1. Handy cooking hints and tips to help you in the kitchen

    May 27, 2015 by Karen B

    We’ve put together some handy cooking hints and tips for when you’re next in the kitchen:

    When you’re cooking food that grows above ground, put it in boiling water. Conversely, food that grows below ground should be put in cold water and the heat bought up to boiling.

    When cooking meat that has been stored in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking.

    To ensure that you can taste the ingredients, season your food as you cook as opposed to seasoning at the table.

    The best tool in the kitchen is your hands.

    A steel will only hone a knife, it won’t sharpen it.

    Don’t put pastry brushes in the dishwasher. The bristles are held in with wax, which will melt in the intense heat of the dishwasher.

    Putting too much meat in a pan cools the pan down, due to the lower temperature of the meat and the evaporation of liquid on the surface. Instead of browning the meat oozes out juices and steams rather than browns.

    We eat with our eyes as well as our mouth, so presentation is almost as important as taste.

    Dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs. As a general rule of thumb you’ll need three times the amount of fresh herbs.

    Kitchen plasters are blue because there is no blue food. Blueberries are purple!


  2. Bake Off!

    May 19, 2015 by Karen B

    pastry-making1

     

    It is five years since the Great British Bake Off was launched and with the show back for its sixth season this summer, millions are set to tune in to watch contestants tackle tarts, sweet dough, pies and bread. To celebrate the show’s return, we thought we’d take a look at the history of baking.

    In the middle Ages, unless you could afford to heat a wood-burning stove, baking was a luxury, with cakes as we know them today only being enjoyed by the very wealthy. And, with ovens not becoming a standard feature until the medieval period, bread baking was very much a niche, commercial activity. Whilst the wealthy enjoyed fine, floured wheat bread, the poor had to endure rye and black bread.

    The fifteenth century bought with it an explosion of spices, but again expensive, they were only enjoyed by those who could afford it. Cake and dough with lots of butter, cream and raisins became popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

    Baking was transformed by globalisation. Economic growth prompted an emerging middle class. By the late seventeenth century sugar was cheap making baking more accessible and people began imitating the diets of the upper classes, with the emergence of mince pies made with sugar and spices and gingerbread as we think of them today. Pastries too were considered fashionable and London cookery schools began teaching pastry making.

    The semi-closed oven, developed in the eighteenth century meant that shopkeepers and merchants could afford ovens and cake making really took off. Meanwhile, baking powder, introduced in the nineteenth century saw the style of baking change from heavy, yeast based cakes to lighter ones made with flour, eggs, fat and a raising agent. Convenience food also began to grow in popularity – more working class women being employed meant that they had less time for elaborate food preparation and women started relying on convenience foods such as pastries and pies.

    puff

    Still enjoyed as part of today’s diet, we are often asked about the art of making successful pastry, and our Perfect Pastry Masterclass, covering both sweet and savoury pastries, introduced earlier in the year, is proving to be extremely popular. To find out how you to you can open up this delicious world of baking visit http://www.inspiredgourmet.co.uk/perfect_pastry.


  3. Sauces – ever wondered how they came to be created?

    April 21, 2015 by vgd

    ‘Sauce’, the French word for ‘relish’ originally came into being to make our food more appetizing. Sauces are liquid or semi-liquid foods devised to make other foods look, smell and even taste better. In days gone by, the lack of refrigeration meant that food didn’t last long. Sauces and gravies were introduced to mask the flavour of tainted foods.

    The Romans often used sauces to disguise the taste of the food. Marian Woodman, in her article Food & Cooking in Roman Britain, wrote:

    “The main course varied both in the number and elaboration of dishes. Roast and boiled meat, poultry, game or other meat delicacies would be served and no dish was complete without its highly flavoured and seasoned sauce. The main object seemed to be to disguise the natural taste of food – possibly to conceal doubtful freshness or to demonstrate the variety of costly spices available to the host. Sometimes, so many ingredients were used in a sauce it was impossible to single out any one flavour. The sauces were usually thickened with wheat flour or crumbled pastry.

    Liquamen, a type of fish stock, (anchovies are the main ingredient) was so popular that it was factory-produced in many towns in the Roman Empire.”

    Basic Sauces

    There are five basic sauces, known as ‘grandees sauces’, two of which, Béchamel and Mayonnaise have been around for more than two hundred years. Not only do these two taste extremely good, but they are also extremely adaptable, providing a basis for a number of other sauces.

     

    BechamelSauce

    Béchamel Sauce

    Although rumoured to be invented by both Duke Philippe De Mornay and Marquis Louis de Béchamel, it is more likely that Chef Francois Pierre de la Varenne created Béchamel Sauce. Often cited as being the founder of haute cuisine, Béchamel was a Court Chef during King Louis XIV’s reign and it is thought that he dedicated it to Béchamel, the Chief Steward as a compliment.

     

    mayonnaise

    Mayonnaise

    Consisting of oil, egg, vinegar, condiments and spices, Mayonnaise was originally called Mahonnaise and only got its present name when it was wrongly printed in an early 1841 cookbook. It is thought that Mayonnaise was first invented to celebrate the 1756 French capture of Mahon, a city on the Spanish Isle of Minorca. It is said that the Duke’s personal Chef created a victory feast which included a sauce made of cream and eggs. In the absence of cream, he substituted olive oil and the new sauce was born.

    The French cities Bayonne and Les Mayons also claim to be the birthplace of Mayonnaise, whilst historians also claim it received its name from the words ‘moyeunaise’ or ‘moyeu, meaning egg yolk.

    In 1910, Nina Hellman, made a dressing that her husband using on sandwiches and salads he served in his New York delicatessen. Such was the demand for the dressing, he started a distribution business and now accounts for 45% of all bottled mayonnaise sold in the US.

    Perfect Sauces

    Perfect Sauces

    Perfect Sauces

    If you’d to learn the art of preparing the perfect sauce to finish off your favourite dishes, why not join us for a Perfect Sauce Day course? Our next one is running on Sunday 14th June.