Recipes by Di Swann
To test eggs for freshness, place them in a jug of water. If fresh they will sink or stay near the bottom. If they float or sit near the top the eggs are stale and should be discarded.
Eggs will whip better and will be incorporated into baking better if they are used at room temperature. This takes about 45 minutes once they have been removed from the fridge.
When cooking Filo pastry, work with one sheet at a time, keeping the remaining sheets under a lightly damp cloth. Filo sheets will dry out quickly if left uncovered and they will become brittle and break when you go to roll them.
Buy fish the day you intend to cook it. Fish should smell clean and fresh. Whole fish should have bright eyes, the skin should be bright, gills should be bright red. Fish bought the day before should be kept refrigerated and refreshed in ice-cold water to which a handful of salt has been added.
Fish is cooked when it is moist and flakes easily. Overcooking causes it to become dry and unpleasant. Cooking time is determined by thickness of the fillet. A 2 cm fillet will take 6-7 minutes.
If self-raising flour is kept too long it can lose its ability to rise properly. The same applies to baking powder. Check use-by dates and replace regularly.
When frying with butter, add a little oil to prevent the butter from burning. The oil raises the temperature at which butter will burn.
Garlic presses are messy to use. Instead, crush unpeeled cloves with the flat side of a large chef’s knife. The skin will then peel away easily.
Keep a separate garlic board to crush and chop garlic on – so that you do not taint your other chopping boards with garlic. The more you chop garlic the stronger the flavour as chopping releases more essential oils.
If you are using pre-purchased garlic paste allow ½ tsp per garlic clove.
Garlic has a much higher sugar content than onions, so will burn before the onion has softened. To avoid this, add the garlic to onions and meat once browned.
Add a little, grated, to pork casseroles, mashed kumera, or to transform a chicken stuffing. Toss with butter over freshly cooked vegetables. Add to freshly cooked rice, or add to salad dressing.
To keep ginger, peel, slice, blanch and dry. Pack into a clean jar and cover with dry sherry. Keep in the fridge.
Your fridge can get overloaded over the Christmas season so make sure you regulate the temperature to make sure it stays cold enough (less than 5°C).. Always keep food in the fridge and items which just need keeping cool such as drinks in a chilly bin with ice.
To store longer, wash well in cold water and shake off the excess. Place in a plastic bag and blow up with air. Seal the top and store in the fridge.Herbs are better cut with kitchen scissors rather than being chopped on a board which bruises the leaves.
Use honey as an instant glaze on meats and grill for a few minutes until golden. Drizzle over steamed vegetables such as carrots or parsnips before seasoning. Carrots are delicious cooked with the juice of an orange and a couple of tablespoons of honey. Use honey in place of golden syrup or maple syrup on pancakes or waffles.
Never put good knives in the dishwasher. The harsh action will pit the fine edges of the blade and can also ruin the handle. Good knives are an investment. You should have a paring knife, a cook’s knife and a medium sized all-purpose knife.
Leftover ham? Here are some great ideas:
Grate lemon zest over freshly squeezed vegetables with a good seasoning of black pepper and a squeeze of juice.
Lime zest works well with coconut and pineapple. Add grated lime zest to chopped pineapple, chopped spring onion, a little chilli and coconut shreds for a fresh salsa.
To make lime butter, grate the rind and squeeze the juice from a couple of limes and mix with 100 g softened butter and use to dot over fish.