In the grumpiness stakes there is nothing that annoys me quite as much as not calling things what they actually are, for fear of upsetting someone.
Listener has easily achieved the ringing of the annoying bell with the following page, from the March 21-27 edition of the “current affairs magazine”.
The list purports to display 25 “Secrets and Shortcuts of good cooks”.
The trouble is, only a few are actually for cooks, and the majority of these things are actually secrets of good husbandry, or what they call in the vernacular, house-wifery.
But instead of getting picky about why or why not this is husbandry and not cooking, I thought I’d run over a few secret of cooks.
- Keep your knives are sharp as possible. Dull knives are more dangerous, and will give worse cuts
- Keep your implements handy. If you’re freaking out looking for a spatula in the drawer while something starts to burn, you’ll end up with no spatula and no dish
- Read a recipe before you start cooking. You should only be referring to it to remember the tricky bits while you cook
- Practice new or strange recipes on willing victims before plating it up for guests (god knows how many times I haven’t followed my own advice on this one). Hungry dishwashers are easy to replace if you poison one
- Switch on the oven as a first step. If you’re waiting for that thing to get to 180 while your batter starts to split, you’re sunk
- No kitchen is ever too small. If you’ve run out of space you’re either too ambitious, or too messy
- Speaking of which, clean up after yourself as you go. That way, when things fall to pieces at least you know which bits of the meal you can actually save (and not have to decide if the mess the roast has fallen into has made it inedible)
- Plan how you’re going to assemble a meal before you even start. There will be a sequence you need to follow to make it efficient, hassle-free, and delicious
- Too many cooks spoil the broth, unless you have rapport
- Mise en Place, or “Prep”, is the most important thing you’ll ever do. Carefully lay out each part of the meal as you intend to cook it. Cut vegetables and keep them in separate bowls for example. DO NOT start cutting or peeling garlic after you’ve put the onion in the pan…
- Fresh is always best
- Chopping boards, keep them wood. Wooden boards have the right amount of give, and hardly ever turn a knife like those awful plastic ones
- Chopping boards, never ever wash them in detergent. A strong blast of very hot water and a metal scrubber (like a goldilocks) is all you’ll need. Plastic boards are proven to harbour all kinds of bacteria, while a good wooden board, treated right, is relatively sterile
- There is a difference between social, and obsessive or gourmet cooking. Make sure you own up to which you’re practising.
And that is the world according to Che (will add more when I remember them…, or when people point them out.)