Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Kitchen Hacks

334 Responses

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  • Gareth,

    Chip in?

    Purchase Agria potatoes. Peel and slice into the bite-sized pieces of your choice. Not too small, not too big. Long thick chips are good. Rinse, put in pot of cold water, add salt, bring to boil. Cook until soft but not falling to bits. Some will, but no matter. Carefully drain the cooked bits and leave them to steam themselves dry. If you were Heston Blumenthal you'd put them in the fridge (because fridges have a very dry atmosphere).

    Pour extra virgin olive oil into a frying pan large enough to take all the potato bits in one layer. Perhaps half a centimetre deep? Quite a lot, in other words. Heat it up until just before it starts smoking, then tip the potato bits in. When they're cooking along merrily turn the heat down a bit. When they're beginning to crisp up, stir until they're browned all over.

    Drain on kitchen towels, add a little salt, and serve. Will stand in for roast potatoes, etc, if you don't want to heat up the oven.

    You can ponce the chips up by adding rosemary halfway through the frying, or unpeeled garlic cloves (though be careful, they can explode).

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Ram,

    No Knead Bread

    One of many recipes here http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-noknead-bread-home-109343 and plenty of variations elsewhere.

    It's very hard to screw this up. Many recipes call for dutch ovens, but if you don't have one all you need is some sort of container that will take high heat (450c) and make sure the bits won't melt, a frypan would do. You don't have to worry about the lid on lid off malarkey while baking. And if you're worried about things sticking, bang on some baking paper.

    The Staub dutch ovens are ideal for high temp baking.

    Since Mar 2008 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    BBQ time: buy corn on the cob, limes, chilli powder (not flakes) - put the chilli on a plate, cut a lime in half, use it to pick up the chilli and spread it onto the corn, squeezing to dribble lime juice onto the corn at the same time - throw it on the BBQ next to the meat (putting it in foil if that's your thing) cook until the corn changes colour

    (this is a common street food in India)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Gareth,

    Personally, I would use a more flavour neutral oil with a higher smoke point than olive oil for frying my chips, to reduce the risk of burning the oil and affecting the flavour. A higher smoke point also means you don’t need to watch the oil so closely. And I would do a two fry process rather than a boil/fry like you suggest, with the first blanching being at a lower temperature – somewhere between 120-130 degrees, the second cook at the 170-190 degrees range. Oh yes, and if you have the time, don't forget to soak your raw chips in water in the fridge overnight to get as much starch out as possible.

    Cooking chips is an area I am a bit of an expert in, I grew up out the back of the various shops of my mum and dad’s fish and chip empire back when fish and chip shops still made their own chips.

    Oh and if you can’t be bother forking out for an expensive pizza stone, I found an old 10mm thick, 350x350mm square ceramic floor tile lying outside a house renovation job years and years ago and it is perfect for the job.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    You know what's awesome? Pastry brushes. Not for brushing pastry, but for getting every bit of citrus rind out of a grater.

    I keep a big ginger root in the freezer at all times. It's way easier to grate when it's frozen because all those long fibres just break. (Also apparently you can regrow a whole ginger root from a knob, but I've yet to try this.)

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    You are quite correct in every respect, Tom, except insofar as the taste of the olive oil is important to the finished crispy potatoes - which are only chips if you choose to cut them that way... ;-)

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Gareth,

    Unfortunately, the perfect fluffy chip/chunk is a triumph of the interaction of fats with potato. :(

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Alice Ronald,

    Device: a JarKey. You can get them at King of Knives and Stevens for $12-$15. They're an acrylic lever that looks like an oversized beer bottle opener - you put them on the edge of a metal jar lid, lever up to pop the seal, and the jar opens easy as pie. Great if someone has weak hands or (like me) tends to try & open jars with wet/greasy hands in the middle of cooking.

    Technique: free-flow freeze your bacon (this is actually Gregor's). Lay out the rashers on sheets of baking paper or clingfilm on top of a baking sheet & pop in the freezer for a few hours, then store the frozen sheets in a ziploc baggie. Much easier to chop up a frozen rasher or two. Also, those squeezy tubes of crushed ginger, garlic, spice mixes from the produce section? You can freeze those as well - they don't go completely solid and they last much longer than in the fridge.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Which is why today is one my of my two fast days for the week, and I'm writing about food instead of eating it. Trendy, moi?

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Richard Ram,

    A device: We don't have gas, so I have one of those cheap Warehouse single burner cast iron jobbies from our clever friends in China and a small gas bottle that fits perfectly on the bench top. Great for stirfries and steaks, and the leaping flames make for much more fun when cooking, especially when paired with wine.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    Oscar juicer: so much more than a juicer. This auger-type juicer will make almost instant soups, ice-cream, pesto, curry and spice mixes, and spreads as well as juice. Too many to mention: it has revolutionised the way I cook this year. We eat far more plant foods -- especially veges .
    It has become a kitchen essential. I have many recipes -- I'll post sometimes. The first is icecream: freeze whole very ripe bananas in their skins. Peel, and poke through the juicer with the mincer screen; out comes fluffy, silky icecream -- no dairy or sugar. You can add other frozen fruit, drinking chocolate powder for chocolate icecream for flavouring. The chocolate/banana is very good.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2896 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Ram, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Interestingly I do have have gas but found out that gas hobs? weren't and perhaps still aren't turned up to full.

    A few years ago I got a gas tech guy out and asked if I could get any more heat happening. His comment was, "funny, the only other people that ask about this are Chinese and Indians".

    He turned the gas up to the max. Not sure if this is still an issue.

    Since Mar 2008 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Gareth,

    I have been reading cookbooks since I was a child - for recreation - but never cooked much as an adult until I was 36 and gave up partying and started eating in a survival way. Now I cook all the time and really like it (mostly).

    A wonderful cookbook new to me: The Sprouted Kitchen; a new way of thinking about some food. Also Ceres sent me a gorgeous cookbook as a birthday celebration: it's stunning (I do tend to simplify the recipes in terms of ingredients and time).

    Last month's food discovery: tempeh. Rinse, slice thinly, squirt with Braggs aminos (or tamari or soy ). Pan fry in hot, heavy pan with a very tiny drip of EV olive oil - takes a couple of minutes and comes out golden and slightly crunchy to go with a stir fry, roast veges or whatever.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2896 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to Hebe,

    I'm working my way through the two Ottolenghi books - Plenty and Jerusalem. SWMBO loves his soups - big jugs of tomato with sourdough and broad bean with yogurt are cluttering up the fridge today.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Curran, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    If you can be arsed rendering it out, the beef fat that you get from roasting marrow bones is quite tasty for the final fry of the ye olde potato chip. Nice high-ish smoke point.

    Or alternatively, instead of oil, when roasting, I parboil the taties chuck in a tablespoon or so of semolina, close and hold the lid on, bash them them about a bit then put them into a roasting pan full of very hot duck or goose fat, which you can get at the westmere butchers and probably farrow/nosh etc. Roast away at as hot as possible for a bit. Then wait before eating.

    Since May 2011 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Curran, in reply to Hebe,

    The Galletly sisters are taking an entertaining stroll through some old cookbooks. hint: they're not all worth reading :)

    Since May 2011 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to Ben Curran,

    Duck fat fries are a thing of joy. I last enjoyed them at Saggio di Vino in ChCh, where they accompany a delicious steak. If in Chicago on a Friday or Saturday, then do not miss the DFF at Hot Doug's.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth,

    My potato bible - the first edition is one of the most thumbed books in our kitchen.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Gareth,

    Yesss. I am not meant to be eating them but the duck in the freezer is winking at me today...Christmas dinner for the last couple of years has been Richard Till's twice-cooked duck. A considerable amount of duck fat comes out of that and is in the freezer for emergencies ( like tonight?).
    I oven-bake, especially Agria, potatoes rather than fry so less oil and fat is needed. Adding fresh rosemary smells gorgeous, though I can never figure out if I can taste it or not.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2896 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    Food essential: Fiorenzo's "black salt" herb mix.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2896 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Irvine,

    This chicken and rice dish is tremendous for family meals when you NEED something fast.


    Microplane-d parmesan makes anything fancy. And mini kitchen tongs have ruined normal-size kitchen tongs for me forever.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 242 posts Report Reply

  • Nora Leggs,

    Miso with everything! Well almost. Urban Hippie NZ made miso from Harvest Wholefoods, delicious and chunky and adds depth to a lentil soup. Turns leftover veggies into something delicious for lunch when you include it in a vinegary dressing.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2011 • 2692 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Good news!

    I've wrangled a couple of nice prizes for the best hacks -- see the updated post. Extra incentive!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Chapman,

    On the topic of deep-fried chips, I personally find the twice-frying method too much to handle at home, but I have great success with the cold oil method.

    In this method, you put room-temperature oil in your pan. Cut potato into chips and add it to the cold oil. Then heat the oil and cook the chips until they are done.

    Against all intuitive expectations, the chips cook perfectly and don't soak up much oil.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Chapman, in reply to Nora Leggs,

    Miso with everything!

    Miso with avocado makes for a great fish taco dressing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

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