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KITCHEN BASICS- CHOUX PASTRY

Some dessert connoisseurs may try to argue that Pâte choux is the ultimate, French, classic Pastry recipe.
For me, there is no doubt that Choux pastry is one of the lightest, crispiest pastries around, it's also so versatile and can be used in so many different ways both sweet and savoury. For some reason, it has a reputation for being difficult to master, but in fact it’s so easy once you know the proper technique its almost child's play. A pre-heated hot oven is essential to rise and set the choux and if you take it out of the oven before it’s cooked thoroughly it will collapse. Any filling should not be added until the last possible moment because it will make the choux pastry sag.
It’s made with plain flour, salt, butter, eggs, milk and a little sugar (if it’s being used for a sweet dish). Instead of a raising agent, choux pastry is puffed up by steam. It is used to make wonderful profiteroles, éclairs and forms the basis of the dramatic classic French dessert Gâteau St Hon…

SLEEP ON IT-One of the simplest ways to flavour food is to marinate it.

There are certain ingredients that you almost have to treat like a sponge. Take a simple, insipid chicken breast for example; it can be totally transformed with the addition of a few herbs & spices and a couple of hours marinating before being cooked.

Although the main purpose of marinating is to add flavour, in some cases it can also help to tenderise meat, chicken and fish. Marinades can even be used on some vegetables, including aubergines, courgettes and artichokes. Part of the trick is to plan ahead so your food has time to absorb the flavours. The best way to do this is to marinate the night before and sleep on it.


Most marinades combine an acid, like lemon

EAT THE SEASONS….

Apples and pears are so versatile…while they are great to eat raw; they also make a delicious addition to baked goods, salads, sauces or stews.
Personally, from a cooks perspective, I prefer to use pears in my cooking. There are more than 3,000 varieties of pear cultivated all over the world, but it is thought that the wild pear originated in Asia and the ancient Greeks introduced them to Europe. They come in different shapes and sizes and vary in sweetness and texture and so can be used in different ways. Most cooks tend to prefer the Comice pear for their sweet, aromatic flavour and good texture,

UNDERGROUND OVERGROUND

Pretty soon now, potatoes should have been lifted and stored for the winter. Consequently, a wide range is now available and it’s a good time to experiment with the world’s favourite tuber.
I think the potato is a fantastic ingredient for any cook. They are so versatile, can be cooked in so many different ways and they are also a great vehicle for absorbing loads of other flavours. My favourite pairings for potatoes include truffles, bacon, capers, anchovies, watercress & caviar. The combination of warm roasted new potatoes topped with sour cream & caviar is simply awesome and must rate as my preferred canapé of all-time.
Potatoes were by no means an instant success in the western world; they were thought to have originated in Chile when prehistoric tribes took them to the Andes region of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. The potato had been cultivated for centuries in South America before the Spanish conquistadors arrived and took

HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT ROAST CHICKEN

EARTHY FLAVOURS

Autumn is all about the harvest....it's the time for gathering and collecting…making Jam, making wine & bottling preserves. The golden colours take over from the vivid display of summer and cooking takes on a different character too. The flavours are more powerful and pronounced, as the ingredients lend themselves to more robust, earthy dishes with game, root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin and wild mushrooms all coming into season.
There’s something special about wild mushrooms. The fact that they have still defied modern cultivation methods and only grow wild in woodlands and meadows adds to their mystery. Wild varieties have been gathered since 3500bc. The Greeks exported them to the Romans who considered them food for gods and the Egyptians would only serve them to the pharaohs as they were judged to be far too good for ordinary mortals like you and me.
These days’s mushroom picking is a national pastime in Spain, and thousands of passionate devotees spend hours in th…

CHILLED TO PERFECTION

Cool summer soups are a refreshing addition to warm-weather menus.
Just as the cauldron of hot soups, broths & stocks provide comfort and solace on a winter’s day; chilled soups are a refreshing respite from the heat of summer. As the great French Chef Auguste Escoffier said, “Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite", while Beethoven claimed” Only the pure of heart can make good soup". But in this sweltering heat, they have to be chilled right down and served iced cold.

The king of cold soups is gazpacho. In essence, they are wonderful thirst-quenching, liquid salads, made with fresh, raw vegetables and ripe tomatoes; and they are the perfect thing for long, hot summer days.

HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT LAMB KOFTA'S

LAMB KOFTE KEBABS WITH FRESH HERB & CUCUMBER YOGHURT
Ingredients Serves 4
Kofte Kebabs 500kg     good quality lamb meat (from the leg or shoulder) 1            clove garlic, 1            teaspoon ground cumin 1            teaspoon dried oregano ½            teaspoon sweet paprika ½            teaspoon freshly ground black pepper              A generous pinch of hot paprika 6            fresh mint leaves              Salt to taste

To make the kofte, Place the lamb with the garlic, mint leaves and spices in the food processor. Blend to form a fine mince. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. With wet hands, divide the seasoned mince into 8 equal portions and mould each one around a wooden skewer into a long sausage shape.
When ready to cook, heat a griddle or grill to it’s highest setting. Place the köftes on the griddle or grill and cook for 2–3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve with fresh herb & cucumber y…

Chocolate and Lavender Crême brulée

Chocolate & Lavender Crême brulée

Ingredients:                       serves 6
500ml              cream 150ml              milk 1tbsp               lavender flowers 1                      vanilla pod 4                      egg yolks 150g                chocolate                         grated zest of 1 orange
Heat the cream, milk, lavender flowers, vanilla pod and orange zest in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil and remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes and strain through a fine sieve. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together and add the cream mixture.

How to make the Perfect chocolate brownie

Dark chocolate Brownie Ingredients. 200g unsalted butter
 200g dark chocolate 250g light brown sugar 50g peeled almonds, chopped 80g cocoa powder, sifted
 65g plain flour, sifted
 1 teaspoon baking powder
 4 large free-range eggs Zest of 1 orange
 Preheat the oven to 190°C Prepare an 18cm square, deep tin by lining with nonstick baking paper. Melt the chocolate & butter together in a bowl. Mix the eggs and sugar in a food processor. Slowly add the almonds, orange zest, baking powder, flour and cocoa.
Finally add the melted chocolate, transfer mixture to the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes. When cooked, leave to cool in the tin, before cutting into 12 bite-sized squares.

PURPLE REIGNS

Sun-drenched vegetables such as peppers, courgettes and artichokes hold a very important place in Mediterranean cookery, but for me, the plump, elongated, gleaming aubergine is the most versatile of the bunch.
There are many varieties of aubergines: long and round, with colours ranging from violet, black to blue and white. The Chinese were the first people to cultivate the aubergines in the fifth century; it was then introduced into Spain, Italy and from there onto southern and eastern parts of Europe. At one time, fashion conscious ladies used a black dye made from their skins to stain their teeth!
The Aubergine goes under a variety of names including the eggplant, apple of love, garden egg, and guinea squash

Happy chocolate holidays

If chocolate ever went out of fashion, and if it did, nobody bothered telling me, it is certainly back with a vengeance now. Over the last few years there has been somewhat of a chocolate revolution happening in Spain with several, forward-looking companies springing up and selling amazing designer chocolates full of weird and wonderful combinations and off the wall flavours such as black olive, balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese. Names such as the Chocolate Factory, Cacao Sampaka, Chocovic and Enric Rovira, with their high quality products and modern, sleek packaging have helped, once again, to make Spanish chocolate makers the envy of the world.
Once known as ‘the food of the gods' in Aztec culture, the story of chocolate really began with the discovery of the Americas when Columbus returned in triumph and laid before the Spanish throne a treasure trove of strange and wonderful things. No one could ever have imagined how important chocolate and their bitter cocoa beans would …

TURKISH DELIGHT

A couple of years ago, I had the great pleasure to meet and cook with an Inspirational Chef called Greg Malouf in the wonderful setting of Hangar 7, Austria. Greg is of Lebanese heritage but was born and raised in the Australian City of Melbourne. He is viewed not only as one of the most influential and innovative cooks in Australia, but also as the originator of his own style—modern Middle Eastern cuisine. I think Greg was born to be a cook. Even as a child he was fascinated by his family’s refrigerator, which was filled with exotic specialties. He was even more impressed, however, by family meals, which his mother and grandmother spent days preparing and at which Arabic cuisine was celebrated in all its opulence and variety: refined tajines (one-pot dishes), substantial meze (appetizers), spicy meat dishes and off course, all those wonderful sweet pastries. I have always loved Middle Eastern cookery and I find the spice mixes and flavour combinations incredibly intoxicating. It was a …

NATURE’S ICE LOLLY

On a hot summer’s day, there is nothing more refreshing than a cool slice of melon or watermelon. With their wonderfully aromatic fragrance and cool flesh, they are one of the glories of summer market stalls. Melons vary enormously in size, skin texture and colour. They all have a high water content that makes them refreshing, but they can be a little disappointing if eaten either under- or over-ripe. A ripe melon should have slight 'give' to the skin, and at room temperature the perfumed aroma of the fruit should come through the skin. If the fruit is under-ripe it tends to be rather bland and lacking in sweetness; an over-ripe melon has a fermented, slightly unpleasant taste. All melons are believed to have originated in India and have been cultivated since ancient times when the aptly named watermelons were traditionally offered to thirsty travellers. They grow well in warm climates, and many varieties such as honeydew, cantaloupe and the oddly named “Piel de Sapo”, meaning ´t…