Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Kitchen Hacks

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  • Gary Young, in reply to Thrash Cardiom,

    Thanks. Looks like I'm going moroccan and/or prawns this weekend.

    Besides, the kitchen will be the warmest room in the house for the next couple of days I think.

    Glenfield • Since Jun 2013 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Clint Fern,

    A pretty good substitute for pinenuts (when they're $100 a kg) are sunflower seeds, toasted of course.

    Item that rises well above gadget status has to be a rice cooker. Got one with Flybuys and now is an essential. Great rice every time and frees up gas rings. Also makes passable risotto.

    I'll add my name to the supporters of Urban Hippie miso, but direct from Nelson Market ;)

    Store cupboard essentials, pickled ginger, fried shallots and Kecip Manis. Make a great stir-fry every time.

    Pomegranate molasses and homemade preserved lemons (or limes - had a glut and tried them instead) have masses of uses.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Justine Sanderson,

    That yoghurt hack is brilliant!

    Speaking of prawns and citrus: you can buy one of those packs of frozen prawn tails, chuck them in a skillet with some butter or a light oil and some chilli (flakes work fine) then grate zest from a lime straight on top while the prawns cook. No need for fancy seasoning with that combo, and it's done in ten minutes.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    My pizza hacks. Breadmaker the dough. Use pre-ground garlic.

    Other general hacks. Use digital scales where possible to reduce washing measuring implements. Try to convert every measurement in a recipe to a weight, apart from the very small ones, teaspoons are still needed for that. This involves a tiny bit of labour the first time on each recipe, by using the measurement given, and then noting the weight for next time.

    Boil water in a kettle before putting it in a pot. Use a lid on every pot so that you can turn the temperature right down, and reduce the amount of water vapour in the house. Way, way more energy efficient - a rolling boil can be sustained on the lowest setting on my stove. Without a lid, it needs about 4 times as much heat, and you have to keep an eye on the water level.

    Slow cooker is an excellent way of getting value out of cheap cuts of meat and time shifting the preparation so that when you're buggered at the end of the day, you've got a hot meal already waiting. Also has the advantage that serving time is not critical. The moment the kids enter "crying time", you can serve, a lot nicer than trying to cook with that going on .

    Wash/rinse as you go. It's way easier to wash a hot pot or pan. Then put it back on the element to dry out, and prevent you accidentally touching the hot element, and to cool it down quicker. It's also nice when dinner is finished that there's only serving stuff to wash. I've got a particularly small kitchen, too, so I just need the space a lot of the time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Gabor Toth,

    Not so much a hack as an endorsement: Dissco "black-iron" frypans. (Dissco = Dunedin Stainless Steel Company Ltd ). These are commercial-kitchen grade, olde-school frypans made of 2mm thick cold-rolled carbon steel plate. Handles are long and made of steel tube which is rolled flat towards the end to form a taper and then arc-welded to the pan with some of the meatiest welding you will ever see. They do need to be seasoned and they do end up looking pretty manky (like a good frypan should) but are a dream to cook with. They are great on gas, not sure how they would perform on a ceramic hob. Much lighter than a cast-iron skillet and the handles never get hot to touch. They are cheap as chips (I bought a 200mm one for about $20, a 260mm for $24 and a 330mm whopper was about $28). For those in Wellington, they are easily available at Moore Wilsons who I suspect are primarily selling these to restaurants. If you are elsewhere, try commercial kitchen supplies or contact Dissco for a list of distributors. Made in New Zealand, brilliant to cook with and inexpensive...what more could you want?

    Wellington • Since Dec 2006 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    Demi-glace frozen in ice cube trays (or small pottles) just the thing to add heaps of flavour and body to a dish. Made by reducing a mix of stock (should be homemade, but who's going to know), red wine, shallots and a bit of thyme until syrupy.

    After a few interations of doing the yoghurt hack (using powdered milk), mine tends to go feral and no one in the house will risk it... Best to start again (after making yoghurt cheese of course).

    The best thing I learned about cooking was that a recipe is just a series of suggestions, not a straight jacket. 'Omit and substitute' became my mantra (my wife will say that it should be 'less is more'). Record what changes you make (scribble in recipe books) so you can recreate the dish (or avoid it) the next time.
    Practice, learn the hacks, have what you need to hand, get to know how your oven/pots/hob cook. Throwing a Ramsey is not the way to go when cooking a meal for family and friends.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to BenWilson,

    Use a lid on every pot so that you can turn the temperature right down

    To avoid the shame of being caught out by physicists, I actually mean you can turn the element right down, whilst maintaining the same high temperature. Boiling water is boiling water. It’s going to be 100C as long as there’s any liquid water in there. So there’s no advantage to something bubbling away at a massive rate on full bore, over something just bubbling away on low, unless your objective is to evaporate the water. Even then, you can do it with the lid on, turn it up a notch – the steam will force its way out. My lids all have directable vents, so you can point the steam at the splashback

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Ross McA.,

    For a perfect pizza dough try a third durham wheat flour with two thirds normal. We use organic stoneground white. When cooked it has those largish bubbles round the edge- a sign of lovely yumminess I reckon.
    The sauce is from J Oliver, I think, and its garlic and a can of chopped tomatoes in a pan with olive oil. Cook for a bit. Sieve back into pan using a spoon to mash it through and reduce it down to a desired consistency.
    Rest is the usual piling on of favourite ingredients. Potatoes? I'll have to try that one...

    Since Mar 2010 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    Attachment

    The kitchen itself: my dream no fuss, not too much stainless steel, can be tiny if it’s well-planned, and a table in the middle. Much like Elizabeth David’s kitchen (above).

    Mine’s a bit tidier because there’s no space to leave stuff lying around (2.1m by 7.4 containing a double-door fridge, sink, dishwasher, oven, and big cupboard, French doors, table and chairs, linen cupboard and the dog).

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Ross McA.,

    The sauce is from J Oliver, I think, and its garlic and a can of chopped tomatoes in a pan with olive oil.

    That is the basic pizza marinara, which is probably where pizza comes from - so named because it was the standard breakfast of fishermen returning ashore. There is no need to pre-cook the garlic and tomato. J Oliver is just trying to complicate your life. Spread the tomato, sprinkle some salt, a drizzle of olive oil, garnish with a couple of cloves of garlic sliced thinly.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Or chop fresh tomatoes roughly, peel garlic, put in Oscar juicer with the mincer screen, grind directly into the pan, add fresh thyme, and maybe basil, salt and slug of olive oil. Heat gently for soup; or bubble hard to reduce for a pasta sauce and add seafood or what ever. 10minutes max and if you don't heat it too much, raw food (said to be good for you).

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to Hebe,

    I scald some garlic in good olive oil to the point where it's just beginning to brown, then chuck in a bottle of passatta and a glug of balsamic vinegar and let it reduce a bit.

    Not averse to using fresh tomatoes, but they would have to be superbly ripe.

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

  • Russell Brown,

    (Sorry about that link – I’m trying to put up the pic – this is what happens)

    You can only embed a pic if you download the image then upload it here with the "choose file" button. I did it for you this time :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Ok; thanks.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    My mother has a dish that I grew up on. Take any cheap cut of steak (chuck steak etc), spread on tin foil. Sprinkle a packet of maggi soup over the top (I recommend either mushroom or onion). Wrap tightly in the tin foil. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes - 50 minutes will leave it well and truly well done.

    The soup powder leaves this lovely slimy crust on top, mixed in with the meat juice.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    There is no need to pre-cook the garlic and tomato. J Oliver is just trying to complicate your life.

    True, but I tend to make huge pots of tomato sauce and freeze them in portions, so mine's ready-cooked anyway.

    Can I just say that I am very, very happy for the Italian tomato industry to keep on dumping its tomato products on the New Zealand market for as long as it likes? Good passata, $2 a bottle! Chopped tomatoes, $1 a can!

    Actually, passata's useful beyond Italian dishes.

    Curry hack: fry onions and garlic, add fresh-ground spices, stir for a bit, add passata, stir some more, and then bring your curry sauce up to the required volume by adding boiling water while stirring. Comes up really nicely.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Man I love this thread; my clutter of recipe books is near redundant now.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Can I just say that I am very, very happy for the Italian tomato industry to keep on dumping its tomato products on the New Zealand market for as long as it likes? Good passata, $2 a bottle! Chopped tomatoes, $1 a can!

    I'm afraid the credit goes to slave labour there.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Gareth,

    An Italian cook's trick: a teaspoon of sugar before bubbling intensifies tomatoes' flavour if need be. I never use tomato paste, I don't like its smack-on-the-head strength with no subtlety. Passata is great.

    Pam's cans of cherry tomatoes in juice are very good. And someone mentioned Delamine back beans in chlli sauce : shhh! They sell too fast. For a fast nachos base I mix them 50:50 with Pam's mild chilli beans, can of tomatoes, sauteed onion, chopped garlic cumin powder and smoked paprika all bubbled till thick. Can add meat, chilli, or green veges. Use the corn chips in the red packet from Wellington (used to be made by the Mexican Cantina owner's factory). Use Monterey Jack cheese if you can find it.


    Also discovered verjuice when Ma was cleaning out her cupboards and fell in love, especially as I don't use alcohol. Apple cider vinegar is an interesting poor relation for lots of food that needs a zap.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Chapman, in reply to BenWilson,

    To avoid the shame of being caught out by physicists, I actually mean you can turn the element right down, whilst maintaining the same high temperature. Boiling water is boiling water. It’s going to be 100C as long as there’s any liquid water in there.

    Well, with the lid on, the pressure in the pot should increase, which will increase the boiling point above 100°C...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Attachment

    2.1m by 7.4

    The luxury! Just measured mine as 2.2m x 4.6m containing oven, stove, microwave, dishwasher, sink, fridge, pantry, all cupboards, bookshelves, drawers, 6 seater table and chairs. But it has an illusion of space when you're in it, strangely, on account of the window placement.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to BenWilson,

    And you have a microwave in there too: well done! That 10cm of width would make all the difference: here when the oven or dishwasher door is open, you are imprisoned at one end of the kitchen. We have less cupboard space, more bench space so two of us can work well together, and the pantry thing has a sliding door. It looks like a similar set up, but the 2m-wide french doors out to the one-day-there-will-be-a-big-verandah and the door into the living room take out a fair chunk of space.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisB,

    Attachment

    Herb scissors. These will change your life!

    Auckland • Since Sep 2007 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    A wonderful, fascinating thread. I've been looking through, thinking of hacks to contribute.

    Firstly, the coffee grinder is broken: does anyone have a reliable hack for turning beans into espresso-able pieces? (We don't have a bread maker either - I'm the guest of a French pastry-chef.)

    The last six months I've been mostly reliant on a single electric plate, slow to warm. My hackery has mostly consisted of elaborate bean salads, and things cobbled together from limited ingredients (contrary to popular belief, not every developing country is a food paradise). I'm staying with friends in Bali today, and to have a full kitchen is such a rare luxury.

    I realised however that the use of kecap manis*, or sweet soy, is rather limited in NZ. It's an excellent accompaniment to tofu, tempe and many other things. A dash alongside chilli, lime, or cumin or sumac makes for an excellent meal. What it does very well is balance out spices, and add a caramelised warmth to the meal, and makes everything just a little stickier. Once I get back to NZ I'm going to experiment with it in a few more things.

    *(pronounced kechup mahnees - the origination of the term ketchup)

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    one more - fresh salsa - the secret is lime juice and fresh coriander/cilantro, everything else is just bulk - I wander the farmer's market and supermarket to see what's fresh

    pull out the food processor and chop up fresh stuff to taste (not too small) - I usually add:

    - spring onions
    - capsicum
    - garlic
    - red onions

    I love chilies and will happily throw enough in to make sure everything tingles - when we have a party I add a little at the beginning and split the salsa for the kids and timid adults, and then bulk half of it up with the rest of the chilies to be good and hot, then throw a whole chili on top as a general hint

    Tomatoes are an interesting issue - fresh ones not chopped too fine are OK but if they're not in season (or just stupidly expensive) mixing cans of tomato puree and diced tomatoes works quite well

    And don't forget run some fresh coriander/cilantro through the food processor then add lots of fresh lime juice - that's the key

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

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