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Top 10 chef’s tips (part 2)

Updated on June 27, 2012

Continuing on our journey of chef's tips and culinary techniques (for part 1 – click this link: Top 10 chef’s tips), we cover tips from optimal salad ingredients and dressing ratios to getting rid of garlic breath.


Optimal salad ingredients: use a fruit, a root and a shoot
Optimal salad ingredients: use a fruit, a root and a shoot

1. Optimal salad ingredients

First tip is short and sweet: If you want to make an optimally balanced salad, use at least a fruit, a shoot and a root.

So for instance, for a FRUIT use strawberries, tomatoes, orange segments, tangerine segments, apple, avocado, etc.

For a SHOOT: cress, bamboo shoots, pea shoots, sprouting beans (mung, etc.).

For a ROOT: carrot, potato, roasted parsnip, celery root, etc.


2. Optimal salad dressing ratio

To make the most optimally balanced dressing always use 3 parts oil to 1 part acid (vinegar/lemon/lime juice).

Bonus tip: (Unless otherwise advised) Remember to only add the dressing just before you serve the salad – otherwise the salad can become soaked (rather than lightly dressed) in the dressing.


3. Healthy frying technique

A simple tip: If you must fry, steam fry. It means that you can use less oil, cook at a lower temperature and are less likely to burn the food you are frying.

What is steam frying? Exactly the same as normal frying except you use half the amount of oil and once the vegetables are in the pan and frying, you add your fry pan (or wok) lid to keep the heat and steam in.


4. Reduce salt (& use low sodium salt)

For well known health reasons (reduction in blood pressure, etc.), reducing salt intake is a common goal for many. Although our taste buds are able to adapt well to variations in salt levels, it takes time to develop them to adapt to lower salt levels. Therefore, I would recommend slowly reducing the amount of salt used in cooking.

Studies have shown that if you do this slowly, you can minimise or even totally eliminate the need for salt as your taste buds develop to taste other flavours in the food. I also recommend taking your family with you on this journey, otherwise other members of the family who might share the cooking will (unknowingly) jeopardise your efforts by raising the salt added to meals during cooking. (I speak from experiences, here!)


5. Clear and clean as you go

As well as the well rehearsed “mis en place” (prepare your ingredients before you start cooking), another favourite mantra is to clear and clean as you cook. This makes sense as it helps stay organised and focused on tasks. To make it work practically,

1. make sure you have either a large bowl near you where you can throw any discarded choppings; or your have a bin near you (with a foot operated lid); and

2. you are near a sink filled with hot, soapy water which you can easily access to wash up as you go.

6. Stop pasta sticking

If you have ever served pasta that has stuck together, you will know that frustrating feeling of having to endure mouthfuls of partially cooked pasta or having to separate the pasta out on your plate.

To minimise this sticking, once the pan of water is boiling and before adding the pasta,

1. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to the water.

2. Add the pasta and immediately stir.

3. Stir a couple more times before the water returns to the boil to keep the pasta pieces separated.

7. Eliminate watery pasta

Pasta is notoriously hard to drain properly. Hence the common problem of watery pasta when served separately to the sauce (e.g. Spaghetti Bolognese).

STEPS: Once you have cooked your pasta al dente,

1. Drain the water by pouring the pasta into a colander.

2. Allow the pasta to sit in the colander for a few seconds then toss the pasta to loosen any remaining water.

3. Pour the pasta into an heat-proof lidded serving dish.

4. Pour a dash of olive oil over the pasta.

5. Toss the pasta to coat it lightly in the oil.

6. And pop the lid on.

7. Just before serving, shake the dish (with the lid on) to loosen the pasta.

8. Serve.

8. Blanch or steam vegetables

By blanching vegetables or steaming vegetables (in a vegetable steamer), you better retain the vegetable’s

  • Flavour,
  • Texture, and
  • Nutrients.

How to blanch:

1. Bring water to the boil in a saucepan (see tip 9).

2. Add the vegetable(s) you wish to blanch.

3. Boil rapidly for one minute.

4. Quickly and carefully, drain vegetable(s).

5. Add the vegetable(s) to a large bowl of iced water.

This last step ensures that the vegetable is cooled very quickly thereby stopping any further cooking (via residual heat).

9. Prick eggs to stop them bursting

If you’ve ever hard boiled eggs with the result that some have burst and egg white has seeped out….a little tip.

Before adding eggs to the pan (even for soft-boiled), use a skewer and make a small hole in the top of the egg. That way, any excess pressure within the egg can escape and you are less likely to get a large burst.



Chew a sprig of parsley to get rid of garlic breath
Chew a sprig of parsley to get rid of garlic breath

10. Get rid of garlic breath

I’m not sure if this is a real “chef’s tip” but it’s a useful one if you enjoy your garlic and still want to keep your friends!

Do you ever wonder why fresh parsley is so often used as a garnish? Parsley’s secret is that it reduces (and in some cases eradicates) the garlic smell on your breath.

TIP: Chew a sprig or two of fresh parsley after a garlicky meal to help get rid of garlic breath.


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