One or two cookery hints I've picked up along the way.
- Peeling a tomato is easy if you make cross-shaped cuts top and bottom and just scald it briefly in boiling water
until the peel starts to separate.
- To peel peppers (or chillies), just grill them (you can halve them first) until the skin chars,
then seal them in a plastic bag to cool down.
- When you're juicing a lemon, you can persuade more liquid out of it if you press it down with your hand
and firmly roll it around a table-top. Alternatively microwave it for about 10 seconds.
I'm not sure to what extent vitamins might be denatured by this, but it's very effective.
- Freshly squeezed Lemon and Lime juice actually tastes better after it's rested, covered, in the fridge for 3 or 4 hours before using.
- Garlic cloves peel really easily if you cut off the stalky end, then give them a quick bash with the side of your knife.
- Salting sliced vegetables like aubergines or courgettes for half an hour or two
can draw any bitterness out of them
(though most modern varieties have now had any bitterness bred out of them)
and also break down their cell structure to prevent them from absorbing as much oil when fried.
You really need to rinse them thoroughly in a bowl of water afterwards though to get rid of all the salt,
before drying thoroughly. I've found just blotting them can still leave them very salty.
- Microwaving aubergines until they just show signs of collapsing
is also an effective way of breaking down their cells so they don't absorb too much oil when cooking.
- You don't need to soak dried beans before cooking them, but it will help them to cook more quickly,
and to leach away some of their more gassy chemicals.
Otherwise you can try boiling them up, draining them, then continue cooking them in fresh water.
- Feel free to salt your beans while they cook - it won't toughen their skins,
and might even soften them.
On the other hand they could end up too salty if you can't properly taste them because they're still too hard.
- Adding acid (tomatoes, vinegar etc) to your cooking beans should help to keep their skins intact,
whilst adding alkaline (baking soda) should help the skins to break down.
- Dried beans more-or-less double in weight after soaking.
- A reasonably generous portion of uncooked rice is ½ cup/100g/4 oz which will roughly double in weight and volume when cooked.
A similar weight applies to pasta, you might use 50g/2 oz per person as a starter or light lunch.
Poultry is cooked when the juices run clear when pierced at its thickest part between thigh and breast.
It's legs should then move freely up and down.
The recommended internal temperature for cooked fowl is 74°C/165°F,
but remember that the temperature will rise 5°C or so while the roasted bird rests,
so take it out when the centre (including stuffing) reaches 70°C/155°F.
Unless you're chicken, in which case wait for 75°C. Buk buk bukaaaa!
Stuff the goose and truss it up.
Rub the outside with a little salt, place in a shallow roasting pan on its side and brush with 2 tablespoons of goose fat.
Pour 1 cup hot water into the pan and roast in a 425°F/220°C/Gas 7 oven, allowing 15 to 16 minutes for each pound of ready-to-cook weight.
If the water evaporates and juice that comes out of the bird gets too brown, add a little hot water to the pan.
Skim off the fat from time to time.
After the first hour turn the bird on the other side, then turn every ½ hour,
roasting the goose the last 15 minutes on its back so that the breast will brown.
To test for doneness, move the legs up and down - they should move freely.
After stuffing and trussing the goose, prick the bird all over, particularly where there is most fat
and place the bird, breast up, on a rack in a shallow open pan and roast in a 325°F/165°C/Gas 3 oven until the leg joints move readily or twist out.
You might want to wrap the drumsticks in foil to stop them drying out.
Toward the end of cooking time test by moving the drumstick up and down.
During the roasting, spoon or syphon off the fat as it gathers in the pan.
Save the fat for us in other cooking.
If you want a shiny bird, baste it with a mixture of honey and sherry vinegar.
An 8-pound goose (ready-to-cook weight) will take 4 hours to roast,
a 10-pound goose will take 4¼ hours;
a 12-pound goose will take 5 hours and
a 14-pound goose will take 6 hours.
Once the bird is cooked, let it rest, covered in a warm place for 15-20 minutes.
Turkey Roast Timings
Slow cooking a turkey gives best results.
Set the oven at Gas Mark 3/160°C/325°F and cook covered for:
- 25 minutes per lb below 10lb weight
- 18 minutes per lb above 10lb weight
To brown the skin remove the foil about 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Cook to a final internal temperature of 74°C/165°F,
so you can take it for its 15 minutes rest rest when when it reaches 70°C/155°F at the centre.
Roast Beef Temperatures
Internal temperatures for roasting joints of beef.
An internal temperature guide for roasting joints of beef to perfection.
These are the final target temperatures you want the middle of your joint to reach
bearing in mind that it will continue to cook after you remove the joint from the oven and rest it for at least 15 minutes,
and the core temperature will probably rise another 5-10°F (3-6°C).
So for perfect rare beef I would pull out at 110°F (43°C).
Check the temperature every 15 minutes towards the end of the cooking time.
- 50-90°F (10-30°C) for bleu (deep red and barely warm)
- 90-120°F (30-50°C) for rare (bright red in the centre, pinkish outside)
- 130-135°F (55-57°C) for medium rare (pink in the centre, slightly brown outside)
- 140-145°F (60-63°C) for medium (light pink in the centre, brown outside)
- 150-155°F (65-68°C) for medium well
- 160°F (70°C) and up for well done (uniformly brown). Or as I call it: burnt.
You probably wouldn't want to cook ground beef anything less than well-done, unless you're pretty sure of its provenance.
It's a too handy a way for commercial producers to hide all sorts of floor-scrapings and dubious body parts.
Roast Lamb Temperatures
Internal temperatures for roasting joints of lamb.
You can use the above beef temperature guide for lamb, though you probably wouldn't want to serve that blue!
Nor would you want to cook it above 150°F or it will be too dry.
I would allow a 5-10°F temperature rise during resting and take out a lamb joint when the internal temperature reaches:
- 110°F (43°C) for rare
- 125°F (52°C) for medium
- 140°F (60°C) for well-done (or as well-done as you want your lamb!)
Cooked Pork Temperatures
Internal temperatures for cooking pork.
No one wants rare pork, but there's still no need to turn it to charcoal!
Don't forget that a large joint will still get hotter whilst its resting for 15 minutes after cooking.
- 140-145°F (60-63°C) for medium (pink in the centre)
- 150-155°F (65-68°C) for medium well
- 160°F (70°C) and up for well-done (brown throughout)
- 160°F (70°C) and up (take no chances!)
Cooked Fish Temperature
starter main fish
Internal temperature for cooked fish.
As you can see there is only one cooked temperature for fish! It's cooked when the flesh becomes opaque and flakes easily.
Well, actually it seems there's two, a special one for Tuna, Swordfish and Marlin which you can eat at a slightly lower temperature.
Of course you can also eat most seafish raw but even sushi has usually been previously frozen (down to -20°C) to kill off any parasites,
and it's certainly
not a good idea to eat freshwater fish raw - their parasites
(e.g. tapeworms or lung flukes) are more likely to eat you too.
- 140°F (60°C) for fish steaks, fillets, whole fish or lobsters
- 125°F (51°C) for Tuna, Swordfish or Marlin
How To Keep Shellfish
How to keep molluscs alive and kicking.
Or keeping molluscs anyway.
I used to think that you could keep mussels in a bucket of water and feed them flour or oats to persuade them to clean themselves,
but that seems to be complete bollocks. Apparently all they'll do then is drown.
It certainly happens pretty quickly if you cover razor clams or sea urchins with fresh water.
Maybe it would be fine if you used cold seawater, or cold water with pretty nearly the right amount of salt in it,
but I'm not entirely sure that's worth the effort.
Best to keep them (mussels, clams, oysters, urchins) damp in the fridge, or over ice.
Don't seal them in bags or containers because they do need to breathe. Wrap them in a wet towel or damp newspaper.
They should keep for a day or two like this.
If you keep them on ice you're supposed to make sure they can drain so they won't drown in the freshwater runoff,
and avoid them coming into direct contact with the ice or water.
Just before you want to use them, I've seen it suggested that you can then soak your mussels in water
(possibly salted, possibly with flour, oats or cornmeal) for just 20 minutes to get them to start pumping
and flush themselves clear of sand.
Then clean and cook them straight away.
If you want grit-free razor clams you will probably need to run them under (not in) fresh water for as long as you possibly can.
Try sticking them in a colander under the tap in your bath.
Preferably overnight, though don't flood your bathroom!
The salinity of seawater is about 3.5% (35 g/L) of which about 30g per litre is Sodium Chloride.
So if you want to make up your own add:
- 30g salt to each litre of water
- 50ml (3 tablespoons) Maldon sea salt per litre water
- 1 (Imperial) cup Maldon sea salt per 5 litres water
- 30ml (2 tablespoons) table salt per litre water
- ½ (Imperial) cup table salt per 5 litres water
- shellfish - mussels, clams, oysters
How To Kill a Crab (or a Lobster)
Lobsters are difficult to kill because they don't have brains as such, they have distributed ganglia,
and destroying one of these (even if you can find it) doesn't usually kill the creature.
Boiling seems to be the most accessible option even if it may not be the most humane.
You can however chill the lobster down so it won't suffer (as much - probably).
Keep him in the fridge overnight, or stick him in the freezer for half an hour or two.
You can always freeze the lobster completely to kill it, but then you have a frozen lobster to defrost.
If you need the lobster flesh raw you can try and kill him by chopping his head in half -
hold him firmly belly-side down in a thick towel
and use a big knife to cut down through the cross-shaped markings on the back of his head in one firm thrust.
Be prepared for the mess and the thrashing...
Crabs have evolved fused body segments, during which process their ganglia have more-or-less coalesced into two main units,
making them easier to kill quickly and effectively.
You can usually kill a crab by laying him on his back and driving a spike (or a chopstick)
through the hole at the tip of the triangular apron below his eyes,
then by lifting the small flap at its bum and skewering him through the hole underneath.
Don't think about what that hole is.
You can also drown crustaceans in fresh water, but it's probably no kinder and may take quite a lot longer.
Anything between a half and two hours gasping underfreshwater should stop them putting up too much of a fight
when you finally murder them though.
Boil your crustaceans for about 5-6 minutes per lb.
Opinions seem to vary slightly between 140-160°F (60-70°C) on their safe cooked temperature, but I'd be mostly happy with the lower value.
They start to get rubbery if you overcook them.
How To Cook Crab (or Lobster)
Bring a big pot of water (you can use seawater if you like) to the boil. Try and find one with a lid, or you might have to stand by with a cricket bat!
Plunge in your crustacean, bring the water back to the boil, and cook him for about 5-6 minutes per lb.
Let him cool (or plunge him into cold water), then crack him open and throw away anything that isn't pink or white.
Crabs have grey gills called dead man's fingers around their core and dark intestines that will need to be flushed out of their bodies.
Lobsters have a sand sac behind their eyes, and a black vein that runs down their tail (just inside the flesh) that you'll want to avoid.
Both crabs and lobsters have a soft liver-like substance in their body cavity (called tomalley or lobster paste
it is green in lobsters, more yellow in crabs).
Considered by some to be a delicacy, meaning that whilst technically edible it is definitely an acquired taste,
it has an intense flavour and may be added to sauces or just whisked into melted butter.
It does have a slightly disturbing tendency to contain high levels of PCBs and toxins though.
You might also want to pass on any firm red, or gooey black eggs found in their tails (lobsters) or body (crabs)
if you're a novice, but again, they're really quite a delicacy.
Naturally black, lobster eggs turn red and firm up when cooked.
In any case most of the solid flesh is in the legs, claws and tail (lobsters).
Crabs hide quite a lot of flesh in the complex maze of cartilaginous channels on either side of their body shells, but digging it out can be tedious,
and probably only worth doing for decent-sized crabs.
Prise out all the good meat and shred it, or cut into chunks, depending on your intentions.
How To Cook Steak
Oooh I had a lovely steak last night. Lovely. And that was even a bloody, pre-packed, Styrofoam special from my local Fucking Supermarket™.
So after closing all the doors, hiding the smoke detectors, turning up the extractor fan and opening the windows, here's what I did:
- I took the meat out of the fridge about an hour ahead so it came right up to room temperature.
- Then I salted the hell out of that steak - about ½ teaspoon of salt over each side, then left it for more than half an hour.
- I turned the oven on low,
then I got a griddle so hot it was uncomfortable to put my hand an inch away, and I could smell the wooden handle starting to scorch.
- Just before throwing the steak on it I patted it completely dry with kitchen paper,
rubbed it with black pepper and then massaged it with oil and smacked it on the griddle.
- I fried the steak for 1 minute on each side before flipping - just long enough actually for the flesh to stop sticking to the pan.
Then I continued flipping it after about 1 minute per side.
Following the advice of Tim Anderson for rare steak
I cooked it for one minute each side plus another minute per centimetre of thickness.
Which meant four minutes in total for mine.
- To finish the steak off I threw a knob of butter on top of it, then flipped it a couple of times as the butter sizzled and browned.
- Finally I turned off the oven and let the steak rest in there for about half the cooking time
whilst I made a quick sauce out of the crunchy loveliness left in the pan.
- Then I ate it. It was delicious!
I'm sure you could skip the brining process and just salt the steak right before you grease it up and cook it,
but use less of it (obviously), and make sure to use a good flaky sea salt. It's worth it.
How NOT To Cook Steak
Yeuch. I cooked myself just about the worst steak ever last night. Tough, gristly and salty. Very very salty.
I thought I'd try super-salting a (reasonably decent bit of rump) to see what happened so I covered it in a coarse-grained salt
(a couple of tablespoons), wrapped it in cling-film and left it for 24 hours in the fridge.
I cleaned off the salt as well as I could before bringing up to room temperature and pan-frying, but to no avail - the steak was ruined.
Probably it's grey speckled appearance should have given the game away.
Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if I'd left it uncovered and draining. Maybe it wouldn't have made the blindest bit of difference.
Morale of the story - it seems you can over-salt your steaks!
How To Cook Duck Breasts
Ducky breasts are tricky things to fry well -
mainly 'cos they're so thick you risk overcooking the outside and turning them to fibreboard before the middle is done.
Opinions vary wildly on how to get the best of them; it seems that every chef prefers a different way of cooking the succulent fellows,
from roasting them skin-side down all the way in the oven,
through frying them skin-side down only and finishing them off in the oven,
to flipping them frantically from skin to flesh side à la Heston Blumenthal.
Some don't seem to think a bout in the oven is necessary at all!
Some slap into a hot pan, some cook from cold to render out more fat,
most use a medium high heat, but there are others who swear by frying on a very
low heat for 20 or 30 minutes.
I guess you pays your money, you takes your duck.
For myself I usually seem to need to give my breasts a stint in the oven at the end to cook them properly
(or a simmer in their sauce if you're making one) -
you don't want to fry them for too long on the fleshy side as it overcooks quite quickly.
I would say it's a good idea to have the oven hot and ready in case you need it.
The one thing that will definitely
make a difference is a meat thermometer
otherwise you'll have to cut open a breast or two to check their colour on the way.
Here are my recommended final temperatures
bearing in mind that it will continue to rise by a few degrees after you remove the meat from the heat:
- 120-130°F/49-54°C for rare
- 135-145°F/57-63°C for medium
- more than 155°F/68°C for well done
Whichever method you choose, be sure to leave the breasts for a few minutes rest and relaxation
between cooking and serving.
Here's the cooking process which seems to work best for me:
Preheat the oven to moderately hot (200°C/400°F/Gas 6).
Cut away any thin white muscle membrane from the fleshy side of the breasts - this will make the breasts curl up as they cook if left on.
Score diamond-pattern slashes into the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife, without cutting into the flesh.
Rub the breasts all over with salt and pepper, or your preferred spice rub
Place the breasts skin-side down in a cold heavy frying pan or skillet over a medium heat.
Allow the breasts to fry in the pan for 10 or 15 minutes or until most of the fat has rendered out and the skin has crisped and turned golden-brown.
Drain off the fat periodically and save it for roasting your potatoes.
Flip the breasts and cook for a further 4-5 minutes on the flesh side
(don't over-cook them) until lightly browned and they feel barely springy.
At this point the duck is probably still too rare for most tastes,
in which case put the breasts skin-side up uncovered in the oven for 5-8 minutes or until they are cooked to your satisfaction.
Finally set aside covered in foil to rest for 2-5 minutes before slicing or serving.
How To Cook Foie Gras
Well, how to fry it anyway.
Foie gras is the purest distillation of avian suffering, so treat it with some respect.
Cooked well, it's also one of the most mouth-wateringly delicious substances on earth.
It's rich, unctuous, lipid lobes melt, like chocolate, at just about body temperature so the glossy gobs of crisp-crusted blood-warm liver truffles
effortlessly dissolve around your tongue into the sublime essence of musky viscera.
Like gorging on the freshly severed breasts of angels.
Unfortunately there's a real art to frying these little guys
so they get a nice golden crust and are warmed right to their centre
without melting them away completely or leaving them looking like sadly deflated balloons.
The colder the slices, the easier it is to brown them, but the more unlikely you are to get them heated all the way through.
It's a fine balance, but on the whole I think it's best to allow your foie gras slices 15 minutes to warm up at room temperature before cooking.
There's nothing worse than biting into your beautifully crusted fat hunk of foie gras to find the middle still cold and greasy.
Depending on how your delicious swollen liver lobe arrives you might need to clean away any bile or blood spots,
peel off its outer membrane and tweeze out any obvious fat veins.
Mine usually arrives cleanly vacuum-packed with very little needing to be done.
Keep it cool in the fridge until you're ready to use it, then slice it with a hot knife which you will need to keep reheating:
pour boiling water over the knife then dry it with a cloth.
Make the slices thick; 1-2". Being mostly just fat, they will lose a lot of volume as they cook,
and there's no point skimping on the stuff. Now you've paid your £30 for it you might as well serve it like you mean it!
Once you've opened your vacuum-packed foie gras, don't keep it for too long. Preferably no more than a couple of days.
Though I've seen it recommended that you start the foie gras in an unheated frying pan - I don't really believe it.
Most chefs seem to work with a pan just smoking hot.
My own limited experience suggests starting with a well-heated, heavy, dry frying pan (not a griddle),
then gradually allowing it to cool off slightly once the slabs are nicely seared on the first side
so as to avoid over-melting the surface while the heat penetrates inwards.
Tilting the pan so the fat rolls away encourages the crust to develop, reduces the heat conductivity dissolving the foie gras too rapidly,
and conveniently provides a pool of hot fat with which to baste the tops.
So, when you're ready to go, take your thick fat slices out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before you're planning on frying them.
Generously season the cut surfaces with plenty of sea salt and a little pepper,
and it's a good idea to score the first surface to be fried - it helps develop that elusive golden coat.
Heat your pan and quickly fry the first side for only 30 seconds or so until the fat begins to run off
and you've (hopefully) got your nice golden crust.
Flip and fry the other side for about the same time.
You definitely need to stop frying them immediately if they start losing too much fat and collapsing.
If you turn the heat off and the pan cools down quickly enough you can leave the flipped slices in there to finish warming through before serving,
otherwise lay on kitchen paper and keep in a low oven or in a warming drawer until needed to be sure they're heated all the way through.
Keep a wary eye on them in case they try to dissolve away -
they melt somewhere between 25°C and 37°C so they're eager to vanish into a puddle of very expensive oil as soon as you turn your back.
One duck liver will serve about 8 people.
8 lucky, lucky people.
How To Boil an Egg
Or how to soft-boil an egg anyway. Which is the only kind worth worrying about.
If you want hard-boiled eggs then just boil them until the water has all gone and they'll be done :)
in the interverse I have the secret of perfectly boiling an egg.
It just goes to show the wondrous complexities of cookery,
that even for this most basic kitchen task that you would hope had been well-and-truly sorted out back when Chaucer was dipping his soldiers,
every one of these secret methods is different -
- do you store your egg at room temperature or chilled?
- do you start the egg off in cold or hot water?
- do you gently simmer or furiously boil the water?
- and most importantly - how long do you cook it for?
Well, I'm going to reveal my greatest
cooking secret - how to serve the perfect soft-boiled egg.
I don't really care how you go about cooking your eggs - personally I prefer to cook the egg from the fridge
(so as to keep the yolk as cool as possible for as long as possible and help prevent it from overcooking),
I usually put them into simmering water, and I find it's a good idea to make a small pin-hole in the rounded shell to stop the eggs cracking
(as they are wont to do straight from the fridge), but I'm not averse to putting them in cold water then bringing them to the boil.
My secret is this:
I can tell just by looking at it when the egg is ready
- the white just cooked through,
but the yolk still beautifully runny!!!
I don't need no stinking timer (though I'll use one to get into roughly the right area - 3 minutes from dropping hens eggs into boiling water),
and it works for any kind of egg - quail, duck, pigeon, ostrich. Probably not fish.
Here's what you do; to test the egg, lift it out of the water with a slotted spoon and watch it like a hawk.
When the water completely evaporates from its upper surface in 7 seconds the egg is done.
How To Sharpen a Knife
First you need a good knife.
Then you need a good whetstone.
Then you need a non-slip surface.
Then you soak your whetstone for 10 minutes, find the right angle for your knife and start sharpening.
Harder Japanese knives might take an angle between 10 and 18°, a Western knife might hold 20-25°:
the finer the edge the sharper the knife, but the shorter the edge will last.
Holding the knife steadily at the chosen (or existing) angle you then slice
the knife along the stone,
grinding the whole length of the blade in one sweep if the knife is short enough.
For longer knives you'll probably have to do this in sections.
Do this a few times on the first side, then the other side of the knife
- you're supposed to be able to tell that you've ground a nice edge onto the knife when it develops a burr which you can feel as you sharpen it
or when you slide your finger from the spine to the edge of the knife.
Move to finer grades of stone to get your knife as sharp as you like it.
To be honest I still find it quite difficult to get the angle right, and to know when I've got a nice edge on the blade.
Sometimes I seem to be grinding, grinding, grinding but the knife is getting no sharper
(I usually try to find a spare soft tomato to test it on, but failing that damp scrunched up kitchen towel gives a good indication).
I can often tell that I've got the edge right when the blade seems just on the point of biting into the stone
and it sort-of feels like I would be shaving off a thin slice if the stone were made of cheese.
Failing everything you can try using one of those sharpeners that has two little grinding wheels in it - with a preset V-shape between them.
I've found the minoSharp Ceramic Water Sharpener
to be effective for Global
and a WMF
version for my Sabatiers (though the wheels wear out quite quickly).
But these are definitely second-best to using a stone.
Avoid at all costs those sharpeners that have a couple of fixed edges for you to slide your knife between.
Diamond-encrusted or otherwise; they're mostly rubbish.
After sharpening you can use a steel to bring the edge back if the knife dulls or burrs a little between uses.
Or at least you should
be able to. I was entirely unconvinced by this idea until I bought my
Extra Fine, Diamond Encrusted, Wusthof
Which seems to do a better job of sharpening my knives than my stones do, and keeps them beautifully
I'm amazed I've spent all these years struggling uselessly with those steel steels.
Colour me converted!
How to Reheat Haggis
Thanks to Edinburgh's finest butcher George Bower
for these most reliable cooking instructions
to avoid the dreaded Burst Haggis.
Firstly almost every Haggis you can buy today, and including the ones you'll make yourself, will have already been cooked,
probably using this very process.
So it's just a matter of safely reheating the beast.
Most commonly this is done in a large pot of water, but if you allow the water to boil
burst your haggis,
so a thermometer is most definitely indicated.
If your haggis is frozen, then defrost it before beginning the reheating process.
Bring a large
pot of water to the boil, then turn the heat off.
Lower the cold haggii into the pot, turn the heat on low and gently reheat to 98°C no hotter
(this might take an hour).
Immediately turn off the heat and leave the pot, covered, until required.
Your haggii are now reheated, unsplit, and ready to eat!
Actually you can also reheat your cooked haggis in the oven, either boil-in-the-bag
style, or roast.
Preheat the oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 6. Either:
- Dampen the haggis and wrap in tin foil then place in a casserole dish with a little water. Bake for about an hour.
- Oil the haggis and place in a casserole dish with a little fat or oil. Roast for an hour, basting regularly.
If you want to make Rabbie Burns cry, you could probably slowly microwave the haggis - slit or remove the skin first.
If you only want pieces of haggis, then you can slice it thickly and pan-fry, where it will gradually fall apart.
Or of course you can batter the slices and deep-fry them. Serve with chippy sauce.