In the kitchen

My recipes assume you have at least a basic level of competence in the kitchen - that you know how to boil an egg and chop an onion - and that you use, know or have heard of at least some of the less common ingredients that may crop up. However, even if that's not the case and you've been living on beans on toast and ready meals for years you should still be able to manage quite a few of my recipes - they are not difficult! I've deliberately chosen not to offer complex recipes, on the principle that the complicated stuff is something best kept for when you have dinner guests and it's more faff than it's probably worth for one person.

My quantities are often vague - I firmly believe that strict measurements are kept mainly for baking, which is a science that demands adhering to the proportions. And besides, when you're cooking for yourself much depends on how hungry you are and most recipes won't spoil if they are tweaked a little or even a lot. I tend to measure in handfuls or even guesswork - an extra potato or another chicken portion, or a bit less parsley or chilli, won't ruin things. I'm mostly metric in my head (from years of living in mainland Europe), but still occasionally use pints to measure liquid, for example. Where I've given quantities they are a guide rather than a prescription - feel free to tinker and make my recipes your own as you experiment!

It helps to have some decent kit in your kitchen - good quality, sharp knives are a must and worth spending money on because they make chopping and slicing so much easier and faster. I've never spent absurd amounts on imported Japanese knives, though - you can pick up decent knives for £20-30 each in a department store or a specialist cook shop. Good pans are also essential, the heavier the better as they last long and cook better. I own a couple of really good sauteuses and three heavy frying pans of varying sizes, plus an iron griddle and a set of all-purpose saucepans. Buy the best you can afford.

I own a lot of gadgets but rarely use most of them - what I do use regularly are my garlic press, lemon squeezer, electric hand-held blender and pestle & mortar, as well the usual array of wooden spoons, spatulas and whisks. I occasionally haul out my food processor to make hummus but otherwise manage very well with the basics. You really don't need fancy gadgets for coring a pineapple or peeling an apple...

So, time to get cooking!