Goose or duck fat and roast potatoes
Roasting potatoes in hot duck or goose fat adds incredible flavour. Rough up the edges of parboiled potatoes before tossing them around the colander, as this helps create a crunchy exterior. Add them to a pre-heated roasting dish with a couple of tablespoons of duck or goose fat, roll in the fat and season generously then roast until crisp.
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.
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.
Red or white?
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.
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.
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 mirepoix
A common base for stews, soups and casseroles a French mirepoix 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.