Cooking Hints and Tips

Making ice cream in the freezer

Pour prepared custard or sorbet mixture into a lamington pan. Cover and freeze until almost set. Remove pan from freezer and blend or process mixture until smooth. Pour mixture into a loaf pan, cover and freeze until firm. This process can be repeated if necessary to achieve a smoother, more even texture.

Storing Nuts

Nuts are prone to turning rancid when exposed to air and light. The best way to store nuts is in the freezer or refrigerator in an air tight container or in vacuum sealed packaging.

Oven baking

If baking in a fan forced oven, be sure to reduce the oven temperature specified in recipe by 10 - 20 degrees. Turn tin or tray halfway through cooking to ensure even browning.

Accurate measuring

When measuring ingredients, wet or dry, the ingredient should be level with the exact measurement on the cup, spoon or jug. Always tap your measuring cup on the work bench to get rid of air pockets (ie. when measuring flour), before levelling top with a palette knife or similar. Always use a jug when measuring liquids. Spoon measurements should always be level too, except when rounded or heaped spoonfulls are called for. In these cases, 1 rounded teaspoon = 2 level teaspoons & 1 heaped teaspoon = 3 level teaspoons. The same rule applies for tablespoons.

Looking after knives

Invest in a good quality set of knives and look after them properly. Hand wash and dry them immediately after use and store them on a metallic knife rack, or upside down in a knife block. Sharpen them regularly, at least once or twice a week and keep them sharp. A sharp knife is much safer than a blunt one as it will not slip across the food. Follow these simple tips and food preparation will be easier, faster and much more enjoyable.

Peeling and seeding tomatoes

Peeling and seeding tomatoes is easy and worthwhile, but not necessary. The advantage of this process is to produce a sweeter, less bitter and less watery end result when making sauces, soups and stews. Firstly, cut a shallow cross into the base of each tomato and remove the woody core from the top. Plunge tomatoes into a pan of boiling water for about 30 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of iced water. Use your fingers to peel away the skin. Halve the tomatoes and use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds.

How to test if fish fillets are cooked

To test if your fish fillet is cooked, place a rounded knife into the thickest part of the flesh then carefully place knife to your lip. If the knife is quite warm, the fish is cooked and if the knife is still cold then cook for a little longer. This prevents the fish being pulled apart to test. Don't forget that fish will keep on cooking for a few minutes after it has been removed from heat so don't be tempted to cook it for too much longer. Most fish is perfect when just coked through, but salmon and tuna are best when still a little rare in the middle.

How to turn plain flour into self raising flour

Sift 1 cup of plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder together 2-3 times, or until well combined.

Gelatine sheets/leaves v gelatine powder

Gelatine leaves are a wonderful alternative to gelatine powder as they eliminate the chance of lumps. To replace gelatine powder with leaves use 4 sheets for every 2 teaspoons (7g sachet) of powder.

Dissolve gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes or until softened; squeeze out excess water and proceed with recipe.

Gelatine leaves can be purchased in good delicatessens.

Lining a basic cake tin

Lightly grease the inside of required tin with spray oil or butter. Take a piece of baking paper large enough to cover the base of tin and place the tin on top. Trace around the base of tin and cut out paper about 5mm inside the traced line. Place paper into base of tin. To line the sides, cut strips of baking paper 5cm wider than the sides of tin. Line the sides with these, sticking any overlapping paper together with a little extra oil or butter. The over hang will prevent spills, and allow the cake to safely rise above the edge of tin.

How to tell if an egg is fresh

Place your eggs in a bowl and fill with water. If the egg floats it is old; if the egg stays flat on the bottom it is fresh.

Perfect grill marks

Achieving perfect grill marks on meat, chicken and fish is easy. Start with a clean, hot grill. Place meat on grill and cook, without moving until charred underneath. Rotate meat 45 degrees and cook without moving until you have even grill marks. Turn meat over and repeat process. Practice makes perfect!

Cooking pasta

Dried pasta should be cooked 'al dente' which literally means 'to the tooth.' In other words it should certainly not be soggy, but cooked until it is just tender with a little resistance when bitten into. Cook pasta in a large pan of boiling water and use directions on packet as a guide only. Test pasta by eating a bit and then drain it when it is still a little under done. It will absorb some of the sauce and become perfectly tender after cooking.

Making choux pastry

The amount of eggs needed in choux pastry can vary. It is best to add eggs one at a time, checking the consistency of the mixture between each addition.

Lift beaters once each egg has been beaten into the mixture. As soon as the mixture falls in a single point the mixture is ready.