Maria Gureeva is the founder of the blog Earth of Maria and the food start-up Emriaplanet. Her recipes have been featured by the feedfeed and Thrive magazine. She lives in Oxford, U.K. Her latest cookbook is Earthy Vegan Eats (Page Street, 2021).
1. Prepare your ingredients in advance. Pretty much any experienced cook sticks by this rule. It’s the easiest way to reduce overwhelm in the kitchen and save a lot of time. Prepping ahead also allows you to make recipes with greater accuracy by getting the timing correct—instead of scrambling to find the right ingredient just as the rest of the food is about to burn!
2. Spices are everything. I can’t say this enough. Spices make your food much tastier—and healthier, too! Always use more than you think you need: I used to make the mistake of adding less than ¼ teaspoon of cumin and just a little bit of salt to my tofu scramble, and I wondered why it turned out bland. Try different combinations, gaining inspiration from different cultures and culinary traditions. Chances are you’ll be amazed by how much you can create using spices you probably have in your cupboard already. My personal favorites are cumin, turmeric, garam masala, garlic powder and smoked paprika; I use them daily.
3. A good sauce makes everything better. Learn how to make staple sauces and flavorful salad dressings and you’re good to go. For instance, a sweet-and-sour sauce can be added to anything from chickpeas to tofu and tempeh. Creamy sauces are perfect for pastas, salads and stirring into soups at the last minute. Salad dressings with the right balance between acidity and sweetness will turn a boring salad into a culinary masterpiece.