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Learning to cook important life skill.

IT’S all very well reading self help books on how to manage your finances, your mental health, or understanding your calling, purpose and mission in life. But ultimately, the most important life skill one can hope to acquire, is learning to cook.

When the time comes to leave home, whether to study or to take up a job, the prospect of eating beans on toast or pot noodles yet again, will be incentive enough to buy a cookery book and master some basic recipes.

Farmhouse breakfast at Coco Mia

‘He can’t even boil an egg!’ is a way of saying that someone can’t cook, but in reality a considerable degree of competence is required in this simple sounding procedure. An egg put straight from the fridge into boiling water is likely to crack, and an over-boiled egg will go green and toxic. So for a set white and a runny yolk, lower room temperature eggs into boiling water and cook for five minutes. Eat straight away with toast soldiers made from white bread, and enjoy an easy high-protein breakfast.

Having perfected the boiled egg, move on to frying an egg, either in the classic style, with a softly set white and a just cooked yolk, or Asian style, with a crispy brown edge. Flavoured with soy sauce and served with rice and stir-fried vegetables, the Asian style fried egg completes an exotic and satisfying meal for lunch or dinner.

Cooking with eggs requires patience and timing, and once you’ve mastered the ultimate fried egg and the perfect boiled egg, experiment with frittatas, tortillas, devilled eggs, and omelettes, thereby impressing your friends with your culinary prowess. Regardless of your success in the kitchen, it’s often a treat to eat out.

Toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich.

Food writers, whose job it is to visit as many restaurants as possible and to report back on their findings, will agree that eating out is often a hit and miss affair. Attractive decor and impeccable waiter service count for little if food is overcooked or over salted, the vegetables wilted or presentation messy. It can feel like finding a needle in a haystack when I’m served a beautifully presented plate of food where everything is cooked to perfection.

This is what happened on a recent Sunday morning, when George and I, in search of a leisurely breakfast, visited Coco Mia in Sam Levy’s Village. Breakfast is served all day at Coco Mia, and the menu offers healthy options such as yoghurt, granola, fruit and honey, fancy options such as Eggs Benedict (muffins with ham, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce), trendy options like avo on artisanal bread with mushrooms and poached eggs, and simply satisfying dishes like bacon and egg on toast, and farmhouse breakfast.

Peaceful surroundings at Coco Mia in Borrowdale.

There are farmhouse breakfasts to suit every taste, some more spectacular than others. There are no lamb chops, mini steaks, baked beans and hash browns included in Coco Mia’s farmhouse breakfast, but the two eggs, bacon, sausage and tomato were cooked to perfection. Two slices of freshly-made toast were wrapped in a linen napkin, and served with generous pats of butter and lashings of marmalade.

Two eggs, fried to medium in the classic manner, had well-set egg whites, and slightly runny yolks. Two generous slices of quality prime cut bacon, neither flabby or over crisp, flanked a large breakfast sausage, also cooked to a turn. A sweet and smoky grilled beefsteak tomato completed the breakfast.

A toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich was highly rated, especially the chips, which George said were crisp on the outside and fluffy within.

Coco Mia on a Sunday morning, surrounded by palm trees and roses, was a popular destination. In addition to the plash of a nearby waterfall, there was a multicultural hum of conversations in Mandarin, deep Shona and English from the tables around us. Week days are likely to be busy, as from Monday to Friday a breakfast special of scrambled egg on toasted ciabatta, served with a cappuccino, is on offer for $3. Pensioners can make a day of it on Tuesdays, when Chef Robyn serves specially priced scones with jam and cream, with coffee or tea.

Learning your way around the kitchen will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. When eating out disappoints, its a relief to be back in your own kitchen, cooking up a storm. But when a simple meal, such as the farmhouse breakfast at Coco Mia is so good, its nothing short of inspirational.

A Matter of Taste Charlotte Malakoff

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