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Meat - casseroles

Always seem to taste better the next day as the flavours have time to meld and mellow. Preparing them a day in advance will only improve the flavour. Simmer casseroles at 140˚ – 160˚C to ensure that the meat remains juicy and tender. Meat boiled rapidly at high temperatures, say 180˚ – 200˚C will be dry and tough.

Meat – marinating

Marinate meat by putting all the ingredients into a re-sealable bag – this makes it easier to coat the meat in the marinade and it can be easily turned. Meat marinated with sugars or honey must be cooked gently otherwise the sugar will burn before the meat is cooked.

Meat – storing

Always store meat in the fridge. Keep as dry as possible, don’t let it sit in its own drip or moisture. Never place beside warm items. Leave in its original packaging and place in the coldest part of the fridge. Use within 2 days.

Mince

When browning mince, use the back of a spoon to break the mince up into small even-sized pieces. Brown in a hot pan in small batches. Do not allow the meat to stew in a lukewarm pan. If this happens, remove the mince, strain, reheat the pan and start again.

Muffins

Do not over-mix muffin batter as the muffins will peak like Mt Everest. To mix, lift the mixture up with a spoon and turn it over on top of the remaining mix in the bowl. Give the bowl a quarter turn and then repeat this lifting and mixing routine until all the ingredients are just blended.

Mushrooms

Always keep mushrooms in a paper bag - this will prevent them from sweating and they will keep longer.

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Nuts

Keep nuts and coconut in the freezer as they have a high oil content and will go rancid if left in a warm kitchen.

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Onions – chopping

To chop an onion quickly and easily, peel it leaving the core intact. Cut in half through the core end. Slice thinly across the onion and then chop finely.

Onions – storing left overs

If storing left-over onion in the fridge keep it well wrapped or in an air-tight container. Onion will taint other foods easily, particularly dairy products.

Oranges

Toss fresh summer berries with grated orange rind, a dash of merlot and a spoon of sugar and allow to stand for one hour before serving.

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Pasta - cooking

Pasta needs to be cooked in plenty of boiling salted water. Allow 2.5 litres (10 cups) of water for every 200 – 250g of pasta. Allow 100 – 150g dried pasta per person. This is equivalent to 1 – 1 ½ cups of dried pasta shapes. Adding oil to the boiling water doesn’t really help to keep the pasta separate as the oil floats on top. Instead, toss the pasta in oil once drained.

Pita bread

Split and cut into wedges, brush with olive oil or melted butter and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and sesame seeds. Place on baking tray and grill under medium heat until crunchy and golden brown. Store in an airtight container and warm before serving as a nibble with drinks.

Poaching Eggs

Bring a large saucepan of water to a gentle boil and add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar per litre of water.


Break an egg into a cup then gently slide it into the water. Cook until egg white has set, about 2-3 minutes.


Using a slotted spoon gently remove egg from water and sit on a paper towel to drain before serving on a bagel or toast with Wattie’s Cooked Frozen Spinach or Wattie’s Baked Beans or Spaghetti.

Potatoes – storing

Don’t store potatoes in the fridge, but in a cool, dark, well ventilated place. Always remove from the plastic bag as they will sweat and green.

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Red peppers - grilling

Grilled red peppers are intensely flavoured. The easiest way to prepare them is to cut them into quarters, discarding the seeds and core. Press the quarters flat and place on a foil-lined baking tray. Grill under a high heat until they are blistered and blackened. Cover tightly with tinfoil and leave them to cool. The skins should peel off quite easily.

Rice

1 cup of uncooked rice equals about 3 cups of cooked rice.

Rice - cooking

Rice absorbs a lot of water as it cooks. If you are boiling rice, allow 6 cups of boiling water to 1 cup of rice. If you are cooking rice by the absorption method, allow 2 ½ cups of boiling water for every 2 cups of rice.

To cook rice in a microwave, place it in a very large, lidded microwave proof container. Pour over the right amount of water, (2 ½ cups to 2 cups of rice), cover with a loose lid or plastic film and microwave on high power for 8 minutes. Stand for 5 minutes and then fluff up with a fork.

Allow ½ - ¾ cup of rice (uncooked) per person. Rice swells by three times its size when cooking. So ½ a cup becomes 1 ½ cups.

Add a little extra flavour to boiled rice as it cooks by adding a cinnamon stick, bayleaf, a few cloves, or a piece of ginger.

Rice rules

Cook rice in small amounts and eat the same day as cooking – it is not advisable to reheat cooked rice.

Rice – varieties

There are many different types of rice available – don’t assume that they are interchangeable. Some dishes require a specific variety – risotto for example should be made with Aborio Rice – the starchy outer of the grain melts away and thickens the risotto. Basmati Rice is intensely fragrant rice used for Indian dishes. Sushi Rice – is a sticky starchy short grain rice ideal for making Sushi. Jasmine Rice is great for Thai and Asian meals. Short grain rice is ideal for close-textured dishes like rice pudding or paella. Wild Rice isn’t really rice at all, but the seed of a grass grown mainly in America and Australia. It requires long cooking and is generally served mixed with other rices.

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