No wonder I can’t fit into my summer clothes. Cooking up an average of seven recipes a week for the last four years means I have eaten my way through roughly 1,500 dishes in my tireless pursuit of culinary perfection for these very pages. Thankfully, you don’t spend this much time chained to the stove without picking up a few tips – these are the top 10 things that I have learned along the way. Enjoy the fruits of my labour with a clear conscience: my waistline has suffered so yours doesn’t have to.
1. Really brown your meat
How to cook the perfect… beef stew
Click here for Felicity Cloake’s perfect beef stew recipe
When a recipe asks you to start by browning the meat, really go for it – it’s not the change of colour that’s important here, but the flavours it brings with it. Searing meat over a high heat will caramelise the outside, adding an injection of savoury, umami goodness to the finished dish; if you just push it round a warm pan, it’ll end up tasting as beige as it looks. Make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan either; if the meat starts to steam in its own juices, it will never brown.
2. Softening onions takes time (although not five hours)
Felicity’s perfect french onion soup
Click here for Felicity Cloake’s perfect french onion soup recipe
The second step in many recipes is softening the onions, perhaps along with diced carrots, celery or tomatoes depending on what you’re cooking. Be aware that many chefs lie about how long this should take – it will not do to fry it for 1-2 minutes, James Martin. Thomas Keller’s five hours might be excessive, but you should count on spending 20-30 minutes on this stage for perfect results. (Theo Randall recently told me off for not paying sufficient attention to my soffritto in a ragu competition. I learned my lesson the hard way.)
3. Chicken is almost always the best stock
Felicity Cloake’s perfect cacciatora
Click here for Felicity Cloake’s perfect cacciatora recipe
Unless you’re cooking for vegetarians, chicken stock is almost always the best option – it’s my first choice for everything from tomato soup to osso buco. Most commercial vegetable stocks taste powerfully of dried herbs, which isn’t always a welcome addition to your carefully balanced dish, and beef and fish stocks need strong flavours to balance them. Savoury chicken blends far more harmoniously into the background.
4. Cherish the potato skin
Felicity’s perfect cullen skink
Click here for Felicity Cloake’s perfect cullen skink recipe
The skin is where most of the flavour is. I don’t bother peeling spuds destined for salad, hash browns or cullen skink and peel them after cooking when making gnocchi – hell, I even parboil roast potatoes along with their peelings. It sounds ridiculous, but it really makes a difference.
5. No one likes soggy bottoms
Perfect quiche lorraine
Click here for Felicity Cloake’s perfect quiche lorraine
Any tart, quiche or pie recipe that doesn’t blind bake the pastry base before adding the filling is wrong. Only perverts like soggy bottoms.
6. Pick your meat carefully for slow cooking
Felicity Cloake’s perfect osso buco
Click here for Felicity Cloake’s perfect osso buco recipe
Those plastic boxes of chuck or stewing steak in the supermarket are rarely the best choice for slow cooking. Seek out shin or oxtail instead. The same goes for chicken thighs over breasts, lamb neck or shoulder over leg, pig cheek over pork loin – they may take longer to source and prepare, but they’re well worth it.
Article shared from The Guardian