Finding your way around a kitchen doesn’t come naturally to everyone. You may never have had an interest in cooking before, preferring to leave this ‘chore’ to your mother, partner or flatmate, or just eat ready meals instead. However, if you’re bothered about what goes into your body, it makes sense to learn a few basics. Contrary to what many aspiring healthy eaters may think, cooking isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s surprising how far some simple techniques can take you in preparing tasty and nutritious meals. Nor do you need an elaborate kitchen to cook in. Whether you have a minimalist kitchen set up or are used to the luxury of bespoke contemporary kitchens, healthy cooking is accessible to anyone. Here, Dakota Murphey provides 5 basic techniques and recipes that everyone can master. 1. Make a salad dressing Whether you like your salads green and simple or colourful and varied, this is the only salad dressing you’ll ever need. A super healthy French Vinaigrette dressing consists of 3 ingredients: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (with ‘the mother’) and Dijon Mustard. In a large glass, mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil and add half a teaspoon of mustard. Stir well and season with sea salt and freshly milled pepper – that’s it! You can elaborate on this if the fancy takes you, perhaps with some chopped fresh parsley or half a mashed avocado, but there’s really no need. Now coat your mixed leaves with the dressing and enjoy. Any leftover Vinaigrette will happily keep in the fridge for a few days. Don’t be alarmed if the olive oil solidifies when cold, just leave it out of the fridge for 20 minutes and stir through before use. 2. Cook pasta You may have cooked pasta before, but did you do it properly? Whether you prepare spaghetti or fusilli, pasta should always be served al dente, which is Italian for ‘firm to the bite’, never over boiled and stodgy. Start with a large pan of boiling water to which you’ve added a pinch of salt. Carefully place your choice of pasta into the boiling water, making sure that the water comes up twice as high as the pasta. Stir until everything is submerged and nothing is sticking, then cook uncovered on a medium heat for the required cooking time according to the packet. Bear in mind that different types and shapes of pasta have different cooking times – fresh egg tagliatelle will cook in less than 5 minutes, while dried ‘brown’ penne may take up to 12 minutes. As with bread, choose whole wheat varieties wherever possible. Test your pasta by taking 1 piece out of the water and pinching it with your fingernail. If it comes apart easily, it’s done. You can also taste it to check. Pour the cooked pasta into a colander and rinse under the tap, then put it back into the pan and stir a couple of tablespoons of olive oil through before serving. 3. Roast a chicken No need to be afraid of creating a Sunday Roast; it pretty much cooks itself! Take one organic chicken and rinse it under the tap inside and out. Coat the bottom of a roasting tray or casserole dish with sunflower oil, then place the chicken on top. Cut a lemon (organic, unpeeled) widthways until nearly cut through, then insert 2 fat garlic cloves (peeled) into the middle. Pinch the lemon together and place into the chicken cavity. Next, cover the chicken generously with sunflower oil and some mixed herbs, put the lid on your dish and place into a preheated (180C) oven. It will be cooked in 1.5-2 hours unless you’ve chosen a monster sized bird! To check, insert a skewer into a chicken thigh – if the juices run clear, it’s cooked. If the meat is still pink when you carve it, put the chicken back in the oven for another ½ hour. Serve with a healthy salad (see Salad Dressing above) and some roasted roots vegetables. 4. Make Frittata Eggs are the protein power staple of many a health conscious eater. Rather than simply boiling your eggs, which can get a bit boring, why not fry your eggs with vegetables? A frittata is an Italian twist on the classic omelette but without the flipping. Crack 4 organic free range eggs into a measuring jug with a generous glug of milk (you can use almond or soya milk if you prefer), salt, pepper and herbs/spices of your choice. Herbes de Provence are nice, or try Fajita Mix for a bit of a kick. Add some grated cheese if you like, then give the mixture a good whisk and set aside. Melt a tablespoon of coconut oil in a medium hot non-stick frying pan. Fry a chopped onion and some sliced mushrooms, then add 1 chopped courgette, red pepper – or in fact any choice of vegetable – and fry for 5-10 minutes until golden brown. You can also add lardons or chopped ham, cooked sausage slices or cubed tofu for extra protein. Pour over the egg mixture until everything is covered, then put a lid on the frying pan and cook for 5-10 minutes until set. Serve straightaway from the pan, ideally with a big mixed salad or a slice of sourdough bread. 5. Bake a potato For the ultimate comfort food and healthy carbohydrate hit, old school baked potatoes are hard to beat. They need to be baked in the oven, which takes time but the results are well worth the (minimal) effort. Using a microwave may be quicker but the skin will never get crispy. Take one large baking potato per person and scrub it clean. Dry the outside and prick the skin in several places with a fork, then rub it with a little olive oil and salt before placing on a baking tray in a preheated oven (190C) for 1.5-2 hours. For a variation on the theme, and some would say a healthier option, why not try a Baked Sweet Potato, which will cook slightly faster than regular potatoes? Top with a filling of your choice – baked beans and grated cheese, tuna mayo, or spinach and crumbled feta are all easy to do – for a healthy, tasty lunch or dinner. About the author: Dakota enjoys sharing her experiences of living a healthy lifestyle through her blog posts. Working as a freelance writer for a multitude of different industries, when she's not writing or cooking up a storm in her kitchen she enjoys hiking and countryside walks with her family.