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.
Goose fat and roast potatoes
Rough up the edges of parboiled potatoes by tossing them around the colander (like you would bounce a tennis ball on a racket) this helps create a crunchy exterior. Add them to the roasting dish with a couple of tablespoons of duck or goose fat, rolling in the fat and season generously.
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.
Peeling and de-seeding capsicum
Place peppers under a hot grill, turning from time to time until they are scorched and blackened all over. Place the hot peppers in a plastic bag, seal and leave for 20 minutes. Peel, and pull out the core (it will come away quite easily taking most of the seeds with it).
Putting together a cheese plate
When compiling a cheese plate try to think of a combination of flavours as well as textures (sharp, pungent, crumbly, soft). This creates contrast as well as providing variety for your guests. Consider sweet additions such as cut apples, muscatels or honey.
Remove several layers of the bitter exterior leaves and trim remaining leaves before submerging and cooking artichokes in salted water for around 15 minutes (use a dinner plate on top of the artichokes to keep them under water). A thin skewer should meet little resistance when they are cooked.
Studding lamb with garlic and rosemary
Stud lamb rack with rosemary, garlic and anchovies by making small incisions with your knife all over the lamb. Slide slivers of garlic, a piece of anchovy and a few rosemary leaves into each incision then roast as normal.
Rescuing burnt chocolate
To melt chocolate break it into small pieces and place in a large heatproof bowl suspended over a small saucepan of just simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir constantly and remove as soon as all the chocolate is melted.
Segmenting an orange
To segment an orange slice the peel off the oranges, removing every trace of white pith. With a sharp serrated knife cut out each segment from between the membranes, dropping the segments into a bowl as you go, and turning the membranes over like the pages in a book.
Re-hydrating dried mushrooms
Dried mushrooms, such as porcini, are a great store cupboard back up. Soak in boiling water for 30 minutes to revive them. Strain the soaking liquid and add to the dish for extra flavour.
Chopping an onion
Cut the onion it in half across the base (leaving a portion of root on each half - this will help keep the onion together while slicing), peel the onion and place cut side down. Make multiple cuts long ways from top to bottom but not through the root at the end. The more cuts, the finer the dice.
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.
Red wine or white wine?
The general rule with wine is that red wine, with its richer and deeper flavours, is a great accompaniment to red meats, while white wine works well with white meats (fish and chicken). However take time to experiment, there are plenty of exceptions to the rules and with wine the rules are definitely made to be broken.
Keeping champagne fizzy
If you want to keep champagne fizzy to drink the next day try placing a silver spoon in the neck of the bottle (handle pointing into the liquid). They have been doing this for decades in France and many swear by it!
Rescuing burnt garlic
Burning garlic will make it taste bitter and unpalatable, however if you do burn your garlic while heating it in olive oil (the basis of so many French and Italian meals) simply strain out the garlic pieces - the oil will have taken on much of the flavour of the garlic already and will impart this through your dish.
Making a cartouche
A cartouche is a circle of baking paper placed on top of a dish to prevent it forming a skin or drying out. To make a cartouche take a square of baking paper slightly larger than your pan, fold in half and in half again, keep folding the same way so that one corner remains the centre point of the paper. When you have folded it over a few times cut off the edge to form a circle.
Seasoning cast iron
Seasoning a new cast iron frying pan will help to keep it in good condition and help to avoid odours and flavours sticking to the pan. Coat the inside of the pan in oil and place in a hot oven for 30 - 60 minutes. Allow it to cool before wiping it clean.
Salting an eggplant
Salting an eggplant is only necessary if the eggplant is over-mature and is to be fried (salting the eggplant stops it absorbing too much oil). If this is the case sprinkle the eggplant with salt and leave to drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Rinse quickly to remove salt before cooking.
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.
Choosing and prepping asparagus
Choose asparagus with tight, well-formed heads and avoid any with thin woody, dry and dirty stems. Snap off the woody end of the asparagus by holding the spear in the middle and bend the bottom until it finds its natural snapping point. Discard the woody ends, or use in a stock.
To make clarified butter gently melt unsalted butter over low heat. After time the butter will form three distinct layers - the foam on top (which is skimmed off and discarded), the milk solids (which will sink to the bottom) and the clarified butter will be left in the middle.
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.
A bain-marie is a bath of water that is used to gently cook ingredients and protect them from too much direct heat. To make a bain-marie simply fill your roasting dish just below the top with water. Place the other cooking vessel into the water and cook as per recipe.
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.
Cooking a mire poix
A common base for stews, soups and casseroles a French mire poix is generally made up of two parts onion, two parts carrot and one part celery. The ingredients are cooked gently in olive oil or butter before the other ingredients are added.
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.
Toasting whole spices in a dry pan can help to bring out the essential oils and the flavour in the spice, however be careful to taste as you add the spice to your dish as the flavour will have changed and you may need less. Toasting pre-ground spices is a little trickier and it can ruin the flavour of the spice altogether.