Avoiding sticky pasta
To avoid sticky pasta cook in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water (5 to 6 litres of water to every 500 grams of pasta). Giving the pasta a good stir in the first couple of minutes is also crucial to help avoid sticking.
Al dente, literally "to the tooth", does not mean sticking to the tooth, rather that the pasta provides a little resistance when you chew it. The only way to tell is to taste the pasta as you cook it - don't rely on the packet instructions.
Thin, delicate pasta shapes are lovely combined with thinner, delicate sauces. Tubular or irregular shaped pastas are best with chunky sauces (so the sauce can get caught inside the shapes). Small pasta shapes, such as risoni, are great in soups.
Fresh vs dry pasta
Similarly to pasta shapes, the choice between fresh and dry pasta is more about matching flavours and textures than about which is superior. Fresh pasta is well suited to delicate sauces, but its primary purpose is to make tortellini, ravioli and lasagne sheets.
Poaching an egg
The key to poached eggs is using a fresh egg. Bring to the boil 1.5 litres of water with a teaspoon of vinegar. When the water is simmering swirl the water to create a whirlpool. Crack your egg into a cup and gently slip the egg into the centre of the whirlpool.
How to cook beetroot
To minimise bleeding during cooking do not peel the beetroot (the skin holds the colour) and leave a portion of the stem in place. Boil in salted water or bake in the oven wrapped in foil at 180°C.
Floury vs. waxy potatoes
Waxy potatoes tend to hold their shape and remain firm and compact when boiled. Floury potatoes become fluffy and airy inside and are best used for baking, roasting, mashing and deep-frying. Due to their low sugar content they tend to fall apart when boiled.
Store in a thick brown paper bag, in a cool, dry, dark place. Discard any potatoes that have developed a green tinge, indicating a rise of (potentially dangerous) solanine levels. Opt for unwashed potatoes where possible as the dirt protects the potatoes.
Sealing meat does not actually help to keep the juices inside the meat, it does however add a great charred flavour and colour to the meat. Sear cuts of meat in a hot frying pan or roasting dish over medium to high heat.
How to tell your steak is cooked
You can use palm of your hand to help determine how your steak is cooked. Gently bringing together your index finger and thumb, and pressing the mound on your palm below the thumb will feel similar pressing a raw steak; the middle finger and thumb is like medium rare; and onwards to the pinky will feel like a well-done steak.
How to tell your roast chicken is ready
Pierce the thigh of your chicken with a skewer to determine it is cooked through. This is the thickest part of the bird, and if the juices run clear (with no blood) you will know it is cooked.
To de-beard a mussel grab the beard (the byssal threads that connect the mussel to the rocks in the sea) with your fingers, and pull them out, tugging toward the hinged point of the shell.
What to look for in fresh fish
Seek out fish that have firm flesh, clear bulging eyes and a slimy texture - a sign that the last time they had contact with the water was when they were swimming in it (by dry-filleting fish you avoid bloating and any taint from chemicals such as chlorine).
Squash the unpeeled garlic using the flat side of a large knife to loosen the skin and help release the flavour and oils. Peel the garlic and then roughly chop. All of the pieces need to be about the same size to ensure consistency while cooking.
Baking powder vs baking soda
You can substitute baking soda for baking powder (but not vice versa) with the addition of cream of tartar. Simply mix two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda.
Making self-raising flour from plain
To convert plain flour into self-raising add 4 level teaspoons of baking powder to every 300g (2 cups) of plain flour.
Light olive oil
Olive oil can be labeled as "light" however don't be fooled to thinking this means it is light in calories. The "light" label refers to the oil being light on taste or colour - not on fat.
Cheats chicken stock
Using the left over chicken carcass from your roast will provide you with a good starting point for a simple chicken stock. Through in any spare stock vegetables: such as carrot, onion, celery or parsley stalks. Cover in water, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for an hour.
Bringing meat to room temperature
Always bring your meat (this does not apply to minced meat) to room temperature before cooking it. This will allow for the exterior of the meat to brown nicely when it comes into contact with heat.
De-glazing a pan
Adding liquid (such as stock or water) to a pan where food has been sautéed or roasted will help to dissolve the caramelised juices stuck to the bottom. This is a great way to make gravy as it allows for the flavours of the roast to permeate the sauce.
Never serve roasted meat straight out of the oven. Instead allow the meat to rest in a warm place, loosely covered with foil, for around 20 minutes, This will allow the juices to redistribute evenly among the meat, rather than escaping onto the plate when the meat is carved.
When removing the zest from an orange or a lemon, be sure to avoid as much of the pith (the white part) as possible. This is very bitter and will detract from the taste.
Clean barbecue with lemon
Cut a lemon in half and spear it onto the end of your tongs. Use the exposed lemon to clean the grills of your barbecue as it is heating up. The acid in the lemon makes this a very simple yet effective cleaning tool.
Adding vegemite to gravy
Adding a tablespoon of vegemite while you are making gravy will impart the smoky, meaty flavour into the sauce.
A native rosella flower (now commonly sold in jars) can be slotted inside a champagne glass, and then the champagne is poured over the top. This uniquely Australian addition not only looks great, but the sweet syrup enhances the flavour of the beverage.
Splitting a Balmain bug
To remove meat from bugs, split the shell lengthwise. With a sharp knife or scissors, starting at the tail end, cut straight down to the middle of the head. Split open, remove vein and rinse lightly if necessary.
Tongs or fork
Avoid using a barbecue fork when turning steaks or meat on the barbecue (opt for tongs instead). The fork will pierce the meat encouraging the precious juices to flow out, rather than stay inside the meat and keep it tender.