Thursday, June 17, 2010

Things that I have learnt #1

I have been serious about cooking for 2-3 years now and overtime I have learnt a lot and I am becoming a better cook. So here are a few things that I have learnt which I would like to share. 

Egg freshness 

One of the most useful things that I have learnt was how to test the freshness of an egg. The egg as a whole looses moisture through its porous shell, so the contents of the egg shrink, and the air cell within the egg expands. This moisture loss can be used to determine the freshness of an egg. 

To test if your eggs are still fresh – fill a fairly deep bowl (or pot) with water and carefully lower the eggs into the water. 

A very fresh egg will immediately sink to the bottom. This is because the air cell within the egg is very small. 

As an egg ages and looses its freshness, its air cell expands and it will rise in the water and actually float! If the egg floats this means that it is very old and should be discarded.

It’s like Magic!


Tomatoes are also called “love apples” because of the belief in the tomato’s aphrodisiacal powers – apparently it can arouse passion?! (so maybe next Valentines Day you should give your partner a dozen tomatoes instead of roses)

I love eating tomatoes and I always find new ways to cook them and enhance/develop its flavour. 

I threw away all my cans of diced tomatoes when I learnt the technique of blanching and peeling tomatoes. I find that using fresh diced tomatoes for pasta sauces and stews tastes a lot better.  

When I cook with tomatoes, I usually take out the seeds and guts of the tomato because I learnt from a friend that the majority of the flavour of the tomato resides in the flesh, whilst the bitterness resides in the skin, seeds and jelly. 

I also learnt that you have to be careful when you chop tomatoes, when you knife it, it propels juice at you.

Burning butter

Sometimes butter is used for frying and sautéing but the disadvantage is that it burns as its milk solids brown and burn at around 150C, below the smoke points of many vegetable oils. I used to add oil to butter when cooking because I thought that it would reduce the possibility of the butter burning. But then I learnt from reading On Food and Cooking that adding oil to butter does not improve its heat resistance. The only way that butter will not burn is if you clarify it of milk solids by melting the butter and allowing it to separate. Then skim off the milk solids that float to the top and gently pour the butter off of the milk solids which have settled to the bottom. 

Or you can buy already clarified butter from the shops aka GHEE.

I was watching Nigella’s Feast one day on TV and to my horror she was frying something using butter and adding in some oil, and then telling people that she added in the oil so that the butter would not burn! (I was like bulls**t.) I couldn’t believe that she was telling people this like it was a fact and it was completely wrong! It totally annoyed me.

Another thing that erked me when I was watching Nigella Feasts was that she used a food processor to make a chocolate cake! I feel that a food processor is not the right piece of equipment to use to make a cake. You’ve got an electric mixer and now you can get fancy stand mixers – these are intended for mixing, folding, beating and whipping food ingredients! A food processor is similar to a blender and you would not make a cake using a blender (well I wouldn’t). It’s just weird I guess and it’s not like she is consistent either, sometimes she would use a stand mixer so what’s the point of using a food processor to make a cake? Maybe because it’s a little bit fancy like Twinings tea?



So two more things I have learnt is that butter burns and Nigella annoys me… 


Overtime I have become stronger in my seasoning of food, but I don’t over-season (well I try not to) – it’s all about balance but also making sure that the dish ‘packs a punch’. 

If a recipe asks for a pinch of salt – what’s a pinch? I used to add a little pinch and now I add a much bigger pinch. When I first started cooking I would lightly season food because I was concerned with over-seasoning and putting in too much salt or something, but nowadays I feel much more confident and I’m more generous in my seasoning. The food that I cook now compared to the food that I use to cook tastes a lot better. I don’t hold back. I guess this is also because I appreciate what the addition of salt or fish sauce and other condiments can add to a dish and I know that if I over-season something a little, I know how I could fix it. I definitely appreciate foods which have fuller flavours and a whole mouth feel rather than something tasteless and bland.

I have learnt to not be afraid of seasoning food!

1 comment:

  1. Well I feel very out of the loop, I use a fork or spoon when I mix a cake or anything. I should get with the times.

    Nigela Lawson is just plain annoying. I've only seen 1 episode of her show and I remember the camera zooming in on her ass and she made a cake. Seems like she always does.