Cooking the basics

If you learn how to cook a few simple things like eggs, potatoes and pasta then you will have the basis for quick, cheap, nutritious meals in minutes.

Here are links to reliable, step-by-step instructions and videos explaining how to do all these on the website of the Good Housekeeping Institute. We also make suggestions on turning these basic ingredients into simple meals.

Cooking eggs

  • Eggs are cheap, nutritious and very quick to cook.
  • For most recipes you need to crack an egg – the British Egg Industry Council tells you how!
  • You can learn how to make soft-boiled eggs here.
  • Find out how to hard-boil eggs here. You can use these to make a simple salad (slice the egg and put with tomato slices or quarters on top of some tinned tuna, for example) or mash them up with mayonnaise to make egg sandwiches or use as a filling for baked potatoes (see below).
  • Find out how to make scrambled eggs here. Add ingredients such as ham and grated cheese for extra flavour and nutrition.
  • Find out to fry eggs here. You can fry them with bacon, tomatoes or mushrooms for a filling breakfast, or have them alongside slices of ham or oven chips for a simple lunch or dinner.

Cooking potatoes

baked

  • Baked potatoes are easy to make and ideal for simple lunches and dinners when you want something more than a sandwich or a piece of toast.
  • Find out how to bake potatoes here. This traditional method takes a long time, though (up to 1 and a half hours), so you need to plan ahead.
  • If you are short of time, you can also bake potatoes in a microwave; simply scrub the potatoes, pierce the skin a few times with a fork and cook at a high heat until they are soft. How long this takes depends on the microwave and the more potatoes you cook, the longer it takes.
  • Eat your baked potatoes with anything you like – baked beans, cheese, salad, tuna, ham, chilli con carne…

Mashed

  • These are more fiddly than baked potatoes but are a perfect comfort food.
  • The method is here.
  • Mashed potatoes go well with every type of meat and fish, as well as baked beans, and can also be used to make potato cakes, colcannon or fishcakes.

roast

  • The method is here.
  • Roast potatoes are delicious with roast meats, and usually form part of a roast lunch or dinner, but they also work well alongside white fish and dishes like ratatouille or chicken casserole.

Cooking pasta

  • Pasta is cheap, easy to cook and readily available in all sorts of shapes.
  • Good Housekeeping doesn’t have a video on cooking pasta, but there is a useful Tesco video here.
  • Always make sure that you cook the pasta in plenty of fast boiling water.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, you can serve it in any number of ways. The simplest is just with butter or oil and grated cheese; you could also add chopped ham or fresh herbs or cooked frozen peas or sweetcorn.
  • You may like to mix pasta with pesto, a herby mixture readily available in jars from almost all shops (and which doesn’t need any cooking).
  • You can make a simple tomato sauce while your pasta is cooking – see how in our recipe for meatballs with tomato sauce.
  • You can make a meat sauce using the method in our lasagne recipe.

Cooking rice

  • The method is here.
  • Like pasta, rice can be served with more or less anything you like to turn it into a more substantial meal – ham, grated cheese, bacon, chopped tomatoes, peas or sweetcorn.
  • It is also perfect with curries or chilli.

making a white sauce

  • The method is here.
  • White sauce is a basic sauce used in all sorts of dishes, including lasagne and macaroni cheese.
  • Often grated cheese is added to white sauce for extra flavour and nutrition. Always do this after you have removed the sauce from the heat.