Basic Recipes That You Should Know How to Cook

Words: Jess Spiro

So you’re an adult, going about your adult life, doing adult things. But, are you still buying pre-packaged food for dinner? Hate to break it to you, but then you’re not really an adult. As part of the inevitable process of growing up, moving out of your parent’s home and the like, along with paying your own bills and doing your own laundry, you should be able to feed yourself. We’re not talking sous vide machines and haute cuisine here. We’re talking the honest to goodness classics, the things that mom used to cook. Here is a roundup of the iconic dishes that everyone should know how to make.

Basic Recipes You Should Know How to Cook

Start with the basics and proceed from there.

Roast Chicken

Honestly, is there a more loved dish than the humble roast chook? We think not. It’s almost a given that whatever you’re going through – heartbreak, celebration, illness – roast chicken will be the appropriate thing to feed yourself. Plus, it makes for the best leftovers (chicken mayo sarmies anyone?). It’s a simple act of greasing up a bird with butter or oil, seasoning generously, stuffing the cavity with something delicious and popping it in the oven.

Macaroni and Cheese

When you need a hug in food form, macaroni and cheese is always the answer. Based on a simple bechamel sauce, mac ‘n cheese is easy to prepare and always delivers on flavour. This recipe has additional caramelised leeks folded through, but you can easily omit them or add your favourite veggies, such roasted butternut or cauliflower.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Nearly everyone grew up eating this classic Italian dish, and with good reason. It’s easy to prepare, inexpensive and is always tasty. You can also repurpose the leftovers into sloppy Joe’s, or by layering them into a lasagne. If you want to score bonus adult points, make a double batch of our recipe and freeze some of it for those nights you get home late and just can’t even.

Chicken Curry

Before you order a delivery curry again, think about all the unnecessary nasties and preservatives they add. There really is no reason to order a curry, because not only are they super easy once you have a good recipe (like ours) but they’re also quick to make. And if you keep your pantry well-stocked with spices and chopped tomatoes, then all you’ll need to pick up is some chicken. This recipe is a good basic korma recipe, that you can decide to put into bread rolls or just serve with rice.

Chicken Pie

Chicken is a versatile thing to learn to cook, are you getting that? A pie is a great way to use up roast chicken leftovers, but in case you feel tempted to stop past the garage and buy that sad-looking pie in the window, here is a pretty fool-proof recipe. You could even (if you were in a real pinch) use store-bought pastry and we wouldn’t tell anyone!

Tomato Soup

Put that can of instant soup down this instant. Tomato soup is not only ridiculously easy but just tastes so much better homemade. Naturally using fresh tomatoes will taste best but if you’re in a pinch and need to get your soup fix immediately, you could use canned tomatoes.


Being able to cook a steak successfully is a life skill, but it’s not necessarily a difficult one to master. Simply make sure your pan is searing hot so that you get good colour on the outside. Ideally, depending on the thickness of your steak, you’ll cook it for about 2-3 minutes on each side, then letting it rest for 5 minutes before slicing and eating.


Fish is actually very simple to cook but tends to scare a lot of people for some reason. We’re here to tell you not to fear the fish. Why not start with these tinned tina fishcakes, they’re super easy and tasty and use items you probably already have on hand.

Pork Chops

Ok, so this may not be super basic, but cooking chops like this in the oven ensures that they are super juicy and tender. Add a little cheffy flair with a nut crumble and some crackling and hey presto, your are well on your way to kitchen glory.

Roast Leg of Lamb

Roast lamb is never going to be a mid-week meal but if you’re cooking for a special occasion, it really is the perfect meal. Simply go down to your local butcher, ask for a decent-sized leg and follow our simple recipe.


Chicken Stir-Fry

A stir-fry is the ultimate quick and satisfying meal, but it’s also a great way to use up leftovers. Use this recipe as a base and feel free to add and change ingredients as you see fit. You’ll never want to order greasy takeaways again.


If you’re a clever clogs, you’ll learn how to make risotto, then keep a box of risotto rice in the cupboard and stock in the freezer and then never go hungry again. This recipe for Pea, Pancetta and Mascarpone risotto is a good one to know, as you can use frozen peas. Although, once you’ve mastered the skill of risotto, you can really use any veggies you have lying about.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

There is no better feeling (or smell) than a batch of freshly baked choc chip cookies sitting on your counter. They are easy to make and, because of the dark chocolate, are really very tasty. If you want to be extra adult-y, you can make the dough and store it in the freezer for those times you need fresh cookies – stat.

Apple Crumble

If you’re looking for comfort, a crumble is the ideal dessert. Learn to make the basic pastry, then substitute with any in-season fruit you have lying around.

Want to improve your cooking? Check out our A-Z of Cooking Terms here.

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