Recpies for beginners?

Hi all,

I have just recently moved out to stay by myself, and have gotten sick of instant noodles/cup ramen.

The only cooking skills I know are…eh boiling eggs.

So, any recipes for a total beginner to cooking? Not really looking for any nice…just filling up my stomach will do!

It might help to know what you like and what you have to work with. No use suggesting casseroles if you can’t stand them or grilled salmon if you don’t have a grill (we could teach you to broil instead, but only if you have an oven.)

So, what do you like, what sort of equipment do you have and how much time and effort are you willing to put into food? Budget constraints would be helpful as well - are you eating ramen because that’s what you can afford, or because you know how to cook it?

Well, since you know how to boil eggs, why not try to fry them?

Fry two eggs. While they are sizzling in the pan cut two slices of bread. Spray some ketchup on the bread and chuck the fried eggs on top. Matches perfectly with a fresh beer. Enjoy :slight_smile:

Buy yourself a decent beginners cook book. When my brother first left home to go to university, my mum sent him off with a book called “How to boil an egg” which was for people who didn’t have a clue how to cook and took them through all the basics. The recipes were easy to follow and since it was mainly aimed towards students, I think most of the dishes were cheap, quick and easy to make.

A quick look around your local bookstore’s cookery section should yield a few goodies!

Now Kotik, that’s just mean. Here he is trying to learn to cook and you’re going to give him the potentially stickiest dish with no further instructions?

Fried eggs are good. But you have to remember one thing. That pan, even the one that says nonstick? It lies. Eggs stick to anything if you don’t do it right. Luckily, it’s easy to do right.

First, heat your pan. If you have a gas stove, the flames should be about in the middle of their range, maybe a teensy bit higher. If electric, put it to MED. HIGH. Wait about 2 minutes until you can feel the heat radiating off the bottom of the pan when you hold your hand an inch or two above it.

When your pan is hot, put in a bit of butter, about as large as a “pat” at a restaurant. Let it melt. Swoosh it around in the pan a bit so it covers the bottom of the pan.

When the butter is melted, crack two eggs into the pan on top of the melted butter, near enough so the touch each other as they spread out. Sprinkle them with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Don’t touch. Let them cook until the clear part turns white and mostly solid. It should take about 2-3 minutes. Flip them with a spatula (“pancake flipper”)- if your pan is nonstick (slick and black inside), only use plastic, nylon or silicone utensils - no metal, ever!

Once they’re flipped, just turn off the heat and walk away for about 2 minutes. The residual heat in the pan will cook the other sides of the eggs.

I like fried egg sammiches on toasted bread with a good smear of mayo. Mustard is also good. If you’re impressing a girl, sprinkle it will a tiny pinch of celery seed. You can also serve it topped with salsa, barbeque sauce, cheese or ranch dressing. A neat variation is to sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese at the salt-n-pepper step. When you flip the eggs, the cheese will get brown and crispy.

Wash your pan when it’s still warm, but not hot. Because you preheated it and used enough fat (butter), it should be easy to wash. If you wait 'till it’s all the way cold, it might grab onto those little egg bits and be a pain to wash.


Its just that I think that “learning by doing” is the best way to cook.

I’ve been there: sticking egg to the pan, burning my hands on warm crockery, messing up the kitchen when trying to flip pancakes with the pan, dropping caseroles full of pasta on the dining room floor, cutting myself with sharp knives or on tin cans, leaning on a hot stove, picking the stones out of five kiloes of grapes, seen souffles sink like the Titanic, burning the flour when trying to make sauce, getting all that steam in the face when pouring out the boiling water from pasta or potatoes, peeing or rubbing my eyes after cutting chilis, you name it.

Cooking is painful. Thats why all them TV chefs sip wine all the time, to supress the pain. Thats why every new cook has to go through that and to learn how to really enjoy the thrill and joy of cooking when you get through making a dish without loosing a limb :wink:

Oh, let see what I have access to. I got a pot. I am willing to spend about 20 minutes for each meal. My only source of heat is that of a stove.

Oh yeah, I would not do anything too messy, as my landlord gave me explicit orders that I have to leave the kitchen clean and tidy. I am sharing a fridge too. I have no clue as to how long shall I keep vegetables in the fridge or how long would eggs stay fresh. I am clumsy with a can opener – I call myself with tools all the time.

Budget is a problem too. So prepackaged foods and such are probably out of the way for me too.

Also, I am from Singapore, so I’m not sure how the cost over here will translate to that of the US, but just dump me the recipes and I’ll sort out what will work for me. Thankfully, as an Asian, it also means that I am used to smaller servings too :slight_smile:

If eggs are affordable there, then they’re one of your best sources of excellent low fat protein that lasts for a long time. Can you refrigerate them? They’ll last for a month, easy. Even out at room temp, they’ll last two weeks.

Even frying an egg, cutting it in strips and putting it on top of your ramen will go a long way towards improving the nutrition of the meal. Even better if you can throw in some fresh or frozen vegetables: onions or scallions, peas, carrots, sliced bok choy or cabbage, pea pods, peppers, mushrooms, sprouts, water chestnuts, grated ginger root, garlic…play with it. Go to your local market, pick up something strange and see what it’s like. I actually like ramen as a base, and you can experiment with it while you learn. Since you know what ramen tastes like, you’ll have an idea of how your addition changes it.

Ok - I found this recipe the other day, and it’s cheap and tasty. For just one person, I’ll cut the quantities in half for you. It should still feed you three to four servings.

First cook some rice, or buy “minute rice.” It only takes 5 minutes. Just follow the directions on the package.

Beef and Cabbage

1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 head of cabbage, sliced up into shreds
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 bell pepper, sliced into long pieces (red looks prettiest, but any color will do.)
1 clove of garlic, chopped, or 1/2 tsp garlic powder (fresh garlic is cheap, but garlic powder will last a long time. Fresh will last 2-3 weeks.)
6 or so mushrooms, sliced, or 1 small can, drained
1/2 cup beef broth or water
1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch

Brown the meat in a big skillet (or in the pot if that’s all you have.) Drain off any excess fat. (Not down the drain! It will clog the sink. Use a metal can of some sort.) Add the vegetables, and stir until veggies get soft. Add the broth or water and pepper and simmer (very low boil) for about 10 minutes or so. In the meantime, stir the cornstarch and soy sauce together, then add to beef mixture and stir. This is the thickener. If the beef mixture is too thick add some water, if not thick enough add some more cornstarch and water slurry. Serve over hot rice.

If you don’t have some of the ingredients, just leave it out. You can use salt instead of soy sauce, for instance. But onions and peppers give tons of flavor to many dishes.

Keep cut veggies in plastic wrap or a plastic container or a baggie. Sometimes a dry paper towel in with them will keep them fresher longer (not the onion.) Uncut veggies will last 2-3 weeks. I keep mine in the refrigerator, but I’m sure some others will argue that point. Hamburger will last 2-3 days in the fridge, up to six months in the freezer. Transfer beef to a plastic freezer bag first. Sometimes I will throw a prewrapped (from the store) pound of hamburger in as is, but use it within a month or so or it will get freezer burned.

I have lots more easy meals. Let me know!

Put a thawed chicken breast in a pot with some salad dressing, Italian dressing and balsamic vinigarettes work well. Put the pot on the stove and turn the heat on to medium. Cook until done. Doneness can be tested by slicing the chicken open and seeing if it’s white all the way through. If the chicken starts sticking, add a little more salad dressing or some water. As a variation, replace salad dressing with any premade sauce or marinade.

Needed: Olive oil, frying pan, and some form of flattened protein (fish filet, chicken breast, blade steak, etc.)

For flavor: sundried julienned tomatoes packed in olive oil and/or small onion, diced.

How to:

If you’re using onion (use with chicken, beef, but not fish), heat a glop of olive oil over low to medium heat till it spreads easily over the bottom of the pan, then dump in the diced onion and let it slowly cook, stirring now and then, till the onion bits are turning translucent and softening. Then add a heaping spoonful of the julienned tomatoes, complete with the olive oil they’re packed in. Stir a bit to heat all. If you’re justs using the tomatoes (which add marvelous flavor all by themselves) just glop, spoon, and heat.

Lay the protein in the pan over the yummy bits and continue cooking over low heat, turning occasionally and stirring the yummy bits as you do. The protein will firm up and turn from semi-translucent to sort of white (fish or chicken) or from reddish to dark brown (beef). This will only take a few minutes, so don’t wander off.

If you’re not sure whether it’s cooked through, take a sharp knife and cut the protein in half and look at the interior. What the heck, it’s not like you’re a restaurant and it has to look perfect, after all. When the change of color is all the way through,* fork the protein out onto a plate, then scrape the yummy bits out of the pan over it. Enjoy!

  • Except the beef unless you like it well done. If you prefer rare or medium rare, you want the interior to turn from slick-looking red to a matte pink.

If you’re living in Singapore, eating at a hawker center will probably be cheaper than cooking for one.

But, here’s an easy, cheap, one-pot meal that you can adjust to suit your tastes:
Chop a few veggies. (I like an onion, some green pepper/capsicum, and some mushrooms. Sometimes a carrot or something like that. A little garlic, maybe. I wouldn’t use anything leafy, but otherwise whatever you have and like.)

Saute veg with spices of your choice. (Saute means fry them in a little oil. I like things bland, so I just use a little basil and oregano. They’re done when they start to get a bit floppy. Onions will become translucent.)

Add a cup of white rice and two cups of water. Stir. Turn down the temperature and let it boil very gently until the water has been mostly absorbed.

Add a can of beans and salt and pepper to taste. I generally use black beans or kidney beans, but anything will work. Heat just a bit longer until the beans are warm.

You might find it worthwhile to invest in a small microwave. And don’t be afraid to experiment. Your cooking skills will get much better with practice, and things that seem like they take forever will soon be quick and easy. Good luck!

Hey thanks for the recipe! Alas my situation is such that even eating at the hawker center is too draining on my budget.

Looks great! I love starchy dishes. But being the complete newbie that I am, I have some questions.

  1. What is ‘browning’ the meat?

  2. So I got the beef in the pot and I just throw in the vegetables, or shall I add the water first to the beef then put in the vegetables or…

  3. Ah, my landlord happened to be Guan Yin worshiper and no beef is allowed. Would chicken do? How do I defrost it? How long can I keep it?

Browning meat is cooking it until its brown - or cooked through. Chicken will last a few days in the fridge defrosted, defrost it by leaving it in the fridge overnight.

The Internet is your friend. You can type any of those questions into your favourite search engine and get answers. You can also type ‘recipes corn marshmallows wine’ and get - well, you won’t get recipes for that but you will for almost anything else.

There are also a lot of dedicated recipe sites; is one of my favourites and recipezaar is another. You can then search on ingredients, specify low-cal or easy - all sorts of stuff.

For cooking chicken or pork, you don’t have to slice it totally open to check doneness. Instead, you can stab halfway through the thickest part with a sharp knife and watch the juice that flows out. If it’s clear, it’s done; if it’s red, it’s not.

Here’s two more things you can do with an egg and some ramen. For both of these, you should add the egg when the ramen broth is still boiling, or it won’t cook. Crack open an egg and add it to the broth. If you stir it around immediately, it will become part of the broth and it will taste richer. Or, you can let the egg sit and cook a little until it starts to solidify, then gently stir it around so that you get little cooked pieces of egg. Now you have egg drop ramen.

You can also add other things to ramen. Small amounts of sesame oil or chili oil go well with most ramen flavors. A little fish sauce might be good too.

They really aren’t that hard, but lots of folks who claim to be cooks fear to make omelets…shame that, because once you learn they are great for turning whatever is in the 'fridge or pantry into a meal. I think they are excellent for beginning cooks, as the encourage experimentation, and drive home the point that you can screw up pretty badly and still put decent eats on the table.

You need few items of “special” equipment: A wire whisk (though I have used a fork in a pinch) and a small mixing bowl with tall sides. A smallish frying pan, preferably non-stick, but well seasoned cast iron is fine. Too large of a pan will be a problem, unless you have a large appetite, and make 4-5 egg omelets. I’ve never used one of those hinged omelet pans, and frankly can’t see the point. I’ve made omelets backpacking with dried eggs, in a mess-kit frying pan, so don’t let lack of equipment stop you.

Plain omelet:

2-3 eggs

~1 teaspoon water per egg. Not critical, less for fresh eggs, more for ones that have been in the fridge for a couple weeks (they lose water over time). Measure till you get the hang of it, but eventually you’ll just splash some in, based on how the eggs came out of the shells.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk the eggs and water to a foamy froth. Pour into a hot frying pan (see WhyNot’s advice above, but I might suggest olive or canola oil instead of butter)

Now for the tricks:

Initial cooking:
The omelet will tend to dry out on the edges, which are thin in normal shaped frying pans. To prevent this, use a spatula to smoosh the thin edges toward the middle. At the same time, tip the pan to allow runny egg mixture from the middle to run under and around the smooshed in edges. No problem if it ends up a little thicker around the edge. Do this two or three times around before folding.

Wait until there is only a little runny egg on top. You can fold in half, or in thirds. Takes practice. Don’t worry, you can totally mess it up, and still have a yummy meal. (And you will mess it up the first 10 times at least!) Practice so you can make it come out pretty for company though. Don’t wait until the top is dry, or the “hinges” will break.

The omelet can continue to cook on the bottom after folding, but to finish the cooking, you need to turn the whole shebang over. With a lot of practice, loosen with a spatula, and flip flapjack style. Lacking such practice, lay a plate face down on top of omelet, turn plate and pan over, leaving omelet on plate, slide omelet off plate back into pan.

Final cooking:
Cover pan with vented, or poorly fitting lid. A piece of foil will work fine. If you under-cook, you will have a little raw egg in the middle…doesn’t hurt a damn thing, and much less gross than burned egg. With practice, you will learn to get a nice lacy light brown on the outside.
Fillings, though, are what make omelets truly wonderful. I divide fillings into two classes, stirred-in, and folded-in. You can use one or both kinds in the same omelet.

Stirred-in. Mix these into the egg mixture prior to pouring into pan:
Chopped spinach, either fresh or frozen.
Chopped onion, either fresh or dried.
Crumbled fried bacon, or chopped ham.
Sprouts, bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts.
Sliced mushrooms.
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped green pepper

Note, the vegetables above can be added raw, or sauteed beforehand. Both are great, but the flavor and character changes.

Folded-in: Lay these on top of the omelet prior to folding:

Cheeses…Swiss cheese, Feta, Parmesan, Mozzarella, Cream cheese, etc. Heck even Kraft singles are great. Sliced or grated, doesn’t matter. Good cheddar tends to curdle and give up a lot of free oil, so it is the only cheese I would avoid.

Sliced Avocado.

Thinly sliced meat of any kind.

What she said. Hawker center “chicken rice” or yong tau foo or rice+meat+veg from the mixed stall would come out to about $2-$2.50 (Sing dollars) a meal. Note that I said hawker center. A food court will definitely be more expensive.

Buy a second-hand copy of Makansutra. It contains tons of cheap food stall recommendations. Enough to satisfy your every food craving.

If, as you say, even a hawker center is out of your budget, it’s going to be pretty difficult for you to fit meat into your budget. You’ll have to avoid the NTUC-Cold Storage with their neat cuts of meat and shop at the wet markets instead.

Eggs are cheap. Veg is cheap. Dried foods like beans are cheap. Rice, potatoes and onions are cheap. Keep sugar, salt, pepper and chillis in your kitchen at all times. Soya sauce for stir fries. Mix and match.

Poor mans Coquille St Jacques:

One can white albacore tuna
One box Kraft Mac 'N Cheese

Prepare Mac 'N Cheese
Drain and flake Tuna
Mix, enjoy.