Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Developing flavour in home cooking

There is more to good home cooking than following a recipe. To consistently cook well, you need to understand how flavours develop. There are ways of developing flavour in your home cooking that don't involve adding anything from a packet or opening a can of soup.
The best way to add flavour to meat is to caramelise it. Many foods have natural sugars in them. They don't make that food sweet but they are there nonetheless. When you cook meat on a high heat it turns brown. That is caramelisation. It is the sugars in the meat browning because of the heat - it changes the colour of the meat to brown and it intensifies the flavour by removing water from the meat's sugars and concentrating the flavour in the meat.

You should add a small amount of oil - I always use olive oil - to your pan, heat the oil so it's quite hot and add the meat. Don't add too much meat at a time, if you have a large amount to cook, add it in batches and brown the meat a bit at a time. This allows the meat to caramelise. If you add too much meat at once, the juices from the meat will release and it will stew instead of dry fry. You're trying to remove the water from the sugars in the meat and if you stew the meat at this point, it won't caramelise. Once you've browned all the meat, you can carry on with your cooking, knowing that you've added much more natural flavour than you would have had if you'd just cooked the meat in a sauce.

You can develop flavour by caramelisation in any food that contains natural sugars like meat, vegetables, fruit and fish.
SPICESpices are the flowers, bark, roots, berries or seeds of various plants used to develop flavour in cooking. Spices are usually dried to a powdered form and added in small amounts. When you add spice to your cooking, you will release more flavour if you dry fry them in a pan before use. When you buy spice, only buy small amounts as they lose flavour when stored for a long time. Store your spice in a cool dark place in a sealed jar.

Spices are often used in long slow cooking - such as curry, or sprinkled on the top of food to add a quick burst of flavour, such as pepper.

Spices are things like pepper, chilli powder, cardamon, coriander seeds, paprika, and many many more.

HERBSHerbs are similar to spices but they're usually fresh. The actual definition of a herb in cooking is any plant that is useful and adds flavour.

Herbs are parsley, chives, sage, oregano, thyme etc.

When you add herbs to a recipe, you can add them at the beginning for slow cooking and that will develop and add flavour while cooking, but you can also add them at the end of cooking to add freshness to the dish. For instance, you might add garlic, parsley, oregano and thyme to a spaghetti sauce recipe - cook it for a while, then add more parsley at the end so the meal is served with green parsley to give it a fresh taste.

SUGARSugar or honey can be added in very small amounts to bring out the flavour in certain foods. For instance, half a teaspoon of sugar in a tomato dish - such as pasta sauce, will make the tomato flavour more intense. A small amount (½ teaspoon) of sugar added to frying onions, while help them caramelise. Cooking onions like this needs to be done slowly.

You can add flavour by evaporating the water out of food by simmering with the lid off the pot. This will concentrate the flavour in the dish.

DRESSINGSYou can also add flavour to raw food. Salads are usually raw vegetables and fruits combined in various ways. You can add flavour by making a simple dressing.

Make good stock whenever you have the bones of chicken or beef or if you have spare vegetables. You can cook the bones with the vegetables in water and that will make stock. However, if you roast the bones in the oven for an hour, you'll caramelise the flavours and make better stock. So to make stock, roast the bones for an hour, add the roasted bones to a stockpot and cover with water. Add bay leaves, salt and pepper, a chopped onion, two sticks chopped celery and a chopped carrot. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour with the lid on. When it's cold, it can be frozen or stored in the fridge.

So as you can see, all these techniques involve good wholesome food, with no artificial flavours. Home cooking relies of developing natural flavours and that is easily done using the techniques above or by adding natural flavour like spice or herbs. And don't be afraid to experiment. Start off with a good basic dish that you find appealing and modify it by adding the flavours - to a greater or lesser degree, that your family likes. Once you've mastered that skill, you're on your way to being a good home cook.
Thanks to Down-To-Home blog

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