There has been much said about the way cooking at home, not what celebrity chefs produce, has declined in variety and the skills available to home cooks. I produced roast pork with all the trimmings last weekend.
Roast pork dinner
In reality the skill in producing a meal for people at a given time is more about timing as much as the cooking skills involved. In saying that therein hangs a tale! Take vegetables for example, different people like their vegetables cooked for different lengths of times.
So what do you do?
You cook them to suit yourself and hope that the guests are polite enough to eat them with a smile of gratitude. That seems selfish, but cooking for more than three or four escalates the process to the edge of mass catering. Even so you don't have to produce something bland and unappetising. I remember my own mum telling me to cook vegetables for 20 minutes when I was moving away to college but you learn how you like different plant parts cooked. Try al dente - with a bit of bite for a change. Then of course try roasting vegetables for another alternative set of flavours.
Then there are herbs and spices. This is an area in which I am a complete novice but I'm learning. There are obvious things like, parsley with fish, sage with pork and so on but there are a plethora of possible flavour enhances. I prefer basil with tomatoes and potatoes for example. I have also found that the supermarkets sell living basil for a £1 or so a plant, even my hot apartment they last for several weeks before becoming drawn and leggy, and fresh tastes better than dried.
Finally, the meat. Again mum used to cook everything thoroughly which could be a little overdone for some people's taste. Cooking joints such as pork shoulder should be done thoroughly in my opinion, so it is wise to take precautions to prevent it from becoming too dry. Over the years I've learned to slice a dessert apple and an onion, with a little water, in to the bottom of the roasting tin for the piece of meat to sit on. Then regular basting ensures a juicy piece of meat but the added bonus is the basis for a very tasty gravy.
There are similar 'tricks' for other meats as well. The Christmas turkey is better with a whole orange and an onion stuffed inside as turkey can be as dry as a piece of cardboard. For other ideas there are lots of helpful websites around.
So when you are going to cook, buy the freshest ingredients, keep it simple, begin early and don't be tempted to take on extra jobs while you're waiting for something that's cooking to finish. There lies a plethora of disasters. I have had to sand down and repaint a kitchen ceiling after eggs that I was hard boiling were left too long and exploded! I'm just pleased that there was no one in the room at the time.
I think that for me the key is preparation but irrespective of disasters, and I've had some, enjoy the process as well as the outcome.