Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Quick 'Wave...

Although I rarely use the microwave other than for thawing, cooking a jacket potato, heating a jelly in a little water, and re-heating a home-cooked ready meal, the microwave oven can be a very useful piece of kitchen equipment, so today am giving a few hints and tips showing how the microwave can be used in many ways to speed up things for us, other than actual cooking. Timings shown are based on a 650 watt microwave oven.

1) Speed-prove bread dough by placing 1.5 lb (675g) in an oiled polybag. Microwave on Simmer (10%) for 4 mins, or or Defrost (30%) for 1 - 1.25 mins. Stand until doubled in size, then knead, shape and place in microproof loaf tin, cover and microwave again as above. For a crusty loaf, place in a tin after the first proving, and cook in a conventional oven.

2) Fats and sugars attract microwaves and burn easily, so when reheating foods high in these ingredients use a Medium Setting (70%) for less time. Stand 5 minutes to cool, so no risk of burnt mouths.

3) To toast/brown nuts, place 1 oz (25g) shelled nuts in a shallow dish. Cook on High (100%) for 4 - 4.5 mins, stirring once. Stand 5 minutes.

4) To keep microwaved food hot during standing time, cover with foil, shiny side down, as this reflects the heat back into the food.

5) For an almost instant chocolate sauce, microwave a Mars Bar on Medium High (70%) for half to 1.25 mins and pour over ice-cream while still hot.

6) Always keep a cup of water inside the microwave when not using, as this prevents damage to the components if accidentally switched on.

7) When drying herbs or citrus peel in the microwave (place on kitchen paper and microwave on High for approx 3.5 mins) always put a small cup or glass jar full of water in the oven for the above reason.

8) Speed up soaking time for dried fruit by putting 8 oz (225g) into a microproof bowl, covering with water and cooking on High (100%) for 5 mins. Stand for 5 minutes, then cool.

(9) Get more juice from citrus fruits by warming in the m.oven before squeezing. For one fruit, m.wave on High for 15 - 30 seconds. No longer or the fruit may explode.

(10) Toast desiccated coconut by spreading on a microwaveable plate and cook on High for 4 mins, stirring after every minute.

(11) Soften chilled and hard butter by removing any foil wrappers and for 9 oz (250g) cook on Defrost (30%) for 40 - 60 secs. For half that weight 30 - 45 secs.

(12) To blanch 1 lb (450g) vegetables prior to freezing: place prepared veggies in a large dish or boiling bag with NO water or salt added. Cover and cook on High (see timings following) stirring once, then cool rapidly by placing in a colander under running cold water. Drain, dry and open-freeze.
Allow 2 minutes for cauliflower florets, sliced courgettes, broccoli.
Allow 3 minutes for asparagus, sprouts, chopped cabbage, sweetcorn kernels, broad beans.
Allow 4 minutes for chopped celery, sliced runner beans.

(13) To dry bread when needing crumbs, microwave a slice on High for 1.5 - 2 mins, then leave to cool. This can then be crushed into crumbs.

(14) 'Fry' poppadums by lightly brushing them with oil, then placing 4 at a time on kitchen paper, placed on the microwave plate, arranging in a circle. Microwave on High for 45 - 60 secs or until puffy. Stand 2 - 3 minutes to allow them to crisp up.

(15) If fishy smells linger in the microwave after cooking, then put in a cup containing equal quantities of vinegar and hot water. Leave to stand a while and this removes all smells. To clean the oven add half a lemon to a bowl of water and cook on High for five minutes. The steam given off loosens any stains on the oven walls. Just wipe over with a damp cloth.

Myself have found that frozen peas (a serving for two) put into a shallow plastic dish with no added water and microwaved on High for 4 minutes will both defrost and cook them. Stir half-way through.

Also find that putting fresh cauliflower florets in a bag or covered bowl will - without using any water - cook to tenderness in about 8 minutes. This method keeps in all the vitamins. No doubt other vegetables can be cooked in the same way.

When using a a flavoured jelly from a packet, my method is to break up into cubes, place in a glass jug, barely cover with water, then microwave on High for 2 minutes. This dissolves the jelly into the water. After stirring (and making sure all the jelly has dissolved - if not it can be reheated a few seconds longer), then cold water is added to make up to the pint. If wishing to have the jelly set in a short time, use iced water, or use some cold water and add ice cubes to make up the full amount. As ice cubes are stirred in, you feel the jelly beginning to set.