To some people cooking comes easy whilst to others it is full of fright and disappointment. Cooking need not be terrifying at all. Come with me as I explain some of the most important cooking methods and show you how effortless it really is.
Blanching originally referred `to whiten’ and was used to whiten veal and offal, though today it has tow general meanings:- 1) refers to the immersion of food in boiling water for a few seconds and then into cold water in order to remove their skins, in the case of tomatoes, peaches, peppers. 2) refers to the immersion of vegetables in boiling water for a short period, to destroy enzymes that will spoil the flavor and texture of the vegetables, and then into cold water to stop the cooking process prior to freezing. It is generally noted that blanching assists in preserving the color of the frozen vegetables.
As the name suggests this is the cooking of food in a liquid which has reached boiling point (100°C/212°F). The liquid is generally water, stock or milk and the most common foods cooked by boiling are eggs, vegetables, rice and pasta.
Simmering is a technique of cooking food in a liquid – like boiling. However, simmering is performed at just below boiling point. It is simple to control because you can judge it by eye. When a liquid is boiling it has large bubbles and the surface is very agitated whereas when simmering there is just a mild stream of small bubbles hardly breaking the surface. Try cooking vegetables, chicken, fish and fruit this way.
This method involves cooking food in the steam produced from boiling water, either in direct contact or indirect. It is a healthy method of cooking as there is no immersion in water and thus very little loss of nutrients. Steaming is also an economical way of cooking because more than one item can be cooked at a time. You can use 1 or 2 tiered steamers, which will fit over your saucepan and enable you to cook more than one vegetable at a time. Water is boiled in the saucepan and then the vegetables sit in the steamer.
Bamboo steamers are also very popular now. They are great for steaming fish, poultry and vegetables. Just bring a small amount of water to the boil in a saucepan or a wok and stack up the steamers containing the food.
Puddings can also be steamed by using a pudding basin – delicious.
This is a long, slow, moist method of cooking used for tough cuts of meat, poultry and game. Braised food is normally cooked as one piece and only a small amount of liquid is used. You will generally brown the meat in a pan with a little oil and then finish cooking in a casserole dish with some vegetables and liquid sauce. The meal is then cooked with the lid on either on top of the stove or in a low temperature oven.
This is very similar to braising and at times is used as a more modern name for braising. It is taken from the name of the cooking dish used – an ovenproof dish with a tight-fitting lid refereed to as a ‘casserole dish’. It is often flameproof and so can be used for the initial browning process and is often served at the table which cuts down on the washing up. Casseroling encompasses stews and like where the meat is cut into small pieces and cooked with vegetables in a rich sauce.
This long, slow method of cooking is similar to braising, in that the food is cooked in a liquid. It is used for tougher cuts of meat, older chickens and game. In a stew the meat is typically cut up into small portions and cooked in a large quantity of liquid. The liquid is generally thickened or reduced before serving with the meat. Stewed fruit is often still referred to, and normally indicates fruit that is broken down and mushy as compared to poached fruit which is usually still firm and whole.
This is a special method of cooking that I am particularly fond of. It uses a special appliance called a ‘crock pot’ or ‘slow cooker’. Similar to casseroling and stewing it cooks the food in a liquid but over an extended period of up to 12 hours.