Cooking Tips – Level Up

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I love food. A lot. Anyone who knows me will know this (mostly because I declare it with a fair amount of gusto pretty early on). If I had to describe my cooking approach with one word, I’d probably go with “experimental”. I’m one of these people who love throwing spices together to see what happens. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – spaghetti carbonara once turned into spaghetti coated in scrambled egg. Needless to say, I’m by no means an accomplished cook. My studenty cooking speaks for itself – in that I am a student and my cooking could do with a lot more mastery. However, I’ve discovered a couple of cooking “boosters” over the years, if you will, and wanted to share them with you today. Here we go!

  • After draining pasta, immediately run it under the cold tap.

The cold water rinses away the starchy coating, ie. the gooey stuff that keeps pasta clinging together. The drop in temperature also helps the cooked pasta retain its shape and chewiness. I’ve read that you should only do this for cold pasta dishes because rinsing pasta apparently stops it from absorbing the flavours from the sauce in a hot pasta dish? To be quite honest, I love the flavour of pasta as it is (especially wholewheat pasta) so personally, I’d actually prefer it didn’t absorb too much of the sauce and rather it maintained some of its pasta originality.

  • Use brown sugar for richer flavours in baking.

I’m not usually a sugar snob. Just when it comes to baking chocolate/fruit-themed goodies. The next time you find yourself down the baking aisle at the supermarket, give molasses sugar or dark brown muscovado sugar a try. It brings out those rich flavours and really kicks it up a notch. It won’t be a waste of money, I promise.

  • Chopping onions making you tear up? Don’t cut the root off.

My landlady used to come into the kitchen for a chat when I’d come back from work, only to find me chopping onions with mascara running down my face whilst I frantically tried to dab at my eyes with a kitchen towel. No, it wasn’t a bad day at work. It was just the damn onions. The root of the onion does in fact contain a higher concentration of an enzyme that kicks off a series of chemical reactions when released into the air, producing syn-propanthial-S-oxide. This is the stuff that irritates our lacrimal glands and starts the waterworks. I learned this from Gordon Ramsay’s youtube videos.

  • Alternate between taking the pan on and off the heat when doing scrambled eggs.

I also learned this from Gordon Ramsay’s youtube videos (I’m a bit of a fan). This tip is great if you like your scrambled eggs creamy. Ramsay does 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off the stove. This helps slow down the cooking process so that your eggs don’t dry out too quickly.

  • Always add a little sugar when cooking anything tomato based.

Somehow, it just brings out those tomatoey flavours that little bit extra. The sugar helps balance the natural acidity you get from tomatoes, especially if you’re cooking with fresh ones. Just a pinch should do the trick, or you may not need any at all if you find that you prefer a bit of tartness to the dish. Gotta tame those tarty little things.

  • Yes, you can freeze rice.

It’s certainly possible. There has been many an occasion where I’ve made about four batches of fried rice to have some for dinner and put the rest in the freezer. I microwave it from frozen, and I find that the texture of the rice comes out pretty much the same as it was when it was freshly cooked. Just be safe – microwave the rice immediately after taking it out from the freezer, don’t give it time to thaw. This slow rise in temperature gives the spores plenty of time to grow into bacteria and produce the toxins that cause food poisoning. Needless to say, microwave the rice thoroughly until it is piping hot all the way through – always better to err on the side of too hot than lukewarm.

  • Bake with salted butter.

I discovered this one by mistake – I picked up salted butter instead of unsalted (are you surprised?). I find that a lot of recipes call for a pinch of salt anyway, so salted butter actually worked in your favour here! Plus, if you have any leftover butter from baking, salted butter is much nicer for spreading on toast or cooking. At least I think so. I’m a salty one, you know.

Do you do any of these? I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips of your own – put them in the comments below! You go girl.

– J

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Disclaimer: All images used in this post were photographed and edited by J, exclusively for thenellybean. Trust me, there are much better stock photos of food that you could be using.

2 Comments on “Cooking Tips – Level Up”

  1. WP doesn’t like my phone – I can’t ‘like’ your posts right now. However

    If you have leftover pasta sauce, freeze it in a Jiffy bag. Lay it flat and spread it out like a sheet of A4, seal the bag squashing out air – that prevents freezer burn and the sauce won’t take up as much room. This also works v well with mince.

    If you are baking, flour that that has been frozen gives lighter better results and funny, if you wrap a sponge cake in cling film and freeze it before icing it, that improved the texture of the cake too. Boom!

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