These expert tips will help you achieve the perfect balance of flavours.
29 May 2013 - 3:48 PM  UPDATED 15 May 2015 - 1:30 PM

Vanilla extract

Be careful to choose vanilla extract that is labeled as "pure" as opposed to the synthetic varieties. Vanilla essence is a stronger version of vanilla extract and only a couple of drops are required for a similar result.

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.

Best mashed potato

For the perfect mash boil or steam floury potatoes until tender. Drain and cover with a clean tea towel to dry out. Meanwhile warm cream or milk and butter gently in a small saucepan. Peel away potato skin and press through a potato mill into a clean pot. Beat in milk mixture.

Putting together a cheese platter

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.

How to tell if your roast 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.

Cheat's chicken stock

Using the left over chicken carcass from your roast will provide you with a good starting point for a simple chicken stock. Throw 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.

Deglazing 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.

Resting meat

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.

Leftover Yorkshire puddings

If you have Yorkshire puddings leftover from a Sunday roast, serve with ice-cream and jam for dessert.

Bubble and squeak

Incorporate cold leftover vegetables from a previous meal (traditionally the Sunday roast) into bubble and squeak. Chop vegetables (and cold chopped meat if you have it) and combine with mashed potato. Fry the fritters until the mixture is well-cooked and brown on the sides.

A good cuppa

When making a pot of tea, always warm the teapot first, by adding hot water to the teapot. When the pot is warm, discard the water and add the tea leaves. The general rule is one teaspoon of tea for each guest, plus one for the pot.

Yorkshire puddings that rise

Bring your ingredients (egg, milk and flour) to room temperature before combining. This will help the puddings to rise in the oven, as the warmth will create the steam earlier, thus creating the puff in the puddings.

Rare roast beef

Using a meat thermometer helps to determine precisely when the beef is cooked to rare. Simply insert the thermometer into the centre of the thickest part of the beef (avoiding the bone, fat and gristle). It will be cooked to rare when it is 50°C, medium-rare will be 55°C, while medium is a little over 60°C.

Lemonade scones

For a simple Devonshire tea, make lemonade scones by combining 3 cups of self-raising flour, 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of lemonade. Bake in a moderate oven until golden on top.