Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category
Some Basic Cooking Styles
This is a dry and high heat cooking method mostly used for making bakery products. Baking usually involves usage of an oven or kiln. It requires very little fatty or oily contents to bake the delicacies. Solid foods like fruits and vegetables and mashed foods or batter are typically set on a timer in the oven at a specific heating temperature. The food usually gets thoroughly baked when carbon dioxide gets released from the food. Baking was first done in countries like Egypt and Greece in charcoal and brick kilns.
Delicacies that taste well with their natural flavors are usually boiled in boiling water or pressure cooked. The basic idea is to cook with the help of steam and with absolutely no oil content. e.g Boiling rice or making vegetable and chicken stock.
This is again a dry heating method where food substances are either directly exposed to heat flames or kept on roasting pans. Roasting techniques also use a method called spit roasting where food is attached on sticks and suspended at a safe distance over the fire. The food gets cooked by sheer high temperature. Some popular methods of roasting are barbecues.
Frying involves usage of oily substances like vegetable oils or butter for cooking purposes. The food can either be deep-fried or stir fried in a wok or shallow fried in a shallow frying pan. Stir fry methods have always been used to prepare Chinese delicacies.
This involves gentle cooking of food at low heat in a covered pot. The food to be cooked is first marinated with spices, sauces and herbs. The food is then simmered in liquids. You can gradually add more spices and sauces as the food gets cooked. Braised food is usually rated as best tasting food out of all types. This method is popularly used in making Indian curries.
This method involves cooking food on high heat wherein food substances like meat or beef cuts are placed on grills. As the food gets cooked, its natural oils start trickling into the fire below. This makes for a really healthy food. The food may be marinated with spices and salt in advanced stages of grilling process.
Some Popular Food Chopping Styles
This method involves chopping vegetables into fine, thin and long slices very similar to match sticks. This method is usually used in chopping hard vegetables like carrots and beet root.
This method involves making tiny square cubes out of food. This method is popularly used for chopping cheese cubes.
This method involves chopping vegetables by holding the knife straight or in a diagonal fashion so as to get straight or slanted vegetable chops. This technique works well for vegetable like French beans or cucumber.
This method involves cleaning vegetables and spices like garlic and ginger. The spices are then alternately pressed with the tip of the knife and the flat knife surface to get a smooth paste.
This method uses a two-handled chopping knife. Users need to apply pressure on vegetable surface by shuttling pressure between two handles like a teeter-totter or a see-saw. This method is used when you need to finely chop vegetables like onions or spinach.
All Time Essential Cooking Ingredients
It is difficult to enlist all the essential ingredients of cooking in my list. But I have still tried to list out some that need to be stored at home all round the year. One or more ingredients from this list are always required to cook foods at home.
– Cheese (any variety)
– Wheat flour
– Low fat salad dressings
– Italian herbs e.g. oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage
– Dry fruits
– Baking powder
– Indian curry spices, e.g. cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, chili powder, turmeric powder
– Cooking oils like olive oil
– Sauces like mustard sauce, soy sauce, tomato sauce
– Ginger and garlic paste
– Food essences like vanilla, rose, etc.
– Uncooked noodles and pasta
Some Basic Appliances for Kitchen
Here is a list of ‘must have’ kitchen appliances that can make cooking seem interesting and easy!
– Cooking range
– Dish washer
– Microwave oven
– Food processor
– Hand mixer
– Rolling pin
– Pressure cooker
– A set of all sized knives
– Chopping board
– Kitchen scissors
– Cooking pots and frying woks
– Sieves and mixing utensils
– Metal and wooden spoons in variety of sizes
– Crockery and cutlery
– Grater and shredder set
– Kitchen timer
– Weigh cups and weighing machine
These are some of the basic necessities to be a good cook. Mastering these techniques will simplify cooking for everyone, especially the bachelors, young brides and all those who hate cooking!
One thing that can be clearly understood from the above point is that, what you cook does not matter, but the way you cook it makes a great difference. Having said that, let’s now understand what are the common mistakes that you can avoid, to make your cooking a better experience for yourself as well as the people around you.
Mistake #1: Choosing an inappropriate pan
The size of the pan is the most important factor to be considered while cooking, because a too big or too small pan may ruin your entire recipe. When the food is added to boiling water, it lowers the water temperature, and if the quantity of food is more, the water stops boiling immediately. This alters the cooking process, and affects the texture of the food very badly. For instance, if you use a small pot for cooking pasta, it will give you a pile of gummy noodles in the end.
Solution: Don’t overcrowd the cooking pan, and try to cook in batches. If you want to cook more food in lesser time, keep two pans on the stove, and cook simultaneously in both the pans. This will provide room for the ingredients to get cooked, and also save you a lot of time. Also, use lots of water, and allow your ingredients to swim in the pan if you want a well-cooked dish.
Mistake #2: Preheating the pan incorrectly
We tend to assume that a pan can heat up within a minute or two, and your meat can go in instantly. However, it is important to note that a pan, especially of the cast iron variety, needs a considerable amount of time to heat up evenly from all sides, and cook the food properly. When you turn the burner on high, the pan gets heated only in the middle. This kind of heating has two negative effects; one is that the pan gets damaged due to such high heat getting concentrated only at the center of the pan, and secondly, the food placed at the center of the hot pan is at a high risk of sticking to the bottom of the pan or getting burnt.
Solution: To save your pan from damage, and the food from burning, put the pan on a low to medium flame as soon as you enter the kitchen, and while it heats up gradually, prepare your ingredients.
Mistake #3: Sautéing wet leafy greens
Sautéing wet leafy greens can present two problems. Firstly, the veggies will lose their flavor and color because the excess water on leaves comes in contact with the hot pan and creates steam. This causes the veggies to lose their vibrant color and texture. Secondly, the hot oil does not react well with water, and may splatter after coming in contact with cold water.
Solution: To keep the color and flavor of your green veggies intact, use a salad spinner. Spin the green leaves in the salad spinner, drain the water, toss, and spin again. Ensure that the pan is hot enough before putting in the veggies.
Mistake #4: Boiling instead of simmering
Generally, when you are in a hurry, you tend to make more mistakes while cooking, one of them being, boiling the food instead of simmering. To avoid this mistake, it is important to understand the difference between boiling and simmering. Simmering occurs when a bubble appears on the surface of a liquid after every 2-3 seconds. When the frequency of bubbles appearing at the surface increases, it is termed as boiling. It’s true that boiling cooks the food faster, but only to give it a tough and dry texture. The food when boiled in liquid, seems to be cooked on the surface, but stays raw and undercooked from the inside. This further may make the food tough and chewy.
Solution: There is only one solution to this mistake and that is, you should only simmer the food whenever simmering is required.
Mistake #5: Putting meat straight from the fridge into the oven
It is one of the blunders made by many cooks. When you pop the meat straight from the refrigerator into the oven, it is most likely to get overcooked from the outside while remaining undercooked from the inside.
Solution: Remember to remove the meat cuts from the refrigerator at least half an hour before cooking time. This will allow the meat to thaw, bringing it gradually to room temperature while taking the chill off, thus, making it ready for cooking.
Mistake #6: Avoiding taste trial while cooking
Some people are pretty confident about their cooking measurements, and hence, don’t feel the need to taste their dish while proceeding with the recipe. However, like I said earlier, cooking is like an experiment, which may give different results each time, even with the same recipe. Furthermore, if you don’t use measuring utensils, and toss the ingredients with approximate values, then it definitely calls for a taste trial after adding each and every ingredient to the cooking pan. If you fail to do so, the otherwise tasty dish may turn into a ruined, messy dish.
Solution: Don’t miss the taste trial while preparing any dish as it will bring correct flavor, color, texture, and taste to your food.
Mistake #7: Turning the food too often
A well-roasted chicken will develop a nice brown crust above the soft and tender meat, but only when it’s allowed to rest and cook in the pan without too much poking or flipping.
Solution: The best indicator to tell that it’s too early to turn the food is when the spatula cannot slide easily under the crust. Hence, wait for some more time until you can slide the spatula cleanly under the food, and flip it.
Other common cooking mistakes include …
– ignoring minute details of the recipe while reading it.
– cooking with wrong oils.
– being too casual with measuring utensils.
– not shocking the vegetables in ice water after cooking them in boiling water.
Proper maintenance of cooking utensils is also an important aspect of better cooking, and badly kept utensils can prove to be one of the biggest cooking mistakes. The cast iron pans require a special treatment while washing, because normal soap water and scrub tend to wash away the coating from the pan’s surface, which works as a non-stick agent that prevents food from sticking to the pan.
No matter how much we try to deny it, men are perfectionists and are very creative. They are a little more adept at taking risks as compared to women. So, when it comes to cooking, they apply all their creativity and knowledge on the subject and try to invent something new, or modify a tried-and-tested dish. There are a few reasons as to why men are better than women at cooking, which are listed out in this Buzzle write-up.
I am not insinuating that women are not hardworking. All I am saying is that men do tend to put in few more hours when it comes to learning something that they enjoy doing. The funny thing about cooking is that if you enjoy what you are making and the entire process of creating something new, your dish will always be a masterpiece, no matter how simple it is. Men enjoy investing in a hard day’s work doing something they love. Apart from this, men love it when their efforts are appreciated by others. It motivates them to work harder, compete with themselves, and strive to achieve the perfect results.
Men are more adventurous when it comes to cooking. They love a challenge, specially when it comes to mastering exotic dishes. They add spices and ingredients in varying proportions, and if something goes wrong with the dish, they know what to do to balance it out. They are very good at modifying traditional dishes by adding alcohol, exotic spices, extra ingredients, and turning it into something that’s completely new. Probably, they are like this because they work without any inhibitions, and they do not overthink things.
Men are perfectionists when it comes to their job. If their line of work is cooking, then they are even more critical about it. When they come across a dish that has the reputation of being challenging and difficult, men take the easy way out, by working hard over it. If for the first time, they fail at it, they keep trying till they achieve the desired taste. Once that is done, they concentrate on perfecting it to a point where no one can pick any fault with it. It’s like they get a high while making sure everything that they make is par excellence.
The fact that men love to eat is not an uncommon fact, and also that they love to eat delicious food is a no-brainer. If men came across a dish that they loved, they would try to replicate it at home so that whenever the craving for the said dish kicks in, they can quickly whip it up and gorge on it. A lot of men live alone and get bored and tired of takeouts. Cooking their own meal does make them good cooks, because they always want to try something new.
I think every chef, not just in America, but across the world, has a double-edged sword – two jackets, one that’s driven, a self-confessed perfectionist, thoroughbred, hate incompetence and switch off the stove, take off the jacket and become a family man.
– Gordon Ramsay
– Alton Brown
– Daniel Craig
– Ted Allen
– Todd English
In 2011, UNESCO declared Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province, as a city of gastronomy in recognition of its highly sophisticated food culture.
We just can’t think of getting through hectic weekdays without Chinese takeaway! It’s great to taste, quick to make and considerably lighter on your belly,not surprising that it makes our weekday staple. Although Chinese food is popular worldwide, our understanding of Chinese food ends with egg rolls and chop suey.
Chinese cuisine is actually an amalgamation of eight cuisines belonging to different provinces of China. These include Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan, and Zhejiang cuisines. Although meat and fish are the heart of this cuisine, a large number of vegetarian dishes are also found as the Chinese culture was greatly influenced by Buddhism. These cuisines are based largely on the traditional medicinal beliefs. There is always a variant of Chinese cuisine found wherever Chinese people have settled around the world. Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, and American version of Chinese cuisine is quite prominent.
Both Hunan and Szechuan cuisine are known for their bold pungent flavors. However, their different location and geography has given rise to a few differences between the two cuisines. Let’s take a closer look.
Hunan Style Vs. Szechuan Style
► Hunan cuisine is also known as Xiang cuisine. It comprises food belonging to the region near the Xiang river, Dongting Lake, and the western Hunan province.
► Szechuan cuisine, on the other hand, belongs to the Sichuan or Szechuan province located in southwestern China.
The only way to describe the flavors of these cuisines is fireworks in your mouth (not necessarily in a bad way!). With copious amounts of chillies, garlic, and onions, these foods are anything but boring. A whiff of these foods will surely make your stomach growl and mouth water. Not only are the foods of these cuisines enticing; they are addictive.
► The dishes of Hunan cuisine, ideally, require a lot of ground chillies (with the seeds) and loads of dried chili pepper. So, the flavor in these dishes can be said to be a combination of heat accompanied by oniony garlicy along with the umami flavor of the meat used (getting hungry already?!).
► Szechuan cuisine makes use of chillies along with a lot of Sichuan peppercorns. These are the husk of the seeds of the plant, Zanthoxylum simulans. This adds aromatic hints of citrus along with some tingly numbness to your mouth, giving Szechuan food its unique identity. Therefore, the flavors of Szechuan dishes can be described as tingly, hot with loads of garlicy oniony flavor.
► Szechuan cuisine involves the use of a lot of chili bean paste. It is a spicy, salty paste made from fermented broad beans, soybeans, salt, rice, and of course, chillies.
► Another thing that distinguishes the two cuisines is the combination of hot and sweet or hot and sour flavors used in Szechuan cuisine (these flavors sure play a game of naughty and nice with your taste buds!).
► Hunan cuisine adds a big bite of crunch with a lot of vegetables being added to almost every dish.
► Szechuan cuisine uses of a lot of nutty crunchiness with loads of salty peanuts, cashew nuts, and sesame seeds being added to the foods.
► Pork is usually the most preferred meat in Hunan cuisine, followed by beef. This cuisine has a lot of fish dishes.
► Beef is the beloved meat of the Szechuan cuisine followed by pork. Rabbit meat is more popular in the Sichuan region than any other part of China. Being a landlocked province, this cuisine doesn’t have many fish dishes. Szechuan cuisine has a lot of vegetarian dishes to brag about too.
Cooking Techniques Used
► Ideally, Hunan cuisine employs various techniques like stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising, and smoking for cooking food. Meats are usually marinated for a very long time (overnight) before cooking. Usually, the meat is fried and added to the sauce later. The marinade and all other ingredients are cooked separately and assembled just before serving the dish.
► Stir frying, steaming, and braising are the techniques preferred for making dishes of Szechuan cuisine. Meats are marinated for a few minutes before cooking. Another differentiating aspect of this cuisine is that the meat is cooked along with the marinade and ingredients.
Preserved Foods Used
► Hunan cuisine uses smoked and cured foods more frequently in its dishes.
► Szechuan cuisine uses pickled, dried, and salted foods in its dishes.
Some Dishes To Try
► Dong’an chicken
► Mao’s braised pork
► Steamed fish head in chili sauce
► Smoked pork with dried long beans
► Kung Pao chicken
► Mapo tofu
► Bon bon chicken
► Tea-smoked duck
So the next time you order Chinese food, we hope you’re a little bit more adventurous and try something new!
One of the best things about cooking is that it is creative. You can be highly creative while trying out different dishes and recipes, because you never know, you might just invent an amazing dish! If you too happen to be one of those who is very fond of cooking, then you’ll definitely relate to the list 19 things below. Check ’em out!
You’re basically the cook whenever you’re at home. Everyone in your family has their own demands and are always trying to get you to cook something really delicious for them. Always.
People who love food also love the reason behind the good food―you! Cooking something awesome always makes you feel like a rockstar or some kind of superwoman or superman. This works well especially with those who are having a bad day. You surely know how to bring a smile to their face!
Whenever there’s a get-together, and even if it’s not at your place, you still end up cooking anyway. It’s like some magnet pulls you automatically to the kitchen. Another reason is that you just love your cooking, and most of all, you don’t trust other people with it! (smirk)
There are many, many people in this world who also love to cook. There’s so much to talk about when it comes to cooking! You can talk about recipes, appliances, ingredients, spices, etc. It is also a perfect conversation starter if you are getting bored at a party. I’m sure you’ll bump into someone who is fond of cooking or at least someone who loves to eat.
Nothing makes you feel better than cooking and that intoxicating aroma of food. The only way to make your horrible day better is to go into the kitchen and cook something amazing or try out a new recipe. Like other people listen to music for uplifting their mood, you cook!
Often times, you are labeled as an impatient person, but when it comes to preparing food, you become the most patient person on this planet. You can wait for hours and hours for the food to get prepared. You’re also impatient with people who do not eat properly, but nothing else makes you happy than seeing someone eating and relishing even the last morsel of the food in the plate. And that’s when you decide that you’ll be the “cook and foodie” partners, forever!
The moment you enter a mall, you find yourself walking towards the grocery and food section. Again, there seems to be some inexplicable force that pulls you towards it. You make sure that you are in control of the grocery shopping, simply because you get to decide what you want in your food. You know all types of spices and ingredients, and they have become an integral part of your life now. You have all kinds of ingredients and spices available in your kitchen.
You are often asked about the secret ingredient that you used or the secret behind the wonderful dish that you prepared. What they don’t know is that it is not any ingredient, but the love for food and cooking that makes it tasty. Just a drop of love, and it becomes amazingly delicious. Sshhh! It’s a top secret!
However much you decide to watch some other channel or catch up on some movie on TV, you always end up watching cooking shows and channels like Food Network. You love watching and learning new recipes and make it a point to note them all so that you can try them out later.
And it’s finger-licking awesome! You have this signature dish that nobody else can beat you at. Whoever wishes to have it, they know where to go. In fact, you’re popular in your group for that particular dish, and people have even mentioned it while introducing you to someone new. And you’re proud of it!
All of us have burned or set the fire alarm off at least once while trying to cook. And the fire alarm makes sure that it won’t stop ringing for the next 10 minutes. And other times when you’re not burning stuff, you’ve left them undercooked. Well, only to get it perfect the next time! After all, practice makes a man perfect, isn’t it?
It is YOUR kitchen, and you don’t like anyone poking their noses in between while cooking, especially the people who have a habit of commenting on everything that you add to your recipe. It is your territory
and nobody is supposed to wander around near it. After all, who doesn’t need their personal space in life!
Whatever occasion it may be, the only gifts that you get are related to cooking. Most of the time, it has been an apron, which you never wear! And other times, cake molds, cookware, pans, spatulas, hand gloves, chopper, peeler, grinder, etc. Thank you, people!
More than half the time when you are surfing the Internet, you’re looking for new recipes and food combinations, or new appliances. You make sure that you bookmark the recipe, regardless of whether you’re going to try it out or not. The bookmarks list in your computer is filled with recipes, and is longer than the list of recipes you’ve tried out till now.
Admit it! We all do such stupid things when we are alone. You’ve dreamed of being on a cooking show in front of a large audience, calling out all the ingredients and method of preparing. The next Master Chef in making, are you?
Because it was written in the recipe! Remember the time when you started cooking and were just in the experimentation stage, and also that aching hand? Of course, how can you forget those times when you stood stirring the dish for 30-45 minutes continuously, simply because it was mentioned in the instructions! When you think of it now, you feel stupid for having it taken literally.
Although you love and appreciate compliments, you hate it when anyone criticizes your dish. Moreover, you also carry a bag of guilt around with yourself. You now understand why your mom used to get mad at you when you threw tantrums as a kid and didn’t want to eat, because it was not nice, or did not like any particular vegetable or ingredient that was used in it. Oops! Sorry, Mommy.
You don’t like it even if one spoon or spice is not at its place. You turn into a monster if your maid or anyone else re-shuffles the order of your cutlery. Even though it may look cluttered, you feel it is organized, simply because it is easier for you that way.
Happiness for you is… when you try a new recipe and everyone loves it! Everyone is always curious about what you’re going to cook next. They love your cooking so much, that they self-invite themselves all the time. The best time of the day for you is when everyone loves and appreciates your cooking. What else do you need in life?
Marinating fish, meat and poultry with olive oil adds a healthy and pleasant flavor to the food. Baking usually involves lots of fat. So instead of using butter in baking, you can use olive oil to reduce the quantity of fat. The amount of olive oil used should be about 25% less than the normal quantity of butter.
The extra-virgin grade of olive oil is the expensive one. So you can keep it for salads, dressings and vinaigrette. Extra-virgin and virgin olive oils cannot maintain their flavor if subjected to high heat. That is why they are the best for uncooked food.
Foods like vinegar, wine, lemon juice, tomatoes, etc. have a high-acid content. Use of olive oil for cooking with such foods balances the acidity. It is a good practice to do a taste test before you decide on a recipe to be cooked with olive oil. Best results are obtained if you can pair up the taste of the oil with other ingredients in the recipe.
Appetizers with olive oil.
Olive oil can also be used for preparing appetizers. Broiled baguette slices can be rubbed with cut cloves or garlic and then drizzled with a few drops of olive oil. Prepare delicious dips by preparing a mix of white beans, garlic and olive oil in a food processor. You can also use your favorite herbs for seasoning.
Another important tip that has to be kept in mind is the smoke point of the olive oil that is being used. Experts recommend that olive oil (or any other oil) must not reach a temperature that exceeds its smoke point. By smoke point it refers to a stage where an oil begins to break down. So exceeding this particular temperature imparts an unpleasant taste to the food being cooked in the oil. There are usually three types or grades of olive oil. These are extra virgin, virgin and olive oil. The third one is usually preferred for cooking. This is because this oil undergoes a better refinement process than the other two. That is the reason why olive oil is considered best for stir-frying. Stir-frying requires the cooking oil to withstand a high amount of heat, and olive oil has a smoke point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit. Regular cooking oils degrade on repeated high heating, whereas olive oil doesn’t.
In comparison to other oils like vegetable oil, corn oil, peanut oil, etc. olive oil is effective in reducing blood pressure. Research done on the use of olive oil for cooking revealed that blood pressure medication could be reduced to 50% of the normal dose in patients who used olive oil for cooking. Olive oil is known to consist of high quantities of mono-unsaturated fat and low quantities of saturated and polyunsaturated fat. This is the key reason olive oil helps lower cholesterol levels and is regarded as a healthy cooking oil.
LDL cholesterol is one of the major health concerns in recent times. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is termed as the ‘bad’ cholesterol. Gradual accumulation of this agent on the arteries causes severe heart disease. Using olive oil for cooking has also been found to be effective in countering the ill effects of this type of cholesterol.
Apart from reducing the chances of developing cancer, olive oil has also been recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) to be beneficial for the heart.
Using olive oil for cooking is an old tradition and the list of recipes using this oil is an endless. Despite its many benefits, it is important to remember that the oil is still a fat. It causes no ill effects while it is consumed in limited and required proportions. By far, olive oil is good for your heart and adds great taste to your food!