Monday, April 16, 2012

12 Things That Should Be Included In A How To Prepare And Cook Video Course

Learning how to prepare and cook can be quite an onerous task. Where do you find information on the ingredients required, how to prepare them, what to cook and how to cook?

There are many ways to learn such as reading cookery books, enrolling on a cookery course or working as an apprentice chef.

Cookery books mainly contain recipes and do not go into detail of how to prepare and cook. Enrolling on a cookery course can be expensive, requires commitment and travel. Working as an apprentice chef can be a bit drastic, unless the end result is to work in the catering world.

One of the best methods is to use is a well-structured video course. The trouble with the majority of video courses is that they are not well-structured; they do not start with the basics and progress to the more advanced subjects.

There are 12 things that you should expect from a how to prepare and cook video course.

1. Knife skills

One of the most important areas to master before progressing to following recipes and cookery is the correct use of knives. There are several health and safety aspects to consider before handling knives. When carrying knives, they must be pointing downwards towards the floor. Always ensure a knife is sharp. If a knife is blunt, it requires more pressure to cut items, which could results in an accident. When passing a knife to another person, hold the knife by the metal ridge opposite the blade and offer the handle to the person. Never catch a falling knife is also worth remembering. Knowing how to sharpen knives is important as is understanding that there are different knives for different tasks, for example, peeling, chopping, slicing, boning and dicing.

2. Food safety

Food poisoning is a major problem if ingredients are not handled carefully. One of the biggest causes of food poisoning is the incorrect handling of raw meat. All raw meat, especially poultry, contains pathogens, bacteria that cause illness and can kill. If raw meat is handled, hands must be washed vigorously with soap and water. If knives are used to cut raw meat, they must be cleaned with a detergent and disinfected with boiling water. If a knife is used to prepare raw poultry and subsequently used to cut sandwiches, for example, without being cleaned and disinfected, then cross-contamination and food poisoning will result.

3. Kitchen equipment

After knife skills, other types of kitchen equipment must be introduced and demonstrated. Various implements used in how to prepare and cook include: oyster openers, garnishing tools, olive-stoners, tenderising mallets, melon-ballers, sieves and ladles, pineapple and apple corers, mandolins, zesters, potato ricers and garlic presses.

4. Ingredient preparation

Preparation of all types of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, eggs, pasta and rice must be demonstrated. All common vegetables including carrots, leeks, onions, celery, potatoes, brassicas and pulses would be included and the less common vegetables and salad items. The preparation of fruits, common and exotic, would also be shown.

5. Different methods of cookery

There are many different methods of cooking ingredients such as poaching, boiling, stewing, steaming, braising, baking, roasting, pot roasting, tandoori cooking, grilling/broiling, shallow and deep frying, en papillotte, microwave, griddle, microwave and combination cookery.

6. Stocks, sauces and soups

Meat and vegetable stocks are the foundation of all sauce and soup recipes. The main ingredients of a stock should be shown, prepared and cooked. Progression would be making different sauces and soups from the made stocks. All main categories of soups must be shown including: clear soups, broths, purees, veloutes, creams, bisques and miscellaneous potages. Hot and cold sauces, gravies and oils, compound butters and salsas would also be included.

7. Egg dishes

Eggs are so versatile and must be include within the how to prepare and cook video course. Boiled, fried, poached, coddled and scrambled are all firm favourites. Other less common dishes should also be included for example, curried eggs, frittata, Spanish omelette and eggs Benedict to name just a few.

8. Meat, game and fish meals

All types of red and white meat cuts must be prepared and featured in a meal such as beef, pork, lamb, poultry, venison, pheasant and grouse. Different species of fish, both white and oily, must be introduced, prepared and cooked.

9. International cuisine

With the increase in travel and the importation of more exotic ingredients, a how to prepare and cook video course must include different international recipe dishes. Examples of the different types of cuisine include: USA, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Spanish, Israeli Kosher, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, European and Carribean.

10. Potato, pulse, rice and pasta food

For vegetarian and vegan dishes, recipes using pasta, rice, pulses and potatoes should be featured. Potatoes can be boiled, mashed, baked and fried. Pulses such as haricot beans, soya beans, black-eyed peas, mung beans and alfalfa provide interesting and varied meals from hot foods to salads. Pasta comes in many different forms, both fresh and dried, but nothing tastes better than homemade pasta with a freshly prepared sauce. Rice can be boiled, steamed and baked. Rice can be used in a dessert, risotto or paella.

11. Pastries, desserts and buffet items

No how to prepare and cook course would be complete without pastries and desserts, especially for anybody with a sweet tooth! Other flour based products would also be helpful, for example, homemade bread, cakes, biscuits and savoury pastries.

12. Feedback and comments

It is all very well being shown how to prepare and cook food, but what if somebody has a question or wants a particular food item or recipe to be shown on the course. It is imperative, therefore, that there is a facility to leave feedback and comments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Five Common Cookery Mistakes

We all go through a stage in our young lives where we fancy ourselves as the younger, better looking and friendlier Gordon Ramsey. However, the vast majority of people eventually come to the realisation that their talents lie elsewhere and that they are more suited to eating than the actual cooking part.

Some of these people however, carry on and end up making some horrendous mistakes; the sort of cooking errors you only usually roll out when you have someone round to dinner that you never want to see again!

Anyway, with no further ado, here are five common mistakes made while cooking:

Neglecting Your Salt Shaker

Salt is vital as it provides flavour and texture to your food. However, a common mistake is to leave out any extra salt because of health worries.

As long as you are satisfied you are not over indulging, feel free to add a pinch of salt to veg or meet while cooking. There are few things worse than foods which should have a salty tang but don't.

Getting too friendly with garlic
Reading from a recipe book? Don't ever confuse a clove of garlic with a head. If you do, we can't be responsible for the ensuing results! You'll stink like you've never stunk before.

In fact, pay close attention whenever working from a book, if in doubt, the world renowned oracle of Google should set you right.

Confusing Your Flour

Admit it, you've done it haven't you? Let's face it, self-rising flour looks exactly the same as plain flour when out of the packet (that excuse has actually been used) and means that the sumptuously gorgeous Victoria sponge you have planned ends up a Victoria, erm, biscuit.

Getting, Um, Creative With Proportions

Recipes are written for a reason, read them!

Not Getting to Know Your Oven

Your oven is like a human being; no two are exactly the same. If you've not familiarised yourself with the eccentricities of your particular oven then you should start now.

Cookery is a long underrated art and something that requires conscientiousness as well as keen creativity. If you can get the balance right you will stand a much better chance of getting to where you would like to be in the chef world.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cake Decorating Equipment for the Enthusiastic Amateur

My suggestions for basic materials and equipment would be:

Baking Tins which are essential, preferably good quality, and made to last. Why not start with a few round and square - 6", 8", 10" and 12" are the most commonly used! You can generally hire tins in other shapes from good sugarcraft or bakeware shops, to save money initially.

A useful tool to own is a Long Cake knife / leveller. Cakes will often need levelling and splitting after baking and this will make the job much easier!

For jobs such as spreading jam and buttercream use a Palette knife, which will also be necessary when working with royal icing. A long bladed straight, and shorter bladed cranked knife, are useful ones to have.

A good investment for a rolling pin would be a 20" long non-stick pin - this will cope with rolling out sugarpaste for larger cakes. A 6" or 9" rolling pin is ideal for smaller projects and sugar flowers etc.

For more professional results use a non-stick board for flower/model making etc.

Whilst not essential a smoother will help to give your sugarpasted cake a smooth, flawless finish. I would hate to be without one of these!

Various tools are available to aid all icing jobs, some of which you may already have around the home. Fine bladed scissors, brushes and a craft knife are three of the most used tools in sugarcraft! A double ended cutting wheel, a Dresden tool for veining and softening, a pointed modelling / frilling stick and a bone tool complete my list of recommended tools.

Basic cutters make life a lot easier when decorating a cake. Shapes such as round, square, stars and hearts to name a few, and simple flower/leaf cutters - rose petal and leaf, ivy and blossom are some of the cutters you could invest in to start. Alphabet and number cutters are really useful for those who are not confident with piping skills when adding script onto a cake.

Also essential would be a range of food colours, the most versatile being the concentrated gel/paste colours. These are suitable for any type of icing, and are particularly good for sugarpaste as they do not alter the consistency when mixing a dark colour. These can be mixed together to make further colours.

A selection of piping bags and tubes would complete your starter kit. There are many different types of bag to choose from, including silicone/greaseproof, nylon re-usable and plastic disposable.I would recommend stainless steel seamless tubes for a professional finish, with a basic writing, and a star tube, my favourites, then add more as and when required.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Myths About Indian Food And Why You Shouldn't Believe Them

If you have just got interested about Indian cuisine, you may have been bombarded with myths and misconceptions. Yes, it is easy to be completely mystified about what Indian cuisine is or is not. A lot of people are of the opinion that Indian food is very difficult to cook and a person who has not been born and brought up in the country will not be able to cook it. Other than this particular one, there are a lot of other myths as well, which have no relation with the truth. Here are a few myths busted about Indian food. Read on to find out what they are.

1. All Indian food is rich and oily

That is so not true. The fact is that Indian food is such that one can change the richness and the oil content according to one's wishes. If you want you can cook a dish with a single or 8 teaspoons of oil. You can add a lot of masalas into a dish or almost none at all, depending on what you want on that particular day. Moreover, India has a variety of cooking techniques that require no oil at all, like steaming, boiling, roasting, grilling, etc. Indians have a variety of beautiful techniques to cook both vegetables and meats that require minimal oil but taste wonderful.

2. All Indian food is very high on the hot quotient

This too is not true. Yes, Indian food uses 'masalas' but that is not something that makes dishes hot. One can easily change the amount of chillies depending on how hot he wants his food. In fact, most Indian dishes can be cooked without any amount of 'hotness' added to them.

3. Indian food is difficult to cook

Yes, for a beginner. But that is true of Italian and Thai food too. In fact, any new cuisine is difficult to cook for a beginner. But as with all other cuisines, once you master the basics of Indian cuisine, it becomes easy. Once you get the hang of it, cooking simple meals is not at all difficult.

4. Forget dieting when it comes to Indian food

No, that's not true at all. It is just a misconception that Indian food is unhealthy and one cannot diet while eating Indian. The truth is that a lot of simple Indian meals are very healthy and contain very little fat and lots of proteins and fiber. In fact, you can include food in your diet that is healthy very easily.

5. Curry powders synonymous with Indian cuisine

That is like saying that all Italian food contains pasta! No, curry powder is just one of the various spice mixes used in Indian cuisine. In fact, most Indian households don't even use curry powder at all, but spice mixes that suit the palate of its family members. 'Garam masala' is a much more important spice mix. Also it may interest you to know that it is possible to cook simple Indian dishes with almost no spices at all!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cleaning Black Iron Cookware

Most black iron pans and cookware are protected by a clear, non-toxic oil which needs to be removed before the pan can be used properly.

The first step is to season your cookware with oil, this will form a natural film on the base of your pan. This natural film will improve and form over time and with regular use your pans will become practically non stick. With continued and regular use of these pans at a high temperature the oil and food being cooked will add to the layers, meaning your pan will actually get better with increased usage. At these higher cooking temperatures these layers formed pose absolutely no risk to those who will then consume food being cooked in these pans.

If your black iron pots or pans are not used for a period of time, they can occasionally go rusty. This however is no means the end of these pans lifespan! We recommend that you clean you pan thoroughly and make sure that you remove any rust with a scouring pad. After all the rust has been cleaned, re-season your pans and the process begins once more.

With regards cleaning your black iron pans after cooking, the cleaning process is actually quite simple but it is important that it is adhered to to ensure the longevity and improved cooking performance of your pans in the future. We recommend that you clean your pan in hot water using a small amount of washing up liquid. After washing you should hand dry your black iron cookware immediately ensuring that any dampness is sufficiently dried. You should then coat your pan with some oil, leaving it ready to be used again.

PLEASE NOTE - Under no circumstances should black iron cookware ever be cleaned in a dishwasher. This can cause irreparable damage to the pans and may actually destroy the pans.

It is recommended that after each time you use any piece of black iron cookware that it is wiped clean with paper towels. This will help to ensure that the pan is completely dry which helps to prevent rusting forming on the pan. As discussed above, if rusting should form on the pan you will be required to thoroughly scour the pan, removing all traces of rust, and re-season. Over time and constant use, your pan should reform its protective layer and you should notice a vast improvement in the performance of your pan over a period of time.

You should never use a dry pan under any circumstances, always ensure that your pan has been seasoned and that oil has been added before cooking.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tips For Freezing Leftovers

Leftover foods can easily be reinvented into a whole new meal. Your family will never guess they are eating food prepared yesterday or even days before if you get into the habit of freezing leftovers. It's such a waste to throw the food away. More often than not, when leftover food is stored in the fridge it gets forgotten and eventually it is tossed out. The trick is to freeze the leftovers and then use them to prepare a different meal altogether. Keep this in mind when you are cooking and have a plan for those leftovers.

One great example is having a roast chicken for a weekend meal. Shred the leftover chicken and freeze it in ziplock bags. Be sure to squeeze the air out of the bags for best results. You can use the frozen chicken during the week for a stir-fry or a chicken salad.

Another idea is when you are preparing chili, fry up a large batch of ground beef and onions and combine it with a can of tomato puree. Freeze it in meal-sized portions and when you defrost it add your choice of seasonings and heat it up for an instant meat filling for tacos or the beginnings of a beef noodle casserole!

Roast beef dinners provide another opportunity for freezing leftovers. Chop up any leftover roast and freeze it. It can later be turned into barbeque beef (just defrost the meat and add some bottled barbeque sauce and simmer). Other ideas include filling for fajitas, or a quick beef stroganoff. Having frozen meat prepared ahead of time cuts down your cooking and preparation time significantly.

Leftover vegetables are great for freezing too. You can keep a container in your freezer just for this purpose. Just put any leftover veggies the container and when it's full you have the beginnings of a vegetable soup! Just use canned broth to make it super quick.

Next time you finish a meal take a second look at your leftovers. There are many more meals that can be prepared with your them. Even though you'll still be doing some cooking, it's generally much less, and quicker, if you start with cooked meat or vegetables from the freezer. You can reuse your leftovers to create new meals and save substantial time and money. Having homecooked foods frozen and ready to reheat is much healthier than the frozen store bought variety. Keep this in mind after your next meal and don't toss out that food, freeze it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tips to Save Time Cooking Indian Food

If you are not very familiar with cooking Indian food, you may be under the misconception that it takes a lot of time to cook. But that is hardly the case. All cuisines have dishes that take too much time as well as things which can be cooked in a jiffy. It is true that Indians usually prepare most dishes from scratch and use ingredients that are fresh and in season. In fact, that is why Indian food has a flavor that matches none. If you are starting out with cooking Indian cuisine, you will definitely have lots of recipes to try from which don't require a lot of time. Regular dishes that are cooked in households for daily meals are easy to prepare and take little time, as long as you have the ingredients available. Indian cuisine makes abundant use of a few basic ingredients and if you have them prepared beforehand, it just reduces the cooking time more. Here are top tips to save time cooking Indian.

Onions: This vegetable is widely used in Indian cooking, whether as a paste, sliced thinly or chopped fine. It is the base for most gravies and is used as an ingredient in vegetable as well as meat and fish dishes. If you are cooking Indian food, rest assured that you will be using onions a lot. That's why it makes sense to prep them. You can peel, chop or grind onions and keep them frozen in plastic containers to use them in recipes that require them. You will be saving a lot of time this way.

Garlic and ginger: These are again typically Indian ingredients used regularly in the kitchen. You can obviously get ginger and garlic paste easily in a can but it is much better to make them at home. Garlic is tiring to peel and chop and it makes sense to do it in a batch. It is a good idea to have garlic and ginger peeled and chopped so that you can use them as they are or grind them according to what a recipe demands. Always put ginger or garlic separately in an airtight container to prevent them from creating bad odor in your whole freezer.

Dough: Chapatis, rotis and parathas are prepared on a daily basis in Indian households. Preparing the dough takes some time and doing it every day may be a bit of a hassle. Dough prepared from flour and besan can be easily stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers and kept for 3-4 days. Preparing rotis and chapattis with this dough is easy and takes a lot less time.

Using the pressure cooker: Lentils take a considerable time to cook and since they are an integral part of Indian meals, cooking them in the pressure cooker saves a lot of time. Cook lentils in the pressure cooker and then pour the hot 'tadka' (ghee, spices and aromatics on high heat) on it to prepare beautiful dals in no time at all.