Tips for becoming an expert cook
* To slice meat into thin strips, as for Chinese dishes –
partially freeze and it will slice easily.
* A roast with the bone in will cook faster than a boneless roast –
the bone carries the heat to the inside of the roast quicker.
* For a juicer hamburger add cold water to the beef before grilling
(1/2 cup to 1 pound of meat).
* To keep cauliflower white while cooking –
add a little milk to the water.
* Let raw potatoes stand in cold water for at least half an hour
before frying to improve the crispness of french-fried potatoes.
* Buy mushrooms before they “open.” When stems and caps are attached
snugly, mushrooms are truly fresh.
* Lettuce keeps better if you store in refrigerator without washing
first so that the leaves are dry. Wash the day you are going to use.
* Do not use metal bowls when mixing salads.
Use wooden, glass or china.
* A Perfect Pastry Crust? In your favorite recipe, substitute a
4:1 ratio of lard:butter.
* To make your own corn meal mix: combine 1 cup corn meal, 1 cup
all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 4 teaspoons baking
powder. You can store it in a tightly covered container for
up to 6 months.
* It’s important to let a roast — beef, pork, lamb or poultry —
sit a little while before carving. That allows the juices to
retreat back into the meat. If you carve a roast too soon,
much of its goodness will spill out onto the carving board.
* Microwave a lemon for 15 seconds and double the juice you get
* Microwave garlic cloves for 15 seconds and the skins slip
* When slicing a hard boiled egg, try wetting the knife just before
cutting. If that doesn’t do the trick, try applying a bit of
cooking spray to the edge.
* Rescue stale or soggy chips and crackers: Preheat the oven to
300F. Spread the chips or crackers in a single layer on a
baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool,
then seal in a plastic bag or container.
* The best way to store fresh celery is to wrap it in aluminum
foil and put it in the refrigerator–it will keep for weeks.
* Store freshly cut basil on your kitchen counter in a glass
with the water level covering only the stems. Change the
water occasionally. It will keep for weeks this way,
even develop roots! Basil hates to be cold, so NEVER put
it in the refrigerator. Also, regular cutting encourages
new growth and healthier plants.
* A dampened paper towel or terry cloth brushed downward on a cob of
corn will remove every strand of corn silk.
* Fresh eggs’ shells are rough and chalky; old eggs are smooth and
* No “curly” bacon for breakfast when you dip it into cold water
* When working with dough, don’t flour your hands; coat them with
olive oil to prevent sticking.
* Use a gentle touch when shaping ground beef patties. Overhandling
will result in a firm, compact texture after cooking. Don’t press
or flatten with spatula during cooking.
* Never heat pesto sauce – the basil will turn black and taste bitter.
* Butter pie pastry scraps: sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and
bake like cookies.
* A jar lid or a couple of marbles in the bottom half of a double-boiler
will rattle when the water gets low and warn you to add more before
the pan scorches or burns.
* When mincing garlic, sprinkle on a little salt so the pieces won’t
stick to your knife or cutting board.
* If your cake recipe calls for nuts, heat them first in the oven,
then dust with flour before adding to the batter to keep them from
settling to the bottom of the pan.
* Noodles, spaghetti and other starches won’t boil over if you rub
the inside of the pot with vegetable oil.
* Brown gravy in a hurry with a bit of instant coffee straight from
the jar… no bitter taste, either.
* To hasten the cooking of foods in a double boiler, add salt to the
water in the outer boiler.
* Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to
prevent ice cream drips.
* To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the
* Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your
forehead. The throbbing will go away.
* Don’t throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for
future use in casseroles and sauces.
* If you have a problem opening jars: Try using latex dishwashing
gloves. They give a on-slip grip that makes opening jars easy.
* Add a little lemon and lime to tuna to add zest and flavor to tuna
sandwiches. Use cucumbers soaked in vinegar and pepper in sandwich
instead of tomatoes. Use mustard instead of mayo to cut the fat
and add a tang.
* Instead of the water your recipe calls for, try juices, bouillon,
or water you’ve cooked vegetables in. Instead of milk, try
buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream. It can add a whole new flavor
and improve nutrition.
* Steak Sauce With A Kick: Deglaze your frying pan (after searing your
New York steaks) with brandy. Add two tablespoons of butter, a little
white wine and a splash of Grand Marnier. Serve over steaks –
you’ll never use steak sauce again.
* When browning ground meat, brown several pounds and drain. Divide
evenly in freezer containers and freeze. Unthaw in microwave for
quick fixing next time.
* Ground spices really should be replaced every 6 months or so!
Unless you know you will use them up fairly quickly, buy a bottle
in partnership with a friend and split the contents.
You’ll each benefit from fresh spices.
* Sunlight doesn’t ripen tomatoes, warmth does. Store tomatoes with stems
pointed down and they will stay fresher, longer.
* Place green fruits in a perforated plastic bag. The holes will allow
air to circulate while retaining the ethylene gas that fruits
produce during ripening.
* Marshmallows won’t dry out when frozen.
* Poke a hole in the middle of the hamburger patties while shaping them.
The burgers will cook faster and the holes will disappear when done.
* For fluffier, whiter rice, add one teaspoon of lemon juice per quart of
water. To add extra flavor and nutrition to rice, cook it in liquid
reserved from cooking vegetables.
* Cheese won’t harden if you butter the exposed edges before storing.
* Sausage patties rolled in flour before frying won’t crack open
* Two drops of yellow food coloring added to boiling noodles will
make them look homemade.
* When separating eggs, break them into a funnel. The whites will
go through leaving the yolk intact in the funnel.
* Fresh fish freeze well in a milk carton filled with water.
* Make your own celery flakes. Just cut and wash the leaves from the
celery stalks; place them in the oven on low heat or in the hot sun
until thoroughly dry. Crumble and store in an air-tight container.
* When picking a melon, smell it for freshness and ripeness.
Check to see that the fruit is heavy in weight and that the
spot on the end where it has been plucked from the vine is soft.
* When tossing a salad with a basic vinaigrette, always make the
vinaigrette at least 1/2 hour ahead of time and let the mixture
sit to allow the flavors to marry. Pour the vinaigrette down
the side of the bowl, not directly on the greens, for a more
evenly dressed salad.
* For the perfect boiled egg, cover eggs with cold water and
a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a full boil. Remove the
pan from the heat and cover. Let the eggs sit for 8-9 minutes.
Drain the water and place the eggs in ice water to cool to
stop the cooking process.
* When braising meat, cook it at a low temperature for a long
time to keep the meat tender and have it retain all the juices.
* When cooking any kind of strawberry dessert, add a splash of
aged Balsamic vinegar to the recipe to enhance the flavor
of the strawberries.
* For fresh flavor in orange juice add the juice of one lemon.
* Tenderize pot roast or stewing meat by using two cups of
hot tea as a cooking liquid.
* When making roux for a recipe, make extra and keep in
the refrigerator for future use.
* Chefs pound meat not to tenderize the meat, but to help
even the meat so it cooks evenly.
* To remove egg shells from a batter, use the remaining shell
to attract the piece.
* If a recipe calls for 1 cup sour cream, you may substitute
1 cup cottage cheese blended until smooth with 1 tablespoon
lemon juice and 1/3 cup buttermilk.
* When using fresh herbs such as dill, chives, parsley, etc.,
hold them together in small bunches and snip with kitchen
scissors. It is a lot faster this way, and you’ll find the
herbs will be light and fluffy, not bruised and wet as they
often get when chopped.
* When going on a picnic, keep sandwiches from becoming soggy
by packing lettuce and condiments in separate containers.
Add them to sandwiches just before serving.
* Maple-flavored syrup, commonly found on the shelves in the
store and in restaurants, is actually corn syrup flavored
with a bit of pure maple syrup to keep the cost down.
* Thaw fish in milk for fresher flavor
* Put meat used for stir frying in freezer for 45 min. to 1 hr. to make
* You can correct greasy gravy by adding a little baking soda to it.
* If you need only 1/2 an onion, save the root half. It will last longer.
* Keep popcorn fresh and encourage more kernels to pop by storing in
* Lemons stored in a sealed jar of water will produce twice the juice.
* Use paper bags rather than plastic to store lettuce and celery in the
crisper. They will stay fresh longer.
* Bread will stay fresh longer if a celery rib is stored with it in the
* Save butter wrappers in the freezer to use for greasing pans when baking.
* To keep salt from clogging in the shaker, add 1/2 teaspoon of uncooked rice.
* If guests are coming and you’re behind making dinner, throw some onions on
to saute and your kitchen will smell wonderful and homey.
* Egg whites should always be at room temperature before whipping.
Be certain there is no yolk in the whites and that the bowl and
beaters are perfectly clean. Cream, on the other hand, should be
well-chilled. For the largest volume, chill the bowl and beaters
* When using spaghetti, keep in mind that 8 ounces of uncooked
pasta makes 4 cups cooked.
* When using all-purpose flour, keep in mind that one pound flour
is the equivalent to 4 cups.
* When using dried beans and peas, keep in mind that 1 cup dry beans
or peas makes 2 1/2 cups cooked.
* When using rice, keep in mind that 1 cup of uncooked long-grain
white rice makes 3 cups cooked.
* When using granulated sugar, keep in mind that one pound sugar
is the equivalent to 2 cups.
* Ultimate Disposable Pastry Bag:
Take a heavy-duty zipper-seal plastic bag and snip off
one corner, making a slightly curved cut. Using a standard
two-piece plastic coupler (available wherever cake decorating
supplies are sold), insert the larger piece into the hole.
Choose a tip and secure it with the coupler’s ring. Fill the
bag and zip the top closed. Decorate away, then remove the
coupler/tip assembly and toss the bag. No messy cleanup!
* One way to preserve the flavor of fresh herbs is to make herb butter.
Let the butter soften, then add finely chopped herbs in any
combination, abbout 2 to 4 tablespoons per stick of butter. The
butter freezes well, and you can serve it spread on French bread
or with seafood or chicken.
* Pancakes are lighter and fluffier when you substitute club soda
for milk in the batter.
* Before opening a package of bacon, roll it. This helps separate
the slices for easy removal of individual slices.
* Drain deep fried foods on brown paper grocery bags as opposed to
paper towels to retain crispness.
* Whenever possible, warm your dinner plates slightly in the oven
before serving so the meal stays a little bit hotter.
* To make lighter and fluffier mashed potatoes, add a pinch or two
of baking powder to the potatoes before whipping.
* Cookies will spread if your dough is too pliable by allowing butter
to get too soft. If your cookies are spreading too much, try
refrigerating the dough for a couple of hours before baking.
* Cookie dough can be frozen up to three months in an airtight
container or refrigerated three to four days.
* Check cookies at minimum baking time.
* Let cookies cool completely before storing. Store different types
of cookies in separate containers so they’ll keep their original
flavor and texture.
* Marinate red meats in wine to tenderize.
* Marinate chicken in buttermilk to tenderize.
* Use margarine instead of butter to panfry or saute.
Butter burns quickly.
* Instead of adding raw garlic to sauces, saute the garlic
first for a milder flavor.
* Thaw frozen meat and poultry in the refrigerator and not on
the kitchen counter where bacteria can grow.
* Add a small amount of lemon juice to the artichoke cooking
water to retain the color of the artichoke.
* A low-calorie solution for high-fat frying of corn tortillas is
to place them in the oven, directly on the rack. Bake at 350 F,
to desired crispness. The tortillas will automatically fold over
into taco shell form with just a little postioning help.
* A simple way to sharpen kitchen shears: cut a piece of steel wool.
* Don’t just keep dental floss in your medicine cabinet. Keep some
in the kitchen. It’s a great tool. Unflavored dental floss is
often better than a& knife to cleanly cut all kinds of soft foods,
soft cheese, rolled dough, layered cake and cheesecake.
* If lettuce starts turning a little brown (but not slimy) it may
not be suitable for salads, but it is for sauteing. Sauteed
salad greens like lettuce, radicchio, and endive make an unusual
but tasty side dish. Saute lettuces just as you would spinach.
Cook them quickly in a little olive oil, minced garlic, and salt.
They taste great, and you cant tell that the greens were once
a little brown.
How can I prevent the fresh cream from splitting?
In hot weather, beat the cream over a platter of crushed ice. Be careful not to overbeat this cream, as it can separate the butter from the cream, leaving it lumpy.
How can you prevent your custard from sticking?
While making the custard sauce it is important to stir the sauce continuously so that it does not become lumpy and stick to the bottom of the pan. It is preferable to use a non-stick pan if available. Once you have perfected the art of making good custard, you can flavour and sweeten it to taste and use it as a filling for pastries or as a base for fruit salad.
- To keep the cottage cheese soft and luscious after deep frying, dip it in lukewarm water to which a pinch of turmeric powder is added.
- Crush vermicelli or sago and roll patties or croquettes in this powder before frying, to get a crisp crunchy cover.
- Mint pulao will be tastier if you sauté mint leaves in a teaspoon of butter or oil before cooking with the rice.
- Add a few drops of salt water to banana chips while frying them as this will make the chips crisper.
- One cup of soaked poha added to five cups of rice while grinding the batter for idlis, will make them softer and lighter.
- Use milk instead of water to knead puri dough. Puris will become soft and luscious.
- To obtain soft and flaky paranthas add ghee instead of oil to the flour while kneading the dough.
- To make aloo tikkis crisp add two teaspoons of roasted semolina to the potato (three to four medium sized) mixture.
- To make creamier raitas, add a little fresh cream. It will however make the dish richer.
- Three-fourth teaspoon of hot oil added to one cup of batter will make bhajias, fritters, pakodas etc. crisper and also prevent them from soaking up too much oil
- A pinch of turmeric powder and a teaspoon full of ghee added to half a cup of dal before pressure-cooking it will give it a better flavour.
- To make good crispy bhaturas, add two teaspoons of semolina two cups of refined flour while kneading the dough.
SERVING AND EATING PIZZA
Pizza can be found in practically every country in the world. Although enjoying steady popularity, it seems that pizza is now becoming a sophisticated, fashionable food in unusual shapes, large and small, with exotic toppings. Pizza need not be just a snack or a quick cooked meal. They can become stylish cocktail foods, substantial pies and pastries and even desserts. Pizza is a fun food item for children because they can eat it with their hands. That is the most acceptable way to eat pizza. Knife and fork are optional, however they can take away some of the enjoyment. Following are some rules that should be applied when serving and eating pizza.
- Pizza should be served on a plate or napkin. It is not necessary to serve it on fine China since paper plates will suffice.
- Pizza is one of the few dishes that require no side dish, however it is all right to serve salads and other greens if one desires (side dishes should be eaten with a fork and not with the hands).
- The pizza should always be the main course unless pizza is served as an appetizer before an Italian dinner.
- Soda, fruit juice, fruit punch, colas, iced tea etc. are the acceptable beverages that can be served along with pizzas.
- Pizza should be eaten by the slice. By no means should pizza be eaten as a whole uncut pie. The slice should be held carefully at the crusty edge. The first bite should be the point and the last should be the edge.
- Pizza should be hot if served during lunch or dinner. It is important that the pizza be at a temperature that the cheese on the first few slices will stretch and form strings from the pie to your plate. If you are served a pizza in which this is not the case then you can be assured that the pizza has been setting too long and should be taken back and be remade.
- Cold pizza is acceptable during the morning hours and can be a great breakfast. Heating cold pizza in the microwave is okay. Care should be taken to ensure that the pizza is not overheated.
- The minimal number of slices is four. They should be cut in an even number and sliced in the fashion of spokes of a wheel. A Rotary pizza cutter is the common equipment for cutting pizza since it can cut fast and precisely. This is an important factor since if the pizza is cut too slowly, the melting cheese may grab onto the cutter and pull away from the top.
Most people eat the crust, however there is a growing trend eaters to leave layers of crust on their plate. In that case offer a dipping sauce to complete the experience.
Flowers for the Dining table
Flowers bring any table setting to life. Before the meal when all the linen and tableware are set out but there is no food, the table seems dead until flowers are added. Between courses, flowers help to distract attention from the bare tablemats.
Arranging flowers for the table is a special art, something over and above the normal skills of producing an artistic arrangement. In this context, the choice of flowers is crucial to the success of the arrangement – you cannot necessarily just make use of the flowers that are available, as you would in a normal room setting. Just as linen and china are chosen to tone together and to match the mood of the food, the flowers must do the same. Their colours must also tone or complement the colours of the tableware.
Other considerations also come into your choice of flowers. At a dinner party, or any sit down meal, the flowers should never be so tall that they obscure one guest’s face from another, or placed such that they may get knocked over as dishes are passed around. For a buffet table, long stems and abundance of flowers become an advantage. Flowers for a buffet table benefit from height as the guests are usually standing anyway and the height of flower arrangement can give shape to an otherwise flat arrangement of foods. Tone the colours with the china and linen again, but for a buffet you can have more freedom with shape. Use either a single, large display or several tiny flowers.
It is rarely advisable to go for a strictly formal arrangement at the table, even if the setting is a formal dinner. Fine china and silver are somewhat sterile, so a stark arrangement of flowers is used.
When it comes to choosing flowers, your choice does of course depends largely on what grows in your garden or what you can afford to buy from your florist. Roses are nearly always suitable – either arranged with other flowers or casually plonked in a small pottery jug for the supper table. Daisies of all sorts, marigolds and any small flowers lend themselves well to table arrangements. Large flowers are difficult unless you have a table like a football field! And do be careful to shake dahlias well before you bring them to the table – they are rather prone to hiding earwigs within their curly petals and it is not very appetizing to see an insect emerge and wander across the table.
Make a list:
- Reason for having the party.
- Whom to invite?
- What form of invitation?
- Best date to host.
- Who will help?
- Menu for the party.
- Liquor to be served.
- Music or entertainment.
- Venue of the party.
- Parking for vehicles.
Invitations that are unclear could put the guest in a tight spot and you as the host could be highly embarrassed. Be day, date and time specific. If using the telephone to invite, reconfirm at a later date. Specify who to bring along, as space in your home or party venue may be a constraint. Your guest may have an in-house guest whom he would like to bring along. When inviting take a feedback on diet restriction and alcohol preferences. Clearly specify the occasion and the dress code. Most importantly, indicate the venue and give directions on how to reach.
- Invite couples or invite each friend to bring a partner. There should be a good gender balance.
- If a large group of fifty or so is desired, invite about sixty people. There are bound to be dropouts.
- If the party is at home put away all precious possessions. Valuable artifacts may be repositioned depending on the nature of the party.
- Move furniture to ensure maximum seating.
- Position adequate ashtrays, coasters and tissue papers/ serviettes.
Ensure that the ambience is conducive to making your party a most memorable one. It should be such that each and every guest feels comfortable and at ease.
Tips for bachelors and those who do not have the time to cook elaborately:
- Boiled Vegetables: These can be used to rustle up delicious subzis in minutes.
- Boiled Potatoes: Potatoes are very versatile and can be used in lots of recipes
- Pastes: Onion paste, garlic paste, ginger paste, green chilli paste etc. last for a long time and can be used as required
- Gravies : Like kadai gravy and green gravy should be made in bulk and frozen. These last for upto two months and are very handy and help optimize on time
It is also a good idea to rely on ready made pastes if you are too pressed for time
Innovative recycling of left-overs not only saves your time but also gives a variety to your meals. Try and make an idli burger or a chapati frankie.
One usually wastes more time in planning a meal as compared to actually cooking it. It is always a good idea to make a list of things you would like to make when in a hurry and make sure you stock all the ingredients required.
Innovative use of ready food mixes helps to shorten an elaborate recipe. Here are a few tips
- Make a sponge cake using a cake mix and then decorate it with different kinds of icing. Your mouth- watering gateau is ready
- Gulab jamuns and rasgullas can be made using the mixes. They can then be converted into various desserts like malai koftas, rasmalais, meva batis etc.