Baking and Roasting
These cooking techniques are the ones that will see you becoming very familiar with your oven. It's tempting just to use the hob in conjunction with your microwave, when cooking quick meals but the oven really is an important piece of equipment and you should make the most of it.
Time Well SpentAlthough it might sometimes seem like a pain to have to wait for the oven to heat up, especially when you just fancy a quick bite on the way out for the evening, it usually doesn't take as long as you might think and you can be getting the rest of the meal ready, or getting changed, while you wait. Baking and roasting give you a lot more versatility with your cooking and both will add lots of flavour to food without the need for loads of oil or fat.
Getting the Right TemperatureBefore you attempt any great culinary creations, make sure you know all your oven's settings and have a vague idea of its particular idiosyncrasies. No two ovens cook food the same way so it's very important to have a couple of trial runs before inviting any friends over for dinner. One of the most important things to be aware of is if your oven has a fan setting. This makes a big difference to the temperature and timings, as a fan oven will cook things more quickly. Again, you'll need to try this out and become confident with your particular brand of oven. Always make sure you preheat the oven fully before cooking. There's no point getting impatient and putting the food in at the same time as turning it on; the oven needs to come to temperature before cooking or all you'll do is dry the food out, rather than cook it.
Classic Oven DishesHere are a few things that you should try out in the oven:
Although you can cook these in the microwave, they taste so much better when they've been baked in a hot oven and the skin goes lovely and crispy.
Vegetarians will find bags of flavour in veggies that have been tossed in a little sea salt and olive oil and roasted in the oven for 30 minutes. Loads of things work but some particularly tasty ideas are squash, sweet potato, peppers, courgettes, baby new potatoes and red onion.
Treat your household to a traditional Sunday roast. Even if you've never cooked a roast before you shouldn't find it too difficult. With most cuts of meat, you can simply follow the packaging instructions and you'll have a delicious meal. For some extra flavour, try stuffing your chicken with lemon segments; or spike your lamb joint with fresh rosemary sprigs.
Start this on the hob, by frying off onions and garlic and browning the meat (if using) then transfer to the oven (don't forget to use an ovenproof dish!). This is a great winter warmer that can be left cooking away while you're getting on with other things.
Once you get to know your oven you'll find it's invaluable for so many meals. From a simple baked potato to a roast dinner for all your mates, it's the most important part of the kitchen.