Cooking

1. How I started cooking

During the Covid-19 induced quarantine, I reignited my interest in cooking that came from watching the food network constantly and adding eggs to instant ramen as a kid.

I feel like I have a better intuition about how to handle food. I think how programming languages become much easier to learn once you've learned one in and out rings true for cooking as well - my hands and eyes and nose just move differently than they did months ago and I'm much more confident taking up "hard" dishes (pasta, macarons).

Second to writing code, food is the closest thing I've found to magic. Taking something that would make you sick if you ate it as is and turning into something that really *hits the spot* sparks a sense of wonder.

Even before I started cooking, I always enjoyed eating. I think that's one of the foundational skills to being a great chef - making food that you like. My mom is a housewife/part-time medical secretary and for her, cooking was just part of the job. She never tastes her food and only pulls from a set of tried and true recipes for lunch and dinner. Any time she has to make a different quantity of the same recipe, it doesn't turn out as good (she doesn't measure anything but makes everything via muscle memory).

To cook good, somewhat original food, it's vital to have a palate that lets you recognize what's good. And, if it's not good, a palate that tells you what's missing. I used to think cooking was easy because it was just about following a recipe. Since then, I've realized it's all about using your palate to adjust and evolve your dishes. This is what Massimo Bottura (executive chef at a 3-Michelin-star restaurant in Italy) advocates in his masterclass - trusting your palate over tradition/recipies. Which is also why he makes pesto with breadcrumbs instead of pine nuts.

For lots of people, food is just for sustenance. Which totally works - a year ago I'd forget to eat because I was occupied and wished Soylent was legal in Canada so I could waste less time on meals. Now, I find cooking therapeutic and eating incredibly satisfying and I'm sure I can get good food that fulfills my dietary needs without eating out or spending hours in the kitchen. Even chicken and rice meal prep can be improved with a little extra effort.

2. Youtube channels to learn from

If you're interested in learning, my favorite teachers have been the following YouTube channels:

  1. Adam Ragusea - I've seen all of his videos and most of my recipies come from him. He's the epitome of a home cook and all of his recipes are versatile and approachable. I'm also way too invested in the meme culture surrounding him like how he always uses white wine in everything and seasons his cutting board, not his steak
  1. Binging with Babish - He recreates food from movies and TV but also has an educational series called Basics with Babish which is *chef's kiss*.
  1. Internet Shaquille - He's like Adam Ragusea but weirder and less professional - still has good recipes/tricks but not every video is something you'd make at home.
  1. Bon Appetit - All their content is about cooking but it's like a reality TV show and it's entertaining because I'm so invested in the chefs/characters and their relationships.

3. Recipes I've made

Banana Bread

Recipe - Bon Appetit

1st time

4th time

Fresh Pasta (No-Roller)

Recipe - Adam Ragusea

I made a pot for my family - they liked it so much they asked for another pot

Chicken Pot Pie

Recipe - Adam Ragusea

Shakshuka

Recipe - Alex (French Guy Cooking)

  • Made this with 2 friends, it's a really fun coop dish with lots of stuff to do async
  • we deviated from the recipe a lot - just understand that its meat/sausage, tomato sauce with an onion and garlic base, assorted peppers with an egg on top that tastes absolutely fire
  • The harissa (chili pepper sauce on the side) was way better than the sum of its parts - I'd make it with other dishes if I had peppers at home (which I often don't)

Pizza

Recipe - Adam Ragusea

Pizza Bread

Recipe - Adam Ragusea

  • Adam is a wild chef who takes his pizza dough, lets it age in the fridge for 7 days, puts salt, pepper, and garlic powder on it and it makes the most insane bread
  • It tastes like a sourdough breadstick if you do it right
  • I recommend slicing and dipping in some sort of tomato/ chili pepper sauce

Egg Tarts

Recipe - Binging with Babish

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe - Tasty

Aglio e Olio (Fresh Pasta Pt. 2)

Recipe - Binging with Babish

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Recipe - Adam Ragusea

"Sloppy" Gyros

Recipe - Adam Ragusea

Apple Galette (Pie)

Recipe - Adam Ragusea

Pineapple Cake

Recipe - Yummyyy y

  • Honestly this is just vanilla sponge with canned pineapple juice in the layers and fruit on top - I don't know how it works so well together
  • Made this for my uncle's birthday - apparently pineapple cake with whipped cream was my parents' wedding cake in Pakistan so the whole family really liked it


Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions via email at aliaadil2002@gmail.com - I'd be happy to help!

And if you found this particularly useful, consider buying me a coffee ☕️.