Along the way during my long relationship with food, I’ve picked up certain tips that have made my culinary journey easier and more importantly, much more enjoyable. Here they are, for what they’re worth.
1) Storing herbs. The best method I know of keeping herbs fresh is to snip off the ends of the stems and place in a jar of water. They can last up to 10 ten days using this method. Don’t wash them before you put them in the jar. They have to remain very dry or they will spoil easily.
2) Having trouble peeling ginger? Do you end up discarding much more than you intended? The most effective way to peel ginger is to use a teaspoon and just scrape off the skin. Not rocket science but certainly the most effective way.
3) Using a knife to chop, dice etc in the classic way. Most people move the knife backwards through the vegetables they’re preparing. Don’t. Once you get used to the following method, you won’t do it any other way.
Take your knife and place the tip onto the chopping board. Bring the knife down to the vegetable and when it makes contact, move the knife forward through it. You will end up using a see saw movement which will become second instinct in no time at all.
4) If you have a surfeit of carrots, make them into a puree by cooking and blitzing in a processor with a little cream and tons of butter and black pepper. You can freeze the puree and use it in soups, stews, curries etc to add that extra sweetness.
5) If you’re a curry fan, it’s worth the trouble to get some muslin, cut it into small squares, fill each square with two cardamoms, 2 cloves and half a cinnamon stick. Tie with a long piece of cotton and when needed, lower into the curry pot. This way guarantees you won’t bite onto the very bitter whole spices.6) Keep a diary or notebook when you are cooking something for the first time. Note down the good points and equally what’s gone wrong. You can look back on the method when you repeat the recipe and eliminate your previous errors. This way a recipe evolves very naturally. I know it’s a fag, but it’s really worth the effort.
7) Never, ever use your guests as lab rats. Why would anyone want to try out a new recipe on their dinner guests. It’s bonkers and puts you through the unnecessary stress of wondering if it’s going to turn out ok. Cooking for other people should be a pleasure.
8) Have a small serated knife in your collection. It’s great for cutting firm skinned fruit and vegetables. It’s an invaluable tool to peeling oranges.
9) Learn to make your own stock. I can’t stress this enough. It might take a few times to get absolutely right, but the base of all good sauces and stews is the quality of stock. Make friends with your butcher and get your meat bones from him. Make a huge quantity and freeze in batches. You won’t regret it.
10) Never, ever buy low fat cream, cheese, mayonnaise etc. They are considerably worse in flavour – compromising on taste for the sake of a few calories is ABSURD. I implore you to use the real thing.