Mumbai Mirror Bureau
Chefs at popular restaurants tell you how you can caramelise onions faster, use vinegar to make dishes last longer and why you should cook rice with a wedge of lemon
They work with whisks instead of wands, but those who've enjoyed their cooking will confirm that these chefs are wizards in the kitchen. Top chefs share the tricks they have up their sleeves:
CHEF VICKY RATNANI
Head Chef, The Korner House, Khar (W)
While cooking rice, add a piece of lemon and a little lemon juice.
It helps control the starch, so you will get fragrant, separate grains of rice.
If you want to improve the colour of mushrooms, toss them in flour and quickly rinse them under cold water. The flour pulls the dirt off.
When you make a stock, avoid using bell peppers and cabbage as these make a very cloudy stock, and they also reduce the stock's shelf life.
Always cooks pasta for 1.5 minutes less than the time stipulated on the package. This is because the pasta will cook slightly more when you toss it with the sauce, and you don't want it to get too soft and over cooked. Pasta should, ideally, have some bite.
A tip I picked up from a friend in Hubballi: After working with garlic, rub your hands vigorously (for 30 to 40 seconds) against a stainless steel item like a thaali, then wash it. This gets rid of the odour of garlic completely.
When chopping herbs like parsley, coriander, dill etc., sprinkle some salt on the chopping board. This keeps the herbs from flying around.The salt is hydroscopic in nature -it absorbs the water -so this makes the process of chopping neater.
CHEF GAURAV GIDWANI
Culinary Director, The Bar Stock Exchange outlets
When you're cooking pork, add tamarind to it and the fat that oozes out of the pork will reduce. By retaining the fat inside in the meat, you will make the meat more flavourful.
If you are preparing a recipe at home, and you go a little overboard with the salt, don't worry. Make an `aate ka goli' -knead chapati flour and water into a dough and shape it into a ball -and put this in the gravy. This will suck up the salt. Then, you can pluck it out and get rid of it.
While boiling broccoli or cauliflower, add a little vinegar. This will retain the brightness of the broccoli and the cauliflower.
Always dry-roast spices before powdering them as this draws the oils out of the spices and makes the spices more flavourful. The process of roasting ruptures the outer layer, exposing the essential oils that are responsible for the spice's flavour. But, when you're using spices to make a paste like, for example, a goan curry paste, lightly blanch the whole ingredients of the spice mixture. To do this, keep boiling water ready and keep all the ingredients ready; dip the ingredients into the water for one quick boil, then pull them out and grind. This boosts flavour and reduces the acidity level of the spice-paste too.
CHEF JERSON FERNANDES
Executive Chef, Jeon, Hotel Sea Princess, Juhu
Caramelising onions takes time, but it would be a mistake to crowd the pan to speed things up. The onions will release water and this will just slow the process down. To caramelise onions quickly, add a touch of sugar to them.
To store lemons for longer, dip them in coconut oil and store them in the refrigerator in an open container. The oil coats the rind of the lemon and shields them, thus preserving them for longer.
To fry ladyfingers okra, add a tablespoon of curd and the juice of one lemon to the lady fingers after they've been cut; mix together, and then drop the ladyfingers into hot oil. They will fry faster and be crisper.
To regain freshness in stale chapatis, wrap them in a clean cloth and pack them in an airtight container that will fit into the pressure cooker. Then, pressure cook these for two whistles.
They'll be good to use.
If the oil you've used for deep-frying turns dark, add a teaspoon of white vinegar, cover with a lid and keep on a low flame. When the spluttering stops, carefully remove the lid. The oil will have cleared, and it can be strained and reused.
CHEF RANVEER BRAR
Author and TV show host
Fats are the best medium to transfer flavour to a dish through, as flavour molecules attach themselves to fat easily (even in spices, it's the essential oils in them that store the flavour) and they percolate through the fat well. So, finish dishes off with just a touch of flavoured oil or butter -a tadka essentially, picking the kind of fat based on the cuisine. I use a za'atar-butter often for instance.
If you don't have the time to eat a proper breakfast, try this: Soak lentils overnight and you can eat these raw the next morning too.Soaking them in water activates the enzymes in the lentils, making them more nutritious, and it also makes lentils less gassy.Cooks know that soaking lentils makes them cook much faster, but overnight soaking is a habit that all aspiring cooks should inculcate, as it's convenient as well as healthy.
Do not cook your food completely. Cook it until it's about 80 to 85 percent done; then, cover and set aside. When you cook a dish completely, by the time it actually gets to the table, it's overcooked, which means diminished taste and nutrition.Even if you plan to serve it right away, switch off the gas, cover and keep the dish for at least five to ten minutes before serving; let it cook in its own heat in this time.This will optimise both, the dish's flavour and its nutritional value.
I swear by the power of vinegar.When you poach eggs, a little vinegar in the water will keep them from bursting as the acid reacts with the protein. When you add a little vinegar to rice while boiling, it clarifies it, making the rice whiter. Another trick I use at home is to put one teaspoon of a neutral vinegar (like apple cider vinegar, for example) in curries (any home-cooked curry). Cook the vinegar with the curry for at least five to seven minutes, and it will increase the dish's shelf-life at least three times. Since you're using a small quantity, the vinegar doesn't make the dish sour either.
CHEF JAVED AHMED
Sous Chef, Sheesha Sky Lounge, Lower Parel
After cutting the corn off the cob, use the back of a knife to scrape the cob again to extract the sweet milk that's left behind. This adds flavour and body to corn dishes.
If you find you need more oil in the pan when sautéeing, add it in a stream along the edges of the pan, so that by the time the oil reaches the ingredients, it is sufficiently hot.
While deep-frying, hold each piece of food with the tongs and immerse in the oil. Hold just below the oil's surface before releasing it. This seals the exterior and keeps the food from sticking to the pot and to other pieces of food.
CHEF KSHAMA PRABHU
Executive Chef, Mr Baozi, Lower Parel
When you blanch a green vegetable like spinach, make sure the water is salted, and at boiling point when you add the vegetables. Put the spinach into the water, count to ten; strain, and shock it with ice water. This helps to retain the vitamins and the colour of the vegetables.
To keep an apple from becoming brown or oxidised, rub it with a wedge of lime or sprinkle lime juice on the apple; to use cut apples later, store them in lime and water mixture.
Adding just a little butter to prepared dishes like soups or risottos enhances the flavour of the dishes and lends them a good glaze.
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