Kitchen clues for the klutz

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

If you think there is an art to sharpening knives, or it's a martial arts move, welcome to my world.

In my household our roles are eccentric because I'm happier doing gardening, pushing the wheelbarrow and manicuring the lawns. Meanwhile, my partner thinks of the kitchen as his oyster.

The days of our lives continue at this mutually blissful pace until he is out of town.

That's when I realise I have to learn the basics of cooking.

Being good friends with food editor and chef d'oeuvre Dorah Sithole is useful. She coached me through the embarrassing basics of cooking. She asked me to cook and rate myself on my cooking disasters. She helped diagnose the problem and gave me solutions.

l I cooked pap and it tasted like wet flour in my mouth.

Diagnosis: I didn't use boiling water and there's a difference between hot and boiling water.

Solution: Throw it in the bin.

l I cooked pasta and it stuck together with parts that were overcooked and some that were tough.

Diagnosis: I didn't put a spoon of cooking oil in the boiling water before throwing in the pasta. Also I put salt in too soon. Carbohydrates cook better if you allow them to boil before putting in salt. That also applies to potatoes, pap and rice.

Solution: Throw it away.

l I made green salad and it was soggy and dripping with the dressing only three hours later.

Diagnosis: You dressed the salad too soon. Only dress the salad when it is on your serving plate. Leave the salad dressing on the table for your guests.

l I cooked rice and it came out over boiled and clogged together.

Diagnosis: You overcooked it.

Using cold water makes you forget the timing, which is about 15 minutes. The other possibility is that you opened and closed the lid too often, and changed the temperature by doing so.

The best thing is to use boiling water from the onset and use average heat until the rice is cooked. You can salt the rice in the last 5 minutes of its cooking.

l I cooked mince and it was oily and rubbery, and clogged together.

Diagnosis: You added the salt too soon. Wait until your mince is simmering before adding salt.

Solution: If your food is dripping with oil while it's still cooking, put a slice of bread on top of it. The bread will suck the oil out.