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How to manage cooking burnout

Charlotte Lear looks at why we’re getting bored with our cooking and how to dig ourselves out of a rut

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I feel it is no understatement when I say I have ploughed through at least six tins of chopped tomatoes over the last fortnight. Let’s face it, cooking is getting increasingly boring.

Gone are the days of dinners out with your mates when maybe you’d try something new on the menu and it inspires you in your home-cooking. The reality of having to cook for yourself every single day of lockdown is really hitting home and takeaways just don’t seem to foster excitement like they used to – takeaways are no longer a treat, but more of a last resort: ‘if I eat another pasta bake I might actually become one.’

Fear not, dear reader. I’ve done some digging around as I, for one, am getting sick of eating the same thing day in and day out. I’ve rounded up some key resources and tips to hopefully get the ball rolling (or the onions sweating, or the tofu pressing, or… you get me).

  1. Try something new!

This first one is a bit of a cop-out, I admit, but there’s a huge amount of truth in it. Bringing in new flavours that you haven’t tried before, or trying a different type of cuisine can add a surprising amount of excitement to your weekly menu. I can’t explain the euphoria I felt when I found jackfruit in the middle-aisle at ALDI; who knew?

Trying something new can also help you to add a lot more range, vitamins-wise, to your diet. You could try going vegetarian for a week as this will help you to look at food in new and exciting ways. Similarly to this, don’t forget to treat yourself if you can. Cooking and eating food is a nourishing process and if you’re debating over whether you need that slightly over-priced but fun looking cheese – you do! Treat yourself.

  1. Recipe websites are your friend

Personally, I love a cookbook. However, they have the tendency to be extortionate, and if you’re not going to be using them all of the time, then they may not be the right investment for you. However, the glorious nature of the internet means that we have an unlimited source of new recipes at our fingertips. I recommend setting aside some time before your weekly shop just to browse for recipes you would like to try. That way you can plan your meals and adjust costs to your choosing.

Some of the best websites for free recipes are:

  • https://www.mobkitchen.co.uk/ : MOB Kitchen. These guys are the holy grail; they also have an incredible social media platform and a weekly newsletter packed full of recipes for something new to try each week. They’re also partial to an insane giveaway.
  • https://www.bbc.co.uk/food : BBC Food. Slightly different from BBC GoodFood, these recipes are written by industry professionals and it’s like having an online cookbook rather than having to buy the whole thing. GoodFood is also fantastic; I recommend reading the reviews on the recipes, however, as some of them can be a bit DIY.
  • https://www.bosh.tv/ BOSH! is great for veggie and vegan content.
  • https://www.olivemagazine.com/ Olive Magazine.
  • https://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/ Delicious Magazine.

Any big supermarket website will also have great recipes, with the addition option of being able to add the ingredients list to an online shop. Some of my favourites are:

  1. Watch A Cooking Show

FoodNetwork is a common favourite at my house. At the moment they’re playing some seriously vintage Nigella which, if not for food, has fostered plenty-a-giggle. I write this point as I started watching Masterchef: The Professionals over lockdown two and found myself trying to plate-up my veggie dinners as if Monica and Marcus were watching over my shoulder. Regardless, they are a really great way to find food inspiration. Some of my favourites are:

  • Masterchef: any kind, although I’m a big fan of The Professionals as it’s just that bit more entertaining when they cock up.
  • Anthony Bourdain: Basically the Louis Theroux of cooking programmes. Parts Unknown is particularly good as he seeks out overlooked cuisines all over the world.
  • Chef’s Table: One of my faves! Each episode follows a chef and what they would cook for their ultimate ‘chef’s table’: how they would cook it, where the recipes come from and what they mean to them. I’ve honestly shed tears at this programme.
  • Salt Fat Acid Heat: Samin Nosrat travels the world to explore the four basic concepts to cooking.
  • The Great British Bake-off: There isn’t a comfort food programme like it. They’re also re-running series on FoodNetwork at the moment.
  • Just for the lols: Come Dine With Me and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares are absolute cult classics, although maybe not the best shout for actual cooking inspiration.
  1. Some of my favourite books

If you are looking to invest, these are my recommendations:

  • Anything by the MOB (Ben Lebus).  My particular favourite is the MOB Veggie cookbook. Their recipes are the most student-friendly ones out there and more often than not you can whip up a dish without having to buy exclusive ingredients.
  • VEG by Jamie Oliver: a Bible for all you veggies out there.
  • The Green Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer: one-pot oven vegan and vegetarian dishes.
  • Anything Ottolenghi. My favourite at the moment is Simple. Be warned, though, these recipes aren’t very student friendly, they’re a bit of a treat for me as you do find yourself making a trip to Waitrose to hunt-down an ingredient you’ve never heard of.
  • Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats: Ama is one of the most inventive vegan cooks out there.
  • EAST by Meera Sodha: she has a whole chapter on tofu – impeccable.

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