Master the basics

Cooking can seem intimidating when you first step into the kitchen, but mastering the basics is easier than you think. The valuable skills below act as the building blocks to use in dozens more recipes, enabling you to cook a whole host of dishes armed with just a few core techniques. From mastering a succulent roast chicken to whipping up a batch of gooey chocolate brownies, you’ll be hosting dinner parties in no time.

  1. Start with something simple

    Tomato sauce pops up in endless family favourites – use it in pasta bakes, with spaghetti and meatballs or spread on homemade pizzas. Simplicity is key in a good tomato sauce to let the flavours shine, so this is an ideal recipe to start cooking with. It also keeps well, so make a large batch and store it in the fridge to use as you need it.

  2. Time for tea

    A Victoria sponge cake is an afternoon tea classic and a good recipe to start with if you're new to baking. Once you've mastered the classic fluffy vanilla sponge, you can ring the changes with different fillings and flavours as your confidence grows – swap the traditional jam and whipped cream for lemon curd and mascarpone, turn it into a chocolate sponge and fill with luxuriously rich chocolate ganache, or serve simply with fresh seasonal fruits. 

  3. Dinner for one

    An omelette is a great meal for one and a handy stand-by recipe to have when the fridge looks bare – whether for breakfast, lunch or a speedy midweek dinner. The key is careful timing and knowing how to fold it perfectly. Once you’ve tried a basic omelette, get creative by adding flavour with herbs and spices such as with this green pesto omelette or Indian-inspired saag paneer omelette.  

  4. Host a roast

    Want to host Sunday lunch but don’t know where to start? A classic roast chicken is a good option as it’s one of the easiest roasts to master. The key things to remember are to always check the meat is cooked through by seeing if the juices run clear when you pierce the thickest part of the bird with a skewer, then to rest the meat, covered with foil, before serving to allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat. 

  5. Master meringues

    With just two ingredients, meringue is possibly the simplest pud you can whip up. A basic meringue is delicious on its own, but can also be used as the base for a whole host of different desserts – try this strawberry pavlova to feed a crowd or crush meringues into creamy Eton mess.

  6. Cook to order

    If you always order a steak at a restaurant, now is the time to learn how to cook it yourself. Cooking simple cuts of meat exactly to your personal preference – whether you like it rare, medium or well-done – is an impressive skill to have and will instantly make you feel like a professional chef. To add some extra flavour, try this garlic and thyme steak recipe.

  7. Learn a staple

    Baking bread may seem intimidating for a novice baker, but it can also be a fun activity to enjoy on a rainy afternoon or to get the kids inspired in the kitchen. Start with our step-by-step guide to making a basic white loaf or try this tear-and-share flower bread recipe with the little ones. If you want to move on, this plaited wholemeal and spelt loaf will help you practise shaping techniques as well as basic kneading and baking using different flours. 

  8. Perfect pastry

    There are endless varieties of pastry to try – such as puff, filo and choux – but shortcrust is the one that's easiest to master at home, and is great for both sweet and savoury bakes. Follow this step-by-step guide to making shortcrust, then use it in everything from a classic quiche Lorraine to a sweet cherry Bakewell slice.

  9. Super sauces

    Sauces are an easy part of a dish to forget, but when done well they are the best way to bring a meal together. Follow this step-by-step recipe to achieve a versatile gravy suited to any roast, then try some of the flavour twists such as stirring in a few spoonfuls of apple sauce when pairing with pork. 

  10. Treat yourself

    It's always helpful to have an easy baking recipe up your sleeve for birthdays, parties or just a weekend treat. Chocolate brownies are always a crowd-pleaser and a good place to start. This marshmallow brownie recipe has an extra gooey filling yet is quick and easy to make. If you fancy something a bit different, experiment with unusual flavour combinations such as these bacon and whiskey brownies, or mix it up with white chocolate blondies.