Cooking Technique

Cooking substitutes

Cooking substitutes, foods to substitute in recipes due availability or dietary needs.

Low Fat substitutes:

Lard – Olive oil, Canola oil, sunflower oil

Salad Dressings – Oil and vinegar, lemon juice

Full fat cheese – low fat cheese; ricotta, cream cheese, Jarlsberg, cottage cheese

Full- fat ice cream – frozen yoghurt, sorbet

1 egg – two egg whites

Low Carbohydrates substitutes:

Balsamic Vinegar – Red wine vinegar

Brandy – Brandy essence and water

Fruit juice (when cooking) – brewed spicy herb tea

Everyday Food substitutes:

Allspice – cinnamon and ground cloves

Arrowroot – same amount of corn flour or double of plain flour

Baking powder- baking soda and cream of tartar

Buttermilk- 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Capers – chopped olives

Cheese – If wanting to substitute the dairy content you can try soy cheese or goats cheeses.

Chilli sauce – tomato sauce, brown Sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice (all mixed together)

Coconut Milk – milk (with a dash of coconut essence if you have it)

Corn syrup – For 1 cup mix 1 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of water

Cream cheese – Part skim milk ricotta cheese or low fat cottage cheese beaten until smooth

Cream of tartar – lemon juice or vinegar

Croutons- Squares of crust less white Bread fried

Curry powder – Turmeric, cardamom, ginger power, and cumin

Egg – one egg can be substituted by any of these depending on the use: 2 tbsp cornflour, 2 tbsp arrowroot flour; 2 tbsp potato starch; 1 tbsp soy powder + 2 tbsp water; 1 tbsp soy milk powder + 1 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water; 1 banana (in cakes.)

Jam – There are a number of no or low sugar jam substitutes available such as compotes, sauces such as cranberry can be used in place of jams.

Mayonnaise – yoghurt and salad dressing, salad dressing, sour cream, yoghurt, cottage cheese pureed in a blender

Milk – Rice milk and soy milk are good non-dairy substitutes for cows milk

Oregano – marjoram

Plain Yoghurt – buttermilk, cottage cheese blended until smooth, sour cream

Rum – rum extract and water

Sesame Seeds – finely chopped blanched almonds

Sour cream – non-fat dry milk powder, warm water, and vinegar (mixture will thicken in refrigerator in a few hours), plain yoghurt, milk and lemon juice and butter or margarine, cottage cheese and lemon juice, pureed in blender

Tomato sauce – tomato paste and water

Tomato soup – tomato sauce and water

Vanilla Extract – Grated lemon rind, orange rind, cinnamon or nutmeg combined with a small amount of water to make up the amount of vanilla needed.

Wine- water, lemon juice and sugar mixed

Cooking Technique

Cooking terminology

Cooking terminology that differs between Australia and other countries

The US or international term is on the left and Australian cooking term is on the right.

All-purpose flour – Plain flour. Flour that has no rising agent in it.
Argula – Rocket
Aubergine – Eggplant. A large, purple-colored fruit related to tomatoes.
Baking soda – Bicarb Soda (bicarbonate of soda).
Bell Pepper – Capsicum
Boullion Cubes – Stock cubes
Broil – Grill. Cooking food on a rack either under or over heat.
Burghul – Cracked Wheat
Candied – glace
Cantaloupe – Rockmelon
Cilantro – Coriander. A spice that can be used as fresh leaves, dried and / or ground seeds.
Cookie Sheet – Baking tray
Confectioners Sugar – Icing sugar, white powdered sugar for making icing
Cornstarch – In Aussie cooking this is cornflour. It is the starch extracted for corn and is used for thickening.
Courgette – Zucchini. A long green squash.
Double cream – Thick cream
Extract – Essence, as in vanilla essence, peppermint essence etc
Fava bean – broad bean
Frosting – Icing
Garbanzo – Chickpea. A legume that is large white and roundish.
Grill – BBQ
Kumera – Sweet Potato. Orange-fleshed root vegetable.
Mange tout – Snow Peas. Legume eaten as a whole pod. Also snow pea sprouts, which are the seeds sprouted.
Marichino Cherries – Glace Cherries
Papaya – Paw Paw
Scallions – Shallots
Skillet – Frying pan
Sweet Pepper – Capsicum
Superfine Sugar – Caster sugar, if you are caught without it you can make it by putting normal white suger in the blender.
Treacle – Golden Syrup
White Vegetable Shortening – Copha. A solid white fat found in the cold section of the supermarket near butters. Used in chocolate crackles or white christmas for example.


Cooking Equipment Cooking Technique

How to Sharpen a Knife

Chicken StirfryAll chefs who go to a western-style catering college, and most butcher’s apprentices, are taught to sharpen their knives by swiping the cutting edge several times on a steel towards the hand that is holding that implement. I used to do it that way as well, many years ago.

I also used to teach others the same method until the day I saw someone lay his hand open with a cut needing fourteen stitches. That gives you pause for thought.

There are two problems with this way of doing things in my view. In the first place it requires a certain amount of skill and dexterity to make the required contact with the steel; it’s an awkward movement until you are used to it. Few domestic cooks will perform the action enough times in a week, let alone a day, to become at ease with it. The second problem is that most domestic steels are not only very small, they lack a proper guard for the holding hand. The same is true of some steels I’ve seen in professional kitchens.

I began to experiment by reversing the blade. In other words, using the same action but sweeping the edge away from me, as if slicing pieces off the steel. This, too, I found was difficult for most people to master, particularly on the “undercut”, so I went back to the theorists to see what they had to say. Not much, was the answer. A lot of talk about “angles” and “burrs” and “realignment”, none of which did much to help.

Then it occurred to me that in everything I had read and seen, it was the knife blade that did the work while the steel remained erect but dormant. What happens, I wondered, if you move the steel instead? Not very much was the answer, it was just as difficult to do and without any satisfactory result.

Then the light came on. I reasoned that if I moved the knife and steel together, but in opposite directions, I could recreate the original idea but in perfect safety. In reality, the knife blade moves in one direction and the steel in another, creating a perfect edge. It’s achieved by placing the handle end of the cutting edge against the guard of the steel, which is held in front of you like a sword. Draw the knife blade across the steel and at the same time draw the steel towards you. The two implements will be crossing each other at an angle of 90 degrees. Do this on either side of the blade around six times, no more.

Now, the purists will continue to scream this doesn’t work, it’s bad for the blade and all kinds of other received nonsense. They will also tell you this is not “sharpening” the blade, this is “honing” it. Well, I have knives that I have used for over 25 years, all sharpened with this method. As for the second point, this is what Chambers dictionary has to say about that: “Hone: v.t. – to sharpen as on a hone” – But what do they know?

The method I give is simple, safe, easy to learn and will keep a fine edge on your knife for as long as you care to use it. Try it and see what you think.

Michael Sheridan – The Cool Cook – is a former head chef and an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website atAll About Cooking, contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks, including video based how-to guides.

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Cooking Technique

How To Cook Rice

In the early 1970s one of the first celebrity chefs hit the TV screens of Australia and Great Britain in the form of Graham Kerr, ‘The Galloping Gourmet’.

Kerr was a leader in stripping away a lot of the over-complicated cooking methods still being peddled in many cookbooks. His teaching premise was as simple as his recipes – learn a basic method first and everything else will follow.

My recipe for boiled rice is a variation on his original method, the main difference being the addition of vinegar to the boiling water. It’s simple, uncomplicated and foolproof.

For 2-3 people:

The trick is to have a medium sized saucepan with a lid, plus a colander or sieve that will fit inside the rim of the pan.

Bring about 3 liters of salted water, plus one quarter cup of white vinegar, to boil in the pan. Add to this one coffee mug of long grain rice, stir it once (and once only), partially cover and cook on a medium heat for exactly 15 minutes.

Drain the rice into the colander and rinse it briefly under cold water to remove any excess starch clinging to the grains. There won’t be very much, that is the purpose of the vinegar – which will not, I promise you, adversely flavor the rice.

Now put about three inches of water in the bottom of the pan and bring it to the boil. Put the colander with the rice on the pan, and the pan lid over the rice.

Reduce the heat and steam the rice for around ten minutes – or until you are ready to use it. It will be perfectly cooked, light and fluffy.

Top Tip: When steaming in this way, add a marble or small pebble to the pan. If the water begins to boil dry you’ll hear about it!

One huge advantage of this method is that you can prepare your rice beforehand and simply keep it in the fridge until you need it – even overnight if necessary. Be sure to cover it though, to prevent it drying out.

You can either re-heat it using the steaming method given above or use it cold for salads. Of course you can also use it at this stage for your favorite fried rice recipe if you wish.

You can produce yellow rice by adding saffron or a teaspoon of turmeric to the water before adding the rice, or add a handful of chopped bell pepper to produce a nice decorative effect.

A mix of dried herbs will also give you an excellent savory rice. In fact, once you understand the basic method, the end result is only limited by your imagination.

Michael Sheridan – The Cool Cook – is a former head chef and an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website atAll About Cooking, contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks, including video based how-to guides.

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Cooking Technique

How to Make The Perfect Omelette


They’re easy to cook, right?
We’ll see.

The first thing to remember is that you need the right size of frying pan. This is more important than you may think. Too large, and the omelet will dry out; too small, and it will not cook through.

As a basic guide, you need a 15 centimeter pan for a two-egg omelet and a 25 centimeter pan for a four to six egg omelet. That is, 6 in. and 10 in. respectively. Which, handily enough, is pretty much the size of pans you should have in your kitchen anyway.

The second most important thing is not to beat the eggs.

I’ll repeat that for all of those chefs out there who think they can cook omelets: do NOT beat the eggs.

Instead, abandon the habits of a lifetime and stir the yolks into the whites using a knife blade. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Warm your empty pan through on a moderate heat, add a good knob of butter, turn up the heat and swirl it round to coat the bottom and sides of the pan.

When the butter is foaming pour some into the egg mixture, stir it in and then immediately pour the eggs into the pan.

Shake the pan to spread the mixture evenly. Now, using a fork or thin spatula, draw the cooked egg away from the edge of the pan and let the uncooked liquid run into the space created.

When the omelet is almost cooked, but the surface is still soft and liquid, flip one edge of the omelet towards the center of the pan so that it folds over. Then slide the unfolded edge onto a warmed plate, rolling the folded edge over the top of it as you do so.

An omelet cooked in this way requires no filling, except perhaps some fresh, chopped, herbs added to the egg mixture about 15 minutes before cooking.

What’s that? Oh yes, all right; if you must you can use olive oil instead of butter.

Michael Sheridan is a former head chef at the Pierre Victoire restaurant in London’s West End, specializing in French cuisine. An Australian, he is a published author on cooking matters, and runs a free membership club and cooking course for busy home cooks at

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Cooking Technique

Herbs and Spices – the essence of flavor

Provencal Herb Chicken CasseroleIn any number of cookbooks and recipes you will find advice on which herbs go with what. I’m not going to take that route.

While there certainly are marriages that are tried and tested, such as tomatoes and basil or lamb and rosemary, the reality is that the use of herbs is every bit as much a matter of personal taste as any other aspect of cooking.

Consequently, what I want you to do is to sample as many herbs as you can and try to marry up the flavors with the foods you are familiar with. That’s not as difficult as it sounds. Just close your eyes and think about it.

You will find, after a while, that you will instinctively know which flavoring to use, when to use it and how much of it you need.
Do this with both fresh and dried herbs. Crush a little between finger and thumb and smell it. This is much more important than your sense of taste.

Something magical will happen. You will come to realize that fresh herbs are not better than dried ones, they simply impart a different flavor. There are two major exceptions to this.

One is mint, which has a strange musty flavor when dried, and the other is chives, which are so delicate that the flavor rarely survives cooking. Using dried chives is therefore pretty pointless.

One other point to watch out for is that some dried herbs can remained inedible even after thorough cooking. Rosemary is a very good example of this and needs to be filtered out of any liquids in which it has been used as a flavoring.

In any case, fresh or dried, it is better to chop up herbs such as this before using them.

Using herbs in cooking

Many herbs, such as basil and coriander (sometimes called Chinese parsley and cilantro in the USA) are terrific simply torn up in salads. Note that I said torn up and not cut; only cut herbs if you intend to cook them.

It’s important to recognize that some herbs lose flavor with extended cooking, even in their dried state. Fortunately it’s fairly easy to spot which those are.

Tough leaved herbs such as bay can be safely added at the start of cooking time and will maintain their flavor. In fact, they may need to be in the food for as long as possible in order for their flavor to fully develop.

Herbs with light and delicate leaves, however, will lose their flavor very quickly once in contact with heat. To use basil in a soup, for example, you needed to add it, not to the hot liquid as you might expect, but rather to the warm plate you intend to serve the soup in. Then pour the soup on top of it.

Alternatively, simply sprinkle it on top of the soup and leave it there. It will make an attractive decoration and impart a wonderful aroma as you take the soup to the table.

What’s that? You want to use a tureen and server the soup at the table? No problem. Sprinkle the herb in its raw state on top of the soup anyway. The effect, when you remove the lid, will be the same. Just stir it in as you serve.

The spices of life

Most people, including most professional chefs, use spices that have already been prepared.

That is to say they have been ground up, ready to use. The main exception to this is probably black pepper, which you should always grind yourself. Not difficult. You can buy a pepper grinder just about anywhere and the peppercorns are available in any supermarket.

Of course you can, if you wish, go to the trouble of buying a pestle and mortar, tracking down the raw spices and then grind them yourself.
If you do this, you will be richly rewarded with deep and penetrating flavors. You may also find that you get tired of doing it very quickly. However I would highly recommend it for a special occasion, or a wet weekend in Bargo.

Generally speaking, though, the shop bought variety are fine, providing you don’t keep them hanging around in a cupboard for too long. They will lose their flavor.

As with herbs, it’s very important that you learn the taste and smell of each individual spice and, uniquely, its pungency. This last item is one that is frequently overlooked, even by experienced cooks.

Just about everybody is aware that chili needs to be used carefully for obvious reasons. But for some reason they do not pay the same attention to turmeric,– which is quite delicate,– and, say, star anise which can strangle an incautious palate at a hundred paces.
Both give themselves away, however, if you simply take the lid off the jar and sniff them.

Mixing spice

Generally speaking, it is a rare thing to add more than a couple of spices to the same dish. The obvious exceptions to this are Asian and Indian dishes, where the carefully blended mix of flavors will be both traditional and subtle.

You have a choice with these. You either follow a recipe, or you use one of the many excellent pre-prepared pastes that are now available. I tend towards the latter choice, although I do still mix my own spices from time to time.

You should do the same. It’s fun and you learn a great deal about which spices mix well and which are best kept as an individual flavoring.

However you choose to cook with spice, treat it with respect and always add it a little at a time, tasting as you go.

Remember also, that the flavor will change with the length of cooking time. It may deepen, or it may lessen in its effect. Only experience will teach you what each individual spice does and how quickly it does it.

One excellent way to test the effect of adding spice, is to cook your rice with something like cardamom seeds. These come in little pods that needed to be cracked open and the seeds extracted.
Do this by placing them on a stable surface, place the flat of a cleaver blade over them and apply a bit of pressure. They will open easily. Use about two pods for one dish of rice.

You could also add some turmeric to the same rice dish. This will turn it yellow and also add a subtle flavor which complements the pungency of the cardamom. Call it saffron rice if you like, very few people will be able to tell the difference.

Rice is a good way to test any number of flavorings. Personally I find it a bit boring on its own, and I frequently add something to it to jazz it up a little. Experiment. You will be pleasantly surprised at what a difference a new flavor can make.

You will also be pleasantly surprised at your growing reputation.

Michael Sheridan is a former head chef at the Pierre Victoire restaurant in London’s West End, specializing in French cuisine. An Australian, he is a published author on cooking matters, and runs a free membership club and cooking course for busy home cooks at

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Cooking Technique

Reductions; Proving That Less is More

Mint SauceAny liquid can be reduced just by heating it – but why would you want to do that?

The answer comes back to two of our old friends, flavor and consistency (texture).

By reducing any flavored liquid you intensify its flavor and at the same time thicken it. You can continue this process until what you have left is a syrup if it contains sugar, or a sauce if it does not.

This is one of the most important tools in the kitchen, believe it or not, because a great sauce can rescue an indifferent meal.

And literally ANY liquid can be reduced.

A few uses

Wine is frequently used in cooking, both as a marinade and as an addition to sauces for meat.

There are some problems with it though, one of which is that you need a really good wine and quite a lot of it to produce a reasonable sauce for, say, six people.

On the other hand, if you use pure grape juice and reduce it to a syrup, that syrup, added to any sauce (or gravy if you prefer) will lift it into the realms of ‘gourmet’.

What’s more, you don’t have to make your reduction on the night you prepare your meal. You can reduce a liter of grape juice at any time to the consistency and flavor you want; then just store it in the fridge.

You can do the same thing with any fruit juice – prune is sensational – and store it until needed. Just about all of them will do things for ice cream, pies or tarts that will have your guests demanding the recipe!

Pork with apple sauce? Use a carton of fresh apple juice from the supermarket and reduce it. And if you want a real sensation add in a glass of apple brandy during the reduction process.

Are you getting an idea of how simple this is?

Take any carton of fresh stock straight of the shelf and reduce it. You will transform it into something even the manufacturer won’t recognize. But beware!

You need to start out with good quality in the first place, because when you reduce a liquid you intensify ALL the flavors, and not just the good ones.

If it’s salty to start with, for example, it will be salty beyond belief by the time you’ve reduced it even by half. So if you are going to use a supermarket stock, make sure it’s an extremely good one.

And believe me when I tell you that stock cubes should not be used for reduction sauces.


Because you will be tasting as you go (won’t you?), you may find that you get the flavor you want before the desired consistency is reached.

So here’s a couple of hints right now for your sauces.

Sweet ones can be thickened successfully without loss of color by adding in liquid glucose early on in the reduction process. Surprisingly, this will add little in the way of sweetness and produces a beautiful velvety sauce when whisked.

For meat sauces, one of the most effective ways to thicken is to mix corn starch with water and whisk this into your sauce a little at a time until the required thickness is reached. You do this at the end of the reduction time.

If you get it wrong and add too much, no problem. Stir in a little extra water to thin it.

Reduction pans

Reductions need to happen rapidly in order to preserve flavors. And the greater the surface area of the liquid the faster the water will evaporate.

For fast reductions, therefore, I often use a skillet, or frying pan, only transferring the sauce to a deeper pan when I want to whisk it. (whisking ‘finishes’ off a sauce, making it shine)

However you may want to whisk something into the sauce while its cooking – such as butter or olive oil for example – and for that I find a small wok is best; one with a handle.

A wok is less likely to reduce so fast that the sauce is burnt while your back is turned. But try both methods and see which you prefer. You may even end up using something totally different.

There’s no magic to this. Whatever works for you, that’s what you should use, in this and everything else to do with cooking.

Just bear in mind that what you’re after is speed and ease of use. As well as a great tasting result, of course. :>)


For the most part, reduced liquids can be frozen in cubes and used as needed. However if the sugar content is high this may not work too well and they would be better stored, covered, in the fridge.

If they should dry out, simply add a little water and heat through.

Sauces containing meat juices of any kind must be frozen if you’re going to keep them, and should be brought to boiling point before being used again. There is no need to thaw them out to do this, in fact it’s better not to. Simply drop the frozen cubes into a saucepan, melt them over a gentle heat, and then bring swiftly to the boil.

Why do you do this? To avoid food poisoning, that’s why. You are making sure that any bugs introduced into the sauce during the preparation process are killed off.

Don’t worry, this will not be because of anything you have done wrong (I hope!), but because bacteria are part of our everyday lives and they exist in every kitchen, however clean.

In fact your food, and especially your meat, is crawling with wildlife that you will never see. Don’t worry about them. Careful handling and simple precautions will ensure that these miniature monsters can never multiply enough to harm either you or your guests.

For more information on the subject, see my booklet “Hygiene In The Kitchen”, which is available free through the Cool Cook’s Club.

Michael Sheridan is a former head chef at the Pierre Victoire restaurant in London’s West End, specializing in French cuisine. An Australian, he is a published author on cooking matters, and runs a free membership club and cooking course for busy home cooks at


Cooking Technique

The Gentle Art of Poaching

eggsDelicate proteins like fish and eggs respond well to kind treatment, like being cooked in liquid kept just below boiling point. Poached, in other words.

The principle is the same in every case – keep the liquid simmering; don’t let it boil; be patient.

For eggs, it works like this:

Put an inch of water in the bottom of a sauté pan (which is a skillet with high sides) and bring it to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and add some salt and a tablespoon of vinegar, which helps to hold the egg white together.

The liquid is simmering when the surface seems to quiver without any bubbles breaking.

Now crack a very fresh egg into a saucer or similar shallow dish, and then slide it gently into the water. It will take about five minutes to cook.

You can serve it straight away by lifting it out with a slotted spatula and resting it briefly on some kitchen towel to drain off excess water.

You can also drop it into iced water to keep for later. Once again you’ve prepared something in advance which is there when you need it.

You can reheat poached eggs, by the way. Just lower them into hot water for about half a minute.


If eggs, why not fish?

No reason at all. You can poach fish in exactly the same way, using water, wine, stock or milk. Solid fish like cod respond best to this treatment, but any fish can be cooked in the same way.

And now for the smart bit :0) If you pre-heat the poaching liquid, put the fish in a shallow tray, add the liquid and put the whole lot under a hot broiler, you will achieve a number of things;
A slight ‘crust’ on top of the fish
The flesh will remain beautifully moist
It will cook through evenly
You can remove the fish from under the broiler and keep it warm in the cooking liquid until you are ready to serve it.

Now take the next step up in excellence – poached salmon or trout for lunch!

First you’ll need something to cook it in. A fish kettle is ideal of course, but expensive for a dish you may not cook that often. I use a large, oval casserole dish that will also cook pot roasts, whole chickens and so on.

Whole fish are easily poached in a bouillon made up of water (enough to cover the fish), some slices of onion, two or three peppercorns, a bay leaf and some vermouth. How much? How much do you like vermouth?

About a wine glass full.

Now bring all this to the boil on top of the stove, turn off the heat, slide the cleaned fish into the hot liquid, cover and leave overnight. In the morning it will be perfectly cooked.

Lifting the fish out can sometimes be a little tricky, but with care you can manage it. I use my hands and I strongly advise you to do the same. It’s much easier to spread your fingers under the fish than a rigid spatula.

You’ll find the skin peels off easily and you can dress the fish with cucumber or mayonnaise or whatever takes your fancy. So simple. Such a stunning result.

And don’t forget to make your own mayonnaise which, as everyone knows, is a very tricky thing to do.

Don’t believe a word of it. Forget the stories you may have heard and follow me (as well as Keith Floyd who taught me this trick).

Put two eggs in the goblet of a blender. Add a pinch of salt and a dessertspoon of vinegar. Switch on.

With the motor running, drizzle the oil of your choice (I use grape-seed oil) into the top of the blender until you achieve the required result. You’ll use about half a pint of oil. If the mixture is too thick, simply add a little hot water and whisk again.

Tip: Avoid olive oil! Yes I know what it says in the recipe books and if you like mayonnaise with a bitter flavor, ignore me. But I promise you your guests will not be asking for seconds if you do :0)

Copyright © Tingira Publishing 2004 All Rights Reserved

Michael Sheridan is an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website at contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks.

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Cooking Technique

Learn How to Cook With Eggs

Why are eggs so important? Because they appear in just about every type of cooking and if you can handle them successfully you can deal with anything the kitchen throws at you.

Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s a few of the ways in which we use them; cakes, omelets, pancakes, souffles, ice cream, soups, meringues, breakfast, tea, sandwiches, sauces, custard, pastry, desserts, dressings, salads and a whole host of other things we don’t even eat.

We boil them, poach them, scramble them, fry them, bake them and mix them with oil to make mayonnaise. Let’s look at all that a bit more closely.

In the first place eggs need to be fresh. Always check the sell-by date on the box when you buy them. If it’s less than four weeks away, don’t buy the eggs.

You can check how fresh an egg is by the immersing it in water. If it lies flat under the water it is fresh. If it stands up it is stale. If it floats don’t even think about it. Unless, that is, you happen to like the smell of hydrogen sulfide.

For boiling, an egg should be at room temperature before you start. Bring a pan of water to the boil and carefully lower the egg into it, then turn down the heat and maintain a simmer for one minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and cover. Let it stand for about five minutes while you make your toast or whatever else it is that you want to do. That’s all there is to it.

When poaching, once again the eggs need to be very fresh and the water should be at simmering point. It should also be about three centimeters (just over 1 inch) deep.

Carefully break each egg into the water and cook for about three minutes. Remove them using a slotted spoon or spatula. I always have a wad of paper handy on which I briefly rest the spoon to drain off any excess water before transferring the egg to the plate.

To scramble eggs, crack two eggs into a bowl, season them with salt and pepper and beat well. Then melt a knob of butter – about the size of a walnut – in a heavy based saucepan. Swirl it round and when it’s foaming, pour in the eggs.

Now you need to get to work, stirring the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. Before cooking has finished, take the pan of the heat and add another knob of butter or a spoonful of cream. This will slow down the cooking process, keep the mixture moist and greatly improve the texture.

Eggs can also be baked. This is a great technique to master. You are going to cook the eggs in a bain marie, which is nothing more than a roasting tin with some hot water in it. You also need to preheat the oven to 190 centigrade.

You need ramekins for this dish. Butter them carefully and crack an egg into each one. Put them in the roasting tin, pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

This is the basic technique. You could also put cheese, cream or a light vegetable such as spinach in the bottom of each ramekin before adding the eggs. This same method is also used to cook desserts such as creme caramel and creme brulee.

Most people seem to know how to fry eggs, but not always how to get an even result. You might not want to hear this if you are concerned about healthy eating, but the best thing for frying eggs in is bacon fat. Of course you can use olive oil, I’m just telling you what I use. You could also use lard. The main thing is to get whatever you do use piping hot before you add the egg.

And here’s another little tip: to ensure even cooking, tip the pan slightly and use a spoon to baste the top of the egg while its cooking. Just in case you are a complete beginner, “to baste” means to pour fat over the top of the egg using the spoon. But of course, you knew that didn’t you?

We don’t just use whole eggs, of course, we also use the yolks and whites separately, the latter most usually for whisking. What happens when we whisk egg whites is that tiny bubbles of air are introduced which swell and stiffen the mix so that it stands up in peaks. Done properly, you can even turn the bowl upside down and the mixture will stay where it is.

The problem with bubbles is that they burst, especially if they get too much air in them. They behave just like party balloons and your mixture collapses. So the most important thing about whisking egg whites is knowing when to stop, and that is when you get those stiff little peaks forming as you remove the whisk from the bowl.

Incidentally, here’s a tip for using whisked egg whites in a mousse or a souffle – always take a metal spoonful of the whites and stir it into the souffle mixture first. This will loosen it. Then, best trick of all, fold the mixture into the whites and not the other way around.

Yes, I know what it says in the cookbooks. I also know that Raymond Blanc makes the best goat’s cheese souffle in the world and that’s how he does it.

By the way, here’s a test; which of the methods above would you use to cook a souffle? Did you say “the baked egg method”? You did? Take a bow.

Once you have mastered these techniques you will already be ahead of many of the professional cooks working in restaurants all over the world. These are basic, simple methods which will stand you in good stead no matter what it is that you want to cook.

Michael Sheridan – The Cool Cook – is a former head chef and an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website at All About Cooking, contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks, including video based how-to guides.

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