I have always been a keen cook and you would always find me pottering in the kitchen or behind a cookbook. It is not until my formal training that things really fell into place. I think I knew the how but by learning the WHY it all made perfect sense. Hopefully this section will cover the HOW & WHY of cooking and I am 100% convinced that by learning a few basic skills which will enable you to be a more confident cook which in turn will make cooking easier and help you to cook great dishes.

I could write a book about essential cooking skills and I can be quite a nerd when it comes to the why, so as not to bore you with the science bit I will keep the skills short and sweet. For a more 1:1 session why not book one of my Essential Cooking Skills sessions and where I will show you first hand and in your own kitchen those skills that you would love to master.


Roasting Spices

WHY do we roast spices?

In a nutshell: whole spice – trapped flavour & aroma – heat – releases oils – oils carry the aroma – releases the flavour.

All spices have a unique flavour compound within them. Flavour compound or aroma is what the plant will release if it either needs to protect itself or in order to enable pollination. So, unlike flowers, this flavour compounds are imbedded and in order to smell these we would need to release them.When the whole spices feel heat it releases oils and its these oils that hold the aroma and flavour compounds.  One very effective way to release the aroma is by roasting.

HOW do we roast spices?

The quickest way to roast spices is to take a small frying pan chuck it on a medium heat, place your whole spices on the pan and swirl the pan until you can smell the aroma, this will take about 5 minutes. Tip spices into a cold plate to stop the cooking. You can also roast grounded spices.

When in doubt always roast your spices!

Roasting Nuts

WHY nuts are generally roasted to improve their taste, aroma and crunchy texture.

HOW: the quickest way is to place nuts on a large baking tray in a preheated oven for about 8-10 minutes or so. If you are impatient like me you could pop a handful of nuts in a pan on a medium heat taking care not to burn the nuts. The taste will always be better in the oven than in a pan.

When in doubt roast!


Blanch & Refresh

WHAT: Blanching is plunging veggies into boiling water for a short period. Refreshing means plunging the vegetables into iced water. We normally blanch vegetables but one can also blanch & refresh herbs to maintain the vibrant colour. Blanching and refreshing will shorten the cooking time, so if you are making a stir fry and would like to add broccoli or cauliflower, it will ensure even cooking time with the other shorter cooking time veggies.

HOW: Plunge your veggies in the rolling boiling water, tasting after a few minutes, the veggies should still have a crunch or bite to them, remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into the iced water, leave for a minute or so and then remove and dry on a tea towel. Certain veggies will take longer than others, it would be impossible for me to say how long as green beans in my kitchen might be very thin and in your kitchen more like big fat runner beans. Tasting is your best guide but asparagus should take 2minutes, fine green beans 3 minutes and broccoli/cauliflower 4 minutes.

NB: the size of the saucepan and the amount of water is very important, we need lots of space for the veggies to cook in

WHY: Lots of reasons:

  1. it stops the cooking process – so you’ll keep the crunch
  2. it maintains the bright colour of the vegggies
  3. retain nutrients and crunch
  4. very important when wanting to freeze veggies as the process kills surface bacteria

Cooking Onions

Cooking onions is one of the first skills they teach you at chefs school, turns out cooking them is not so easy as one thinks.