Category Archives: Cooking techniques
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We all know that meals can be time intensive, and during the week – we need all the ideas we can to get dinner done quick. So, I have a great trick that’s going to cut down the time you spend with your chopping board.
Infusing oil with different flavours, including garlic, chilli, rosemary and even ginger – is a great way to add flavours to your salads, sauces and marinades without having to chop anything up. Perfect! This is a concept the express cooking queen, Nigella is very fond of.
You can buy infused oils at the supermarket, but why not do it yourself when the process really doesn’t take that long, expect for the need to leave the oil and your flavourings to steep for a week.
You can do different combinations, depending on what food you like.
In the case of garlic oil, place about 500ml of olive oil in a saucepan, over a low heat. While it warms, break up a bulb of garlic and hit the cloves with the flat part of your knife. This will break the cloves and allow them to release their flavour.
Once the oil is warm, but not hot, add the garlic to the oil and switch off the heat. It’s important not to over heat the oil, as it takes away its natural flavour.
Transfer the oil into a sterilised, dry jar and pop it in the fridge for a week. This will make the oil go thick and cloudy.
After a week, remove the jar from the fridge and allow the oil to come to room temperature.
Strain the garlic from the oil and place it in a sterilized jar or bottle with an air-tight lid. Store in a cool, dark place in the pantry and use when desired. Keep for up to two months.
This garlic oil is very basic, but you can add more flavours, like chilli. Just cut 4 whole green or red chillies in half, and add them to the oil at the same time as you add the garlic. You could also do herb infused oil.
Mix and match however you like – and you will be very pleased to not have to peel and finely diced garlic cloves when all you want to do is get a tasty meal on the table, fast!
Have you used infused oils before? What kind of flavour combinations have you found work well for you? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Marinating meat is a great way to not only save time, but to inject lots of awesome flavour into a week-night meal.
This week I’m going to share with you three really awesome marinades, which can be used on chicken, beef and lamb which will have your family raving not only about the great flavours, but also the tenderness of the meat.
Marinading meat is so convenient because you can do your weekly/fortnightly or monthly shop and marinate whatever meats you wish before popping them in the freezer. Once thawed, all that is left to do is cook it, and because it will be bursting with flavour, a simple salad or side of vegies is the only accompaniement required.
Don’t know much about marinating? Well, you’ll see from the below recipes that there are generally three main ingredients in each – acid (like lemon juice), oils and seasonings (herbs, spices, salt and pepper etc). The oils and the acids help tenderise the meat and break down the fibres to allow the seasonings to penetrate their great flavour. Once you get hold of a few good marinating recipes and start to understand what flavours work – then you’ll be making up your own before you know it!
- Half a cup of olive oil
- The juice of a whole lemon
- 1 tsp of ground black pepper
- 1/2 a tsp of sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tbs of dried oregano
This marinade is great for chicken thighs or lamb chops, which can then be grilled on a hot pan or on the barbecue.
You could also spread it over a whole chicken or on maryland pieces (which is the cut with the thigh and leg bone, joined together) before roasting in a medium oven (about 180 to 200 degrees C – cooking times depend on the size of your whole bird, but marylands should take about 45 minutes).
But this is most ideal on a leg of lamb before roasting, or ask you butcher to butterfly the leg – which means he’ll remove the bone, leaving a nice flat piece of meat. Marinate it, and then cook it on the barbecue. It’s just amazing!
Spicy Asian Marinade
2cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 a red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds to reduce spice)
- 1/2 a green chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds to reduce spice)
- 5 tbs of soy sauce
- 2 tbs of fish sauce
- 1/4 of a cup of peanut oil
- 1 tsp of sugar
- The juice of half a lime
This marinade is ideal for chicken and beef. Chicken strips can be marinated and stir-fryed with some Asian greens, or beef steaks will soak up these beautiful flavours before being cooked medium to rare on a barbecue and used in a Asian beef salad. It’s also great for meats you want to skewer and then barbecue. Beware though, it is quite spicy – so not one for the kids.
1/2 a cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
2 tbs of Moroccan spice blend/seasoning
1 tsp of lemon zest
1/2 a tsp of sea salt
1/2 a tsp of black pepper
This marinade is very versatile and is great for all cuts of chicken, is fabulous on lamb chops or back strap (cooked medium on the barbecue) or on tender cuts of beef.
Method and tips for all marinades
Combine all ingredients and whisk well. All these marinades yield enough for 1 to 1.5 kilograms of meat. The best way to marinade it to place meat in a freezer bag, add marinade and seal the bag, ensuring all the air is out. Toss, turn and massage the meat in the bag (having the bag sealed prior to doing this exercise saves your hands from getting all dirty, but ensures the meat and marinade is well combined). Ensure you use a large enough freezer bag for your quantity of meat.
Freeze for up to three months. To thaw – place the frozen meat in the fridge the night before you need it. This is the most hygienic way of thawing meat.
You can marinate the meat on the same day as you plan to use it, but the flavour won’t be as good. However, as long as the meat has at least 2 hours in the fridge, it will still be delicious.
This really is the simplest and easiest process to inject wonderful flavour. So, no more boring lamb chops or roast chickens. Inject some flavour – your family will thank you!
Any questions about marinating? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.
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When I first moved from Darwin to Victoria to go to university – I was stunned by the number of people who couldn’t cook for themselves – at all!
Even though we got to eat in the cafeteria five nights a week as part of living on campus – that still left two meals where we had to fend for ourselves.
Moving away from home hadn’t removed my love for cooking, and so I used to muscle my way into our communal kitchen, around the other students making two-minute noodles, mugs of milo and spaghetti jaffles, to cook up various dishes which I enjoyed.
These weekly cook-ups turned into make-shift cooking classes – with my housemates quizzing me on the most basic of things – like cooking pasta and rice … which I will get to in just a moment.
My housemates thought the fact I knew how to cook a descent meal for myself was really impressive! I mean this wasn’t fine dining food – just a few casseroles and stuff like that. I even cooked everyone a roast one weekend. Everyone loved it, appreciated it and thought I was so skillful.
But really, I wasn’t skillful. My mother, knowingly or not, had taught me how to be self-sufficient.
It boggles my mind that parents are sending their young adults out into the world – with no cooking skills at all!
The parents of many of my housemates had also overlooked other skills too – like teaching their nest-leavers how to use a washing machine. I conducted many lessons in this regard too. This included explaining that jumping in the washing machine and pushing all the clothes down so you can do three week’s washing in one load was a pretty ineffective way of getting clothes clean. But, let’s focus on the cooking skills for now.
This week, if you have teenage kids at home – why not put some time aside to teach them a few basic skills. If you have already done this – then well done! Just remember, unless they are passionate about cooking, they don’t need to be the next Junior Masterchef . However, as much as you may or may not like it, they are going to move out one day and they will need to know how to feed themselves.
Being able to drive to Maccas is not an adequate skill to ensure your young person’s survival in the big wide world.
So, without further ado, let’s start with how to cook rice.
Even for people who do know how to cook – making perfect fluffy rice can be an elusive talent!
So, here are some tips and tricks to think about. This recipe serves four generous portions. If you have leftovers – you can always make my awesome fried rice recipe.
PERFECT FLUFFY RICE
- 1 mug-sized cups of uncooked basmati rice
- 1 1/2 mug-sized cups of water.
Place the rice and the water in a large, microwave-proof bowl, uncovered.
Place in the microwave and cook, on high, for 12 minutes. The cooking time may vary depending on your microwave.
Once cooked – all the liquid should have been absorbed into the rice. Use a fork to fluff up the rice and serve with your favourite curry, casserole etc.
Once you have the basic principle down – you can start adding some other flavours and textures.
You can use cold chicken stock, instead of water, and a knob of butter to add flavour.
Or, you can make saffron rice by using the chicken stock, butter and popping in a good pinch of saffron before you place the rice in the microwave. It will make the rice look amazing and the delicate flavours of the saffron really make rice something special.
A good way to educate kids that are big or small about cooking – is to let them help you in the kitchen. Empower them, make it fun. Who cares if they make a mess or don’t do it right the first time. As long as they aren’t getting burnt or chopping their fingers off – the most important thing is you are giving them the gift of a skill for life!
Stay tuned to Uforic Food for even more teen-friendly recipes you can share with the young people in your house. Even if they rebel and leave home only able to reheat baked beans – you will always know you gave it your best shot!
It may look and taste fancy, but this vanilla bean panacotta is super easy!
I learnt this during the Masterclass I had last month with Oakdene restaurant head chef Marty Chichester where we also made oysters, chilli mud crab and lobsters with garlic butter. It was an amazing experience for me, because I was intimidated by all the ingredients we cooked with that night. But, once I knew what I was doing I discoveed that these types of seafood are quite easy to prepare – and I know it would even be the case for people who aren’t too confident overall in their cooking abilities. In saying that, put these dishes in front of your friends the next time you invite them around for dinner, and they’ll be nothing short of impressed. So, if you missed those great recipes, be sure to check them out and give them a try. If you follow the recipes and tips, you can’t go wrong.
This dessert is the same. It sounds daunting, but it’s not at all – and this is coming from someone who’s terrified of making sweets!
The strawberry salad is also simple, but gorgeously sweet and scrumptious. strawberries are in season at the moment, so now is the best time to give it a try. It’d also work very well with some pancakes, or as a side to a rich chocolate cake.
Vanilla Bean Panacotta
- 200ml of thickened cream
- 75ml of full cream milk
- 1/2 a vanilla bean, split and deseeded
- 1/2 a sheet of gelatin
- 50gm of sugar
Dissolve the gelatin in ice-cold water for 10 minutes, until it becomes pliable.
Heat the cream, milk and sugar until just before it boils. Do not let it come to a boil, so it’s best to stay with the pan while it’s heating and remove it as soon as you see the liquid starting to wobble.
Remove from the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes is up, remove the gelatin from the water and squeeze out the excess water.
Add it to the panacotta mix and stir it until it dissolves completely .
You can pass the panacotta liquid through a fine sieve at this point, but I actually like the look of the little black dots from the vanilla bean. It’s up to you.
Pour the mixture evenly between four cocktail glasses. and pop them in the fridge straight away. It’ll need to set for about two hours.
The other great thing about this recipe is it’s pretty quick, but can be made the night before. When you are ready to serve, make the strawberry salad, which is so simple it doesn’t need a recipe.
Remove the green tops from a punnett of strawberries. Cut into quarters. Place in a bowl and mix with 2 tsp of icing sugar. Taste one of the strawberry pieces. If you think it needs a little more sweetness, add some more icing sugar until you are happy with the flavour. I think next time I make this I’ll add a touch of masala. I think it would taste gorgeous!
To serve, scoop the strawberry salad on top of the panacotta.
You will enjoy every mouthful of this dessert. Once you have made it once, I’m sure it will become a recipe you’ll make over and over and your friends will be begging you for the recipe!
This recipe was given to me by a reader of Uforic Food, Janet.
With her garden brimming with beetroot at the moment, what better way to use it all up, or give it away, then to make a deliciously sweet relish.
I have also typed this one up to go on recipe cards in my brother’s shop Angelsea Fruitz as they also seem to have a great supply of this vegetable at the moment.
I’ll admit I haven’t really cooked with beetroot before, although I eat the tinned variety regularly. I suggest you wear gloves when you are peeling it – otherwise your hands will be the same gorgeous colour as the relish you are about to make!
Beetroot relish – By Janet
- 750gm of fresh beetroot
- 1 brown onion
- 1 1/2 cups of balsamic vinegar
- 3 tsp of yellow mustard seeds
- 2 cups of sugar
- 2 whole cloves or a pinch of ground cloves
- 5cm piece of orange rind
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel and process beetroot and onion in a food processor.
In a covered frying pan, fry mustard seeds in a little oil.
Add all ingredients to a large, deep frying pan, or large saucepan.
Place over a medium heat, cover and bring to the boil.
Cook for 30 minutes, or until the beetroot is soft and the liquid has reduced and thickened slightly.
Pour into sterilised jars, seal and let cool.
Refrigerate after opening, keeps for about 2 months .
Hope you enjoy this delicious recipe and a big thank you to Janet for sharing it.
If you have an awesome recipe you’d like to share too, drop me a line at email@example.com .
I’m still not too sure about the whole idea of cooking food and then freezing it – even though I have been doing it for years now – mostly for my wonderful dad, but earlier back in my uni days.
So, I wanted to call on you all to give me some tips, tricks and recipes that work well for you, which you can post in the “comments” section below.
As a food enthusiast, I always think it’s better to cook and eat everything fresh – but of course, that’s not always possible. People do lead very demanding lives these days with long hours at work, kids (not that I’d know anything about that, but I can imagine it would be hard), commuting, new exercise regimes (I know something about that – really need to get on the treadmill again!!). The list goes on.
One thing that does dismay me is that in order for people to fit everything in – they get take-away rather than cooking. I’m not talking on the odd occasion – I mean once a week is fine – but almost every night!! This just boggles my mind!
Take-away is soooo expensive!! Quite often (depending on your choices) it’s not all that healthy – in fact it can be fat laden and horrible! I also think it’s a bit of a falesy that take-away saves time. I mean unless you get it home-delivered, by the time you ring up, wait a bit, drive down to pick it up – probably wait a bit longer, and then drive home – you could have cooked a delicious, healthy meal at home. Just on this blog alone I can name five recipes I could have whipped up in the time it takes to pick up your take-away (garlic and chilli prawns, marinated lamb, whipped up quickly on the barbecue, Pollo alla Cacciatora, baked fish with tomato and lemon and of course – Matt’s Meatlovers Pasta).
I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but I know all these dishes would taste better than KFC or pizza (don’t tell Matt I said that! LOL. It is his favourite food)
The reason for my critique on frozen food is that I am really enjoying doing weekly cook-ups for my dad – so that he’s always got food to eat when he gets home from a hard night working at Anglesea Fruitz. However, I’m afraid he’s getting sick of eating the same old things – as in stuff I know freezes well – like casseroles of all kinds, spaghetti bolognese etc. I even freeze risotto – although I know this doesn’t re-heat that well.
I was also hoping that your tips, tricks and recipe ideas might inspire others to cook and freeze, rather than opt for expensive take-away. I mean just imagine how much money you could save if you dedicated a day a week, or even a fortnight, to make a few nice casseroles, soups etc to stockpile in your freezer for busy nights when you just can’t be bothered.
I can imagine that if I’m lucky enough to have some little kiddlywinks running around one day, that taking care of them is going to take up almost all of my time. But I think we owe it to ourselves and to the health of our families to take some time out and cook food – even if it means we stick it in the freezer for later use. I mean simple pasta sauce like my marinara recipe is so versatile that you can make it, freeze it, and then use it to whip up quick pasta dishes where all you have to do is thaw it out, cook some pasta and then add some mince, bacon, or other flavourings like capers, olives, capsicum etc. In no time at all – you have a meal on the table and little washing up.
Tonight mum is coming over and we are taking over Matt’s mum’s kitchen to whip up some yummy stuff for dad to have for dinners for the next weeks or so – which will be served up into meal-sized containers and labelled accordingly. I am planning on making chicken and lemon drumsticks, bolognese sauce, chilli con carne and a lovely chicken risoni dish. Except for the bolognese sauce – they are all new dishes I found on the web. So, I’ll let you know how they go.
In the meantime, I’d really love to hear your stories around freezing meals. What recipes have worked well for you? Are there some important tips people should follow if they are going to head down this path.
Here are five things I always consider when I’m freezing meals:
- How will the recipe go being reheated? I always avoid freezing meals that contain cream, as I’ve found it doesn’t work well
- Always use good, air-tight containers that are labelled – so you know what’s in them.
- Try not to keep frozen meals in the freezer too long – 3 months, tops.
- I always figure out the meals I would like to make, and then do a comprehensive shopping list – including adding plastic containers to the list. There’s nothing worse then cooking a whole stack of food and then having no containers to put it in.
- After putting the food in the containers, ensure it has cooler to room temprature before putting the lid on and putting it in the freezer.
Leave your tip in the comments sections below.