Monday, 27 December 2010

young wives tales...

As everyone does when they cook, or with anything that you repeat frequently enough, you seem to pick up certain nuances and shortcuts and techniques. Some you pick up from others, some are old wives tales, and some are of your own invention.  Some things that I now do out of force of habit more then anything else but they do prove invaluable, so I was comforted to see that in Nigella Lawson's new cookbook "Kitchen" she has listed her's in her Kitchen Compendium. I was even more comforted when I read the list to find out a few of my little shortcuts and tips are in there, so I must be getting some things right and if there good enough for Nigella, there good enough for me. I've listed a few of my favourites. 

  • If your whisking up egg whites for meringues you need a completely grease free bowl or your not going to get the rise and set that you need. The best thing I find to do this is to run a lemon around your bowl. It rids it of any grease and gives you lighter then light egg whites.
  • As well as having ingredients at room temperature, i think its important to warm your bowls slightly to take the initial chill of them, just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds, easy peasy
  • Never ever melt your butter for baking in a microwave, it changes the molecules and the consistency and will give you a changed consistency. Just be well prepared and get the butter out of the fridge and let it stand for 40-50 minutes at room temperature and it should be grand! 
  • Get in a stash of vinyl gloves. I use them for a million things, when manhandling beetroot to avoid the Lady Macbeths when de-seeding chilli's as I never quite seem to be able to get the remains of it from my mits and then poke myself in the eye, never a wise move... invaluable
  • I'm a bugger for re-using my tea cup throughout the day and as I like my tea industrial strength it becomes rapidly stained. As I always seem to have old half lemons knocking about the place, drop one of them into the mug with some hot water and leave to stand a little while- removes the stains beautifully.
  • If you don't have a skewer to test if a cake is ready, you can use a piece of uncooked spaghetti, this works just as well
  • When you fry in butter, always add a tiny drop of oil to it, it stops it from burning
  • If you make a soup, sauce, gravy or casserole and it seems to fatty or greasy drop in an ice cube, the ice attracts the fat that you can then fish out
  • If your using a griddle pan, never oil the pan as this renders the griddle useless and everything will smoke like crazy. Always oil whatever it is your putting in the pan
  • If you have used the juice of a citrus fruit in cooking, fill the remaining peel shell 3/4 full with salt and pop it on a little plate in the fridge, it works as an amazing deodoriser
  • If you are left with dregs of wine left in a bottle after a party that your not going to drink, freeze them into wine cubes that you can add to stews and soups as needed and then you don't have a 3/4's empty bottle of wine hanging around your fridge forever
  • If you have boiled pasta, take out half a cup full of the starchy water and add it to your pasta sauce. It helps the sauce combine wonderfully
I know to some these may sound a little old fashioned or pointless but I bet you won't say that the next time all the grease is floating on the top of your sunday lunch gravy! Trust in the tips!! 

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