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Barbeque 'know how'
Sizzle Glossary
Herbs

Cooking 101
Common Sense
Cooking Techniques
Medium Sized Tips
Short Tips
Which food, which wine?
Ingredients Explained
Tricky Words
Weights & Measurements
Cooking 101: Short Tips


Select a Tip:


Knives - have them sharpened regularly by a professional.




Salt - use it. You'll die without it.

Invest in a measuring scale - it makes cooking so much easier. Look for one with increments of 1 gram (not 5 grams), to ensure accuracy.

I can't get by without my food processor - indispensable. Choose a model with a good motor. You'll still need a small spice grinder (coffee grinder) and a cake mixer or electric beaters for certain jobs.

Buy plain metal kitchen utensils, not ones with wooden or plastic handles; plain metal can go in the dishwasher and will last for decades - nothing to peel off, rot or chip.
Common Sense
While helping my son in the kitchen recently, I was reminded of the value of the common sense I was taught in cookery lessons at school: wash hands first; check if there is anything inside the oven before turning it on; read the recipe right through before starting. Add to this, getting out all the ingredients and preparing any cans or containers required before starting, and you will be able to tackle the recipe calmly.

Buy metal measuring spoons and glass measuring jugs (not plastic ones) because they will hold their shape forever and provide accurate measuring.

Buy a mouli-legumes or ricer for mashing potatoes. It turns the potatoes into a light, fluffy puree.

The mouli is the best machine to use when making a tomato sauce because it extracts the maximum pulp from the tomatoes, but traps the seeds; the seeds, especially if they are processed, impart a bitter flavour.
Mushrooms
If you want an attractive white mushroom salad, one with clear juices, not browny black, use lemon juice in the dressing instead of vinegar; lemon juice keeps the mushrooms white and the dressing clear.

If the honey is firm, loosen it in a microwave for a few seconds, or in a small bowl immersed in warm water.
How to dye eggs for decoration

Choose hot water dyes of various colours. Dilute each tin of dye in 3 cups of water in a smallish saucepan and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Carefully lower in 6-7 eggs - each egg needs to be submerged in the dye - and bring up to a gentle boil. Cook eggs gently for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave eggs in the dye until cool. Rinse eggs thoroughly until water runs clear, pat dry with paper towels then polish with a little olive oil.

Points to watch:
  • Have eggs at room temperature to avoid egg shells cracking.
  • Dye stains, so get organized and avoid accidents.
  • Don't let eggs bubble furiously or dyed water may spray on benches - cover benches with old towels.
  • Once the eggs are removed from the dye it can be used to cook a second batch of eggs.



For quick breadcrumbs, use Japanese panko crumbs, available from stockists of Asian food.

My favourite accompaniment to chunky soups is crusty bread or fresh sour dough bread.
Parmesan toasts

1 loaf toast-thick white bread
4-6 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
Toast the bread on both sides. Cut off the crusts then split each slice of bread in half through the middle. Cut toast into fingers and put them on a tray lined with baking paper. Top with parmesan and cook in oven until cheese just melts. Serve hot. Excellent with tomato soup or vegetable soups such as minestrone or spinach soup.

Croutons

Croutons nicely complement creamy soups, as their crispness offsets the smooth, creamy texture (they add extra calories, however!). If you are serving a soup in a tureen, donít sprinkle over the croutons until the tureen is on the table, and your guests or family are ready to at, as the croutons quickly loose their crunch.


Having trouble with wobbling avocados? If they wobble around on the plate once cut in half, cut off a small sliver from the rounded part of each half. They will then sit flat.

If you're nervous about cooking for people, don't be over-ambitious - do the experimenting on nights when nobody is coming over.

   © 2010 Julie Biuso
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