Quick tip: Cooking pizza

Whether you’re making your own pizzas or heating up bought-in ones, the secret to a great tasting pizza base is temperature – the higher, the better.

So ignore any instructions on the packet and turn your oven up to its maximum temperature – 275-300°C, usually. Then cook your pizza keeping a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Bonus tip: Buy a Pizza Stone and keep it on one of your oven shelves permanently. Cooking pizza on it will definitely improve the flavour. They’re fairly cheap – I picked one up from Amazon for about €30.

Quick tip: Frying

So if you follow any sort of online cookery page, you’ll see people recommending how to heat up a frying pan and add oil – which to do first and why. This is the definitive answer: heat up your pan to the approved temperature for a few minutes, then add the oil/butter/fat, then immediately add the ingredients you want to cook.

Why? If you add the oil at the start it will heat up at the same time as the pan and burn before the pan itself is up to the correct temperature all over. The bottom of the frying pan will heat up quickly, with the sides taking a while to heat up. You want the whole pan up to temperature to ensure even cooking of your ingredients. If part of it is still cool, it won’t sear your ingredients in the approved way. Instead, being cool, it will allow the water in the ingredients to boil and steam in place, cooking your ingredients at 100°C instead of 200°C+. They won’t look pretty, there will be no Maillard Reactions, and it won’t taste as good.

Quick tip: mashing potatoes

Cook your potatoes unpeeled, which helps stop them going soggy and which may better preserve their nutritional content.

Then mash them using a potato ricer or a French ‘moulin à legumes’, still with their skins on. The skins stay behind in your chosen device and you get better quality mash.

Quick tip: cleaning vegetables

 

Titchy vegetables can be difficult, or even impossible, to peel correctly – let alone the New Wisdom which tells us not to peel to take best advantage of the nutrients available.

We used to peel veg in order to ensure they were thoroughly cleaned of the animal excrement used as fertiliser; this is less of a problem now. So instead of peeling try soaking your vegetables in cold water for a few minutes and then washing them using a washing up sponge (‘A bit of green’, as my mother used to call it). You may want to keep one just for this purpose; you can also use a washing up brush, or even a nail brush, to the same effect.

A bit of green also works wonders when you have a rack of lamb where you want to scrape the bones clean to impress your visitors/chef.

A quick tip: pastry removal

Being short of time and long on ideas, I thought I’d start up a series of quick tips I’ve picked up over the years.

First tip: When you’ve been making pastry, dough, bread – anything like that – it can be difficult to wash your hands and get rid of all the dough sticking to your fingers.

Instead of washing your hands with soap and warm water, try soap and COLD water. Works like a charm. The warm water livens up the dough and makes it stickier; cold water calms it down and allows you to rub it off more easily.