We asked a friend of ours who is a Chef on some cooking tips and advice. This was his response.
Let meat warm up before cooking it
Never cook directly from the fridge, take it out a little before. This will ensure a faster and more even cooking process. This is especially important for red meat. You want pink? Let it warm up first.
Get your pans hot
If you want flavour and appealing looking food you need to caramelize. The color you get on meat or vegetables or whatever is the natural sugars caramelizing. “Sweating” something off as it’s known helps to bring out the natural juices and flavors and enhances the taste. Cook until you see color, adding butter will help as the gently burning butter again adds flavor and color.
Cut all your ingredients to appropriate sizes to ensure they all cook at the same time. For example, you will need to cut potato smaller than a piece of onion because it will take longer to cook. You don’t want to over cook anything as that will lose flavor and nutrition, so you want it all to cook at the same time and as fast as possible. For that reason always add hot liquid when you’ve finished coloring your vegetables, be it stock or just water. Try to get the quantity of liquid correct at the start as you don’t want to add to have liquid at the end of cooking for that will have none of the flavors of your base. Add salt DURING cooking as this will bring out the flavors within, but recheck the seasoning at the end. Add appropriate vegetables. For example, if making a white onion soup stick to vegetables of a similar color like potato, garlic, the bottom part of leeks, etc. You wouldn’t want to add an orange carrot to your onion soup and also, when adding vegetables, try not to add so many that you stray away from the intended original flavor. An onion soup should taste like onion. Once I’ve finished coloring the ingredients I always like to deglaze the pan with wine and/or vinegar. These two are highly effective at lifting off the food particles and flavors that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan and help to enhance the impact of the ingredients. If using wine, ensure that you boil it for a minute before adding any more liquid. This will help to remove the alcohol content but also enhances the effect of the wine and the depth of flavor in your soup. Finally, and I could go on, if you are going to blend your soup I suggest passing it through a sieve before serving. This will remove and fibrous pieces that failed to cook down or herb stalks etc. Basically all the bits that wouldn’t be nice to eat and makes for a much smoother soup. There are so many tips for soup but I’ll leave it at that for now!
For Gods sake get a hot pan!! Mushrooms are full of water and in a cool pan they will just boil in their own liquid and will be lacking in color and appeal. Get your pan hot, add a little oil then your mushrooms, not too many as this will cool the pan down and you won’t have space to move the little fellas around. Once they have started cooking throw in some butter, again not too much, this is mostly for color and flavor. Adding too much will boil them and for best results you want to *fry* them. Cook quickly and remember mushrooms do not take long. Never wash mushrooms either as they act like a sponge and absorb liquid ridiculously fast. Should you have to, fill up a bowl or sink with water and throw them all in at once, give a quick swill round then remove and place onto a clean dry towel as soon as possible. Try to get them fully dry before proceeding to cook. Do not be afraid to use dried mushrooms either. These sometimes contain more flavor than fresh. You can add either dry into a soup or rehydrate in a little hot water. Reserving the liquid from that will also give you a lovely colored and scented mushroom stock.
Wanna make ice cream?
You don’t have to be one of the lucky few to have an ice cream maker to make ice cream. If you don’t you just have to ensure that you keep stirring it as it freezes to prevent ice crystals forming and to create an evenly frozen ice cream. Also remember that the chilling process dullens flavor (just as heating does the opposite) so make it taste strong before it goes into the cold. Want an easy recipe? For the base that I tend to use, take 2 cups cream, 1 cup milk, 3 eggs and 3/4 cup sugar. Mix the eggs and sugar, then add the liquids. This is the base. You can then add vanilla seeds, powdered cinnamon, broken up cookies, whatever you want. If you have the time you can heat up your liquids with a flavor element (eg a cinnamon stick) and leave to infuse before adding to the rest. A few things to remember, this is an UNCOOKED recipe so if pregnant I would avoid it because of the raw eggs and also, sugar prevents freezer so pay attention to what you add. For example if you are adding a sweetened strawberry puree that already has sugar, add a little less of your own to try to keep the balance. Obviously there are specific ice cream recipes and none are particularly difficult, I just find this to be an effective and easy one as you generally just throw it together and it can be in the freezer in two minutes.
Without meaning to sound arrogant, making decent mash is not as easy as you might think. First peel your spuds properly, that is to remove ALL of the skin and eyes. Any brown pieces will discolor your mash. Second, cut them all the same size to ensure that each piece cooks at the same time. Then add cold water and bring up to the boil. The general rule is if it grows under the ground add cold water if it grows above add hot. Underground vegetables are generally hardier and take longer to cook so by adding cold and bringing up to temp, you are allowing the heat to penetrate the centre long before the outside overcooks. Once your mash is boiling, give a good stir then reduce to a simmer. You don’t want to continue boiling. A rolling boil as it’s known will break apart your potatoes and you don’t want that. It’s what you want if part boiling to make roast potatoes but not for mash. Keep stirring too, otherwise the potatoes on the bottom will cook faster as they are closer to the heat. Ok, so your mash is cooked. Do not over cook as you will end up with potato water but also be careful not to under cook as that will result in a gluey mash. If they are VERY soft upon draining then leave to steam for five minutes to remove excess water. Otherwise you may end up with a very wet consistency. Ideally you want them to be soft all the way through when poked with a knife but not falling apart. Mash while warm though and you can’t over mash! Mashing when cold again will result in a sticky texture. Add plenty of cream and butter and seasoning. For the healthy conscious add mayonaisse instead of butter. Also try experimenting by adding different cheeses, fresh herbs, mustard or pesto into your mash. Add a little to begin with, then add more until your get to a flavor you like. Cheese will make it somewhat sticky but who cares when it tastes good?
Fried or poached eggs
A good test of a chef is to get them to do the simplest of things and see how well they do it. The secret to a good fried egg is to have not too much oil, really just enough to stop it sticking to the pan, and by putting the egg and oil into a cold pan and bringing gently up to heat and cooking low and slow. By doing this you won’t get the bubbles that form on a quickly cooked egg and the edges of the white will remain white not burnt. For a successful poached egg, have some gently boiling water (not a rolling boiling) but above simmering with a good dose of white wine vinegar. The vinegar will help the egg to coagulate. Do not salt the water, instead salt the egg once it is finished cooking. Whisk the water when ready to create a vortex, drop the egg right into the centre and cook for three minutes. The spinning action will help bring the egg together into a tight ball. The cooking time will vary somewhat depending on the size of the egg and the exact temp of your water so be prepared to adjust slightly. Remove gently from the water, allow any excess water to drip off, season and enjoy. Sometimes I dip mine into clean hot water to remove any scum that has collected onto the egg before seasoning and serving.
Fool proof Yorkshire puddings for my fellow Englishmen and women
Equal quantities is all you need to remember. For example, 1 liter of milk, 1 liter of flour, 1 liter of eggs. Simply add salt and pepper, give a really good mix and then leave for a at least a few hours. This gives the gluten in the flour time to do its thing. Then you will need your trays. Fill up each space with vegetable oil (this has a higher flash point than any other oil) and place into the oven. The more oil you have in each gap the higher and bigger your Yorkie. Leave the tray in the oven until the oil begins to smoke (a hot oven, at least 190 degrees). This is why you need an oil with a high flash point, and the hot oven will help the initial rise just like it does with breads and soufflés. Pour in you batter mix being very careful as you will have a scorching hot tray full of very hot oil. It’s up to you how much you put in, a good 2/3rds of a ladle should suffice depending on the size of your ladle. Ten minutes should do them but before you pull them out, take just one out and leave it on the side. If it hasn’t started to collapse after thirty seconds then they should all be fine to come out. Just don’t do what one young chef did when I told him equal quantities. He made a mix with 4 pints of milk, flour, eggs… AND 4 pints of salt!
You must season
I’m not necessarily saying salt AND pepper but certainly salt. It draws out and enhances flavor and helps to retain nutrients. Salted water when cooking vegetables is a must for those reasons, especially green veg because it helps to keep the green color. People used to use bicarbonate of soda for the same reason. Pepper has its uses, for a little kick when food is lacking and if you like it then by all means but don’t feel that you have to use it. Salt enhances flavor, pepper ADDS a flavor. Seasoning doesn’t always mean salt though. Sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, can all bring out the taste of something and salt may not always be what you need. Always be aware of what the end product is that you’re to achieve and be conscious of the original and primary ingredients. Do not try to hide or over complicate your ingredients. You want to enhance them and show them off, not show how many spices you can throw into a pan. Above all, respect your ingredients and yourself and enjoy your cooking. If you lack confidence and fun, then you will never do it right. I hope this was helpful, and I thank the people that took the time to read and made it this far.