Why can’t Auntie Sally just cook authentic Chinese dishes? My 17 year-old nephew J asked my sister A last year. She always makes weird fusion food.
Because she never learnt to cooked when she was younger.
I was always the prep cook. My mum or my sister A, who was 2 years older than me, did all the cooking. I chopped up vegetables, took out the sauces, and I distinctly remember once stirring the stir fry because A needed to blow her nose. When A and I moved out together for uni, I learnt how to steam broccoli using a steamer while waiting for her to get back from her lectures, so she could cook dinner.
Even being sent to Italy or interstate for work for a few months didn’t prompt me to actually learn how to cook and expand my repertoire of simple dishes like heating up canned tuna or frying a steak and eating it with rice or pasta.
Still with my prep cook credentials intact at the age of 26, I moved out with a friend and spent the first few months driving home on the weekends to pick up frozen containers of meals from my mum. This system worked really well for everyone involved, because mum cooked for 10 whether there were 2 or 8 people coming for dinner.
I only started cooking when, for various reasons, I wasn’t able to go home to pick up the meals and then became tired of takeaway. I now find that being able to combine a few ingredients together to create a tasty dish is one of life’s true pleasures!
My first ever fully-fledged dish was a minuscule step up from my away-from-home tuna days. It was pretty much just warmed up flavoured tuna, a bottle of pasta sauce, maybe some zucchini, and if I was feeling extra fancy, a scrambled egg underneath, served with rice or pasta. That original dish has morphed into this tuna pasta recipe, which, oddly enough, is one of my nephew’s favourite dishes!
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic gloves crushed
- 1 can 375g tuna in olive oil
- 1 can tomatoes
- 140g tomato paste
- 100g mushroom, finely chopped
- 200g zucchini, finely chopped
- Pasta (whatever you like)
- Cook pasta according to directions
- Pour the oil from the can of tuna into a hot pan and cook the onion and garlic until fragrant
- Add the tuna and break the tuna up. Cook until you can see some of the tuna has browned
- Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes
- Add the canned tomato and tomato paste
- Cook on low heat for about 30 minutes (the sauce should just be gently bubbling)
- Season to taste and serve garnished with parsley
- Feel free to increase/decrease the quantities of the vegetables and even the tuna to whatever suits you. I usually cook this by feel (and my mood!) – it’s a very forgiving dish, so if you don’t like mushroom, just omit, or add carrots!
- As the canned tuna is already cooked, you don’t have to simmer it for 30 minutes if you’re in a rush. I do it when I can because I think it gives the dish more depth of flavour.