Cooking Is Easy: 5 Basic Meals Everyone Should Be Able to Cook

You might think unless you can open a recipe book at a random page and effortlessly create whatever lies in front of you, you’re not a good cook. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Many people who consider themselves good at cooking, and are considered such by their friends and family, may actually only know how to cook a handful of recipes off by heart. The rest is curiosity, creativity, trial and error, and taking the effort to perfect a few basic cookery skills.

If you can cook five different meals really well, everything else is likely to fall into place. Imagine that you know exactly how to make a really good spaghetti bolognaise, for example. This is a recipe that you can use any time you want to feed your family, friends, a date, or your colleagues.

From perfecting this one recipe, you have gained some solid cooking skills: cooking pasta well, making a meat sauce, and timing two different components of a meal so they are ready at the same time.

From one relatively simple spaghetti bolognaise recipe, you have the skills to make a wide range of other dishes, such as lasagne, spaghetti carbonara, or a vegetarian pasta dish made by using a meat substitute or by making a vegetable sauce instead.

If you find that you are cooking the same dish every time you serve a meal, try making one little change every time, or adding something different. Using a different kind of meat, adding in a new seasoning, or switching the pasta will all make your signature dish seem fresh and exciting.

Keep reading to find out five dishes that are great to have in your repertoire.

While reading, you should jot down your own ideas of dishes that you would like to learn to cook, and of skills you think you could learn from that. This list is not exhaustive, or representative of every person’s dietary needs.

1. Pasta


Spaghetti bolognaise, as mentioned before, is a good one. It is generally a crowd-pleaser, very tasty, and quite nutritious if you sneak some vegetables into the sauce along with your meat. For a more delicate flavour, you could make a pasta dish with a creamy sauce, flaked salmon fillet, and green vegetables.

Most of the skills that you will pick up by cooking pasta dishes can be easily transferred to cooking rice or noodles. Egg fried rice, stir fries, and risotto are all good examples of using this skill in different ways.

Cooking a risotto is slightly different and a little more difficult than just cooking pasta, as it involves allowing the rice to absorb the liquid that you add to the pan. You might need to try risotto a few times before it comes out right, but you will be picking up important and useful cooking skills along the way.

Two variations of a simple pasta dish are pasta bake and pasta salad. If you like to cook pasta all year round, then it might be a good idea to turn it into a bake in the winter, and a salad in the summer.

The basic premise of a pasta bake is that you cook your pasta for a little less than the suggested time, before combining it with sauce, vegetables, meat and cheese and baking it in the oven.

A pasta salad is a much fresher affair, and involves dressing your cooked, cooled pasta in a light sauce and mixing it with some crunchy vegetables and cooked meat or fish.

2. Soup


Soups are incredibly versatile, and can be very easy. They are a great way to use up anything that you have left over from other meals, or any vegetables that have been in the fridge just a little bit too long. They can be as hearty or filling or light and fresh as you want.

For a soup to serve as a main course with a chunk of crusty bread, try one filled with beans, meat, pasta, rice or barley.

If you have a lot of hungry friends coming round and want something that you can cook in a big pot and ladle up for them when they arrive, try an Asian style broth.

With a bit of trial and error, you can find the perfect combination of sweet, salty and sour and the right additions of noodles, vegetables and meat. Once you have hit on the perfect flavours that work together to amaze the taste buds, you can cook it any time you need to feed your loved ones.

3. Stew


Think chilli con carne, goulash, or a bean and vegetable stew. It’s up to you whether you want to stand over the stove for every step of the way, or if you would rather throw some ingredients in a slow cooker and wait for the stew to come together beautifully on its own.

A stew can be made out of almost anything you want. For a meat-eating crowd, you might want to tackle a lamb stew, replete with chickpeas, spinach and dried apricots.

If your friends are of the vegetarian persuasion, rustle up a vegetable stew packed with bell peppers, courgettes, aubergines, lentils, carrots, sweet potatoes, or anything else you can find at the local greengrocer.

4. Eggs


For a main meal, the best way to serve eggs is as an omelette or frittata, preferably stuffed with lots of delicious vegetables and cheese, served alongside a crisp salad and some French fries or roast potatoes.

Alternatively, learning how to make some delicious scrambled eggs is a good idea if you often cook breakfast for others, and a perfect poached egg will be pride of the breakfast table and will also fit right in with dinner.

While a quick egg meal is the perfect thing to eat after a long day at work, it can also be a stunning meal to serve up to others. With a few ingredients to add a kick, and a bit of adventurousness, you can create a wonderful baked egg dish to serve alongside potatoes or slices of crusty bread.

A simple but stunning dish involves cooking garlic, chilli, onions and chopped tomatoes with herbs until they are slightly sticky and deeply aromatic, before making a well in the sauce to crack an egg into.

Add as many eggs as you need, and cover the pan with a lid until the eggs are set. To make it into a more rounded meal, cook up some chopped chorizo or small meatballs along with the onions.

5. Pie


Whether a hearty beef pie or a heap of delicious vegetables topped with a puff pastry crust, there is a pie for every occasion. Mini pies make a delightful starter if you have something else planned for the main course, and are sure to impress.

Individual spinach and feta pies with filo pastry would make a great meal with salad and bread, or a delicious snack on their own. (Many top chefs would recommend buying pre-made filo pastry, so don’t be intimidated by any recipes that include it – it is hard to make and nobody will know that you’ve taken a shortcut.)

Once you’ve got the hang of making simple pastry and pie fillings, you might want to move onto making a pie for dessert.

Apple pie is a classic and a firm favourite for many people, and is something that you can make in the traditional way or add in fresh new flavours, depending on who you are feeding.

None of these taking your fancy? You could learn how to make the best pizza your friends have ever tasted – that would be sure to impress.

If you are a serious meat-eater, your task could be to cook the perfect steak, along with all the sides and garnishes. An excellent fried or baked chicken recipe is another versatile meal that you can whip up at a few hour’s notice if you have guests coming round, or are looking to impress a certain somebody.

Maybe you’re more of a simple chef, preferring cold meals such as sandwiches, salads and platters to steaming pots of stew and fluffy scrambled eggs. That’s okay too.

Spend some time coming up with the perfect sandwich recipe: getting the right combination of bread, condiments and filling can be tricky if you are trying to create something that will make people say ‘wow’.

When it comes to salads, they may be simple but it is not easy to make one that will impress people. Some people are immediately turned off by a salad, so you need to work to make it appealing to everyone.

Focus on every element of the salad, including which leaves you start with, the vegetables you add, any protein you might include, and finally the dressing.

About the author


Reader, writer, blogger, part-timer, volunteer, all things to all men. I can usually be found wearing yellow clothes and drinking green tea. Some of my favourite things include waterfalls, polar bears, rum, and charity shops.

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