over time as it simmers.
  10. Serve with rice or elbow pasta, garnish with a dollop of soured cream and shredded cheese.
  11. Leftover chilli can be frozen and reheated in a saucepan.

Recipe: Easy Breakfast Hash

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of a summers day in Spain, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools need and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 2/5
Equipment: 2/5
Method: 3/5

This recipe makes 2-3 portions

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Chopped garlic (approx 1 clove)
  • 3-4 medium-sized potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 white onion, diced (here’s a great video for learning how to do this well)
  • 1 yellow, orange, red or green pepper, diced
  • 1 handful cherry or plum tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup diced chorizo (can substitute with cooked bacon or pancetta)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 2-3 eggs
  • Salt, pepper, paprika
  • Freshly chopped chives (or parsley)
  • Broccoli, chopped into small pieces (optional)

Equipment:

  • 1 large frying pan or skillet (oven proof preferable)
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Cheese grater
  • Spatula

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C (400F) (only if you have an oven-safe skillet or frying pan. If not, follow stove-top instructions)
  2. Bring the saucepan to medium heat and add the olive oil and chopped garlic. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the potatoes. Toss or stir regularly to prevent burning
  3. Fry the potatoes until a fork can easily break apart a piece. If potatoes begin to burn, add more olive oil sparingly. Add salt as desired
  4. Once potatoes are cooked, add onions, peppers and broccoli (if using).
  5. After 2 minutes or so, add tomatoes and bacon, pancetta or chorizo (pre-cooked only)
  6. Toss regularly until vegetables are soft, usually about 2-3 minutes. Season generously with salt, pepper and paprika
  7. Crack eggs on top of the hash, and sprinkle the shredded cheese on top (Stove Top only: push hash to edges of pan clearing a small circle in the middle. Add a small amount of oil and crack eggs in the middle. Sprinkle cheese on top)
  8. Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes or until eggs are cooked and yolks remain runny (Stove Top only: fry eggs until cooked sunny side up and yolks remain runny)
  9. Garnish with freshly chopped chives or parsley and serve

An Amateur Approach to Cooking

I don’t really know what I’m doing, but here we are.

No, that’s not the title of my sex tape, but it could definitely be the title of my cooking show. The show would then proceed to be an hour of me saying “hmm, I wonder if that will work” and “needs more butter”.

Recipes are less of rules, and more “guidelines” when I’m cooking. Except for baking or things like pancakes where the mixtures need to be spot on, most of the dishes I’ve learned to make once maybe started out as a recipe. Much to my girlfriend’s displeasure, every time we sit down to eat I tend to try the meal and immediately say something like “needs more salt” or “it’s a bit overcooked”. Luckily for me, she puts up with being my test eater and only rolls her eyes a little when I criticize the food.

This is pretty much my whole approach to cooking. Try new things, see what happens and adjust accordingly. The closest I’ve come to a cooking class is calling my mother in a panic the first time my friend and I tried to cook a turkey for a dinner and couldn’t work out what part of the turkey the stuffing goes in. It turned out okay, and more often than not things do. You can always order a pizza if it doesn’t work out.

Amateur chefs in action. Note, the knife technique shown is not recommended.

The advice and recipes you find here are largely going to be along these lines and I would encourage anyone who wants to start cooking more adventurously to do the same. The advice isn’t going to turn you into a professional cook, and with that in mind if you’re here looking for anything more than amateur advice you’re probably in the wrong spot. Ask me to give advice for making dinner for your friends, I’m your man. Put me in front of Gordon Ramsey, he’ll very quickly have found his next idiot sandwich.

So for all of you looking to start somewhere here are some guidelines to get you started and build some confidence:

  1. Plan it out a little. While recipes are a guideline, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan for it all to be ready at the same time. Thinking about roughly how long everything is going to take, which pans you’re going to use and do you have enough space in the oven can make all the difference.
  2. Take a list to the shop. You will almost certainly forget something.
  3. If you can, buy better ingredients. Local greengrocers, butcher’s and the like will almost always result in better food.
  4. Don’t multi-task and cook while doing other things. It’s really hard to burn something if you’re paying attention to it.
  5. Own at least one good, sharp knife. Using dull and crappy knives is not only going to make chopping harder, but it’s also dangerous.
  6. Prep ahead of time as much as possible. Chopping ingredients and having them all ready before you start cooking makes it a much less stressful affair.
  7. Taste your food along the way. This is a habit I’ve gotten into more and more and it’s definitely yielded better results. Better to know what it needs before you serve it up.
  8. If someone you know makes something really good, ask them how they do it. Personal accounts beat online recipes any day.
  9. Have some fun while you cook. I almost always have music on and have been known to dance around the kitchen a little. If it becomes something you have fun doing, you’ll do it more.

Cooking is something most adults have to do every day and has a huge effect on both mental and physical health. Learning to enjoy cooking is a great way to build confidence and make things feel less like a chore. Even simple meals can be delicious just by improving basic things.

What’s your #1 tip for people looking to give cooking a go?