Cooking is great fun and it can be hugely rewarding (and much tastier) to make things from scratch if possible … but sometimes bitter experience has taught me that whilst some things are absolutely worth making, but others aren’t.
So here’s the first list. Those things you should try making yourself at least once.
As I add these recipes to the blog I’ll include links.
1. Tomato sauce. It takes ten minutes, works well with tinned tomatoes, and costs much less. Besides, one you’ve mastered the base it’s open to endless tinkering around with garlic, herbs, wine and spices as takes your fancy. Here’s one with olives, capers and chilli.
2. Paneer. Shop brought paneer is hard and boring. Making itself needs 4 litres of milk, a couple of lemons (or a splash of vinegar) and a muslin. The taste is creamy, soft and fresh. Here’s a really clear explanation of how to make from Wiki how.
3. Bechamel. It’s easier than you think and the subtly and tastiness of the sauce is miles away from anything you’ll find in the shops, which just taste of fat and salt. Here’s a pretty straightforward recipe. Don’t panic if you’re missing the cloves or celery or other flavouring ingredients, it will still work fine.
4. Short crust, rough puff and sweet crust pastry. There are some pastries that it’s never worth making yourself. Short crust, sweet crust and rough puff pastry and almost always worth making. They take five minutes to prepare and don’t even always need chilling. They can also be frozen in advance if you need them, and you can make endless variations – try this spiced one for plums for example.
5. Most cakes and muffins. Unless you have in mind some kind of complicated layer cake it’s almost always nicer to make your own and you can have a cake in the oven in fifteen minutes. Here’s a recipe for super-quick chocolate cake, chocolate muffins and carrot and coconut muffins
6. Crumbles. A fruit crumble is such an easy pudding and they taste great. Rub together 1 part butter with 2 parts flour, add just under 1 part sugar and scatter over lightly-cooked seasonal fruit mixed with a little sugar. Otherwise try this apple and thyme crumble. Bake for 30 mins and serve with cream. Simple!
7. Pesto. Takes a handful of basil, of cheese, of nuts and a slosh of oil in a blender. Tastes a thousand times better than shop bought. Give it a go. There’s a recipe with the mushroom lasagne on this page.
8. Lasagne. so much nicer if you make it yourself. Here’s a popular recipe in our house for mushroom lasagne, I’ll try and include more variations soon.
9. Chocolate sauce. take a carton of cream and a bar of 70% dark chocolate and five minutes. Better than any you’ll buy. I’ll add a link next time I make it, until then the ganache on the emergency chocolate cake recipe is basically the same thing.
10. Risotto. A relatively straightforward dish, the only hassle being the 20 minutes stirring. Once you know the basics, there are so many variations with different veg and herbs. Bought ones are expensive and never taste as good. Here’s one with squash.
11. Butter. Seriously! Give it a go. Butter is really simple and only requires a tub of double (heavy) cream. The finished product tastes fantastically fresh, and you’re left with butter milk as well, which makes lovely pancakes. Here’s another recipe from Wikihow. When I next make my own I’ll add a link.