Sunday, October 03, 2010

Count Our Blessings

There are so many hints and tips when it come to cooking, that today am repeating some of my favourites, adding a few more discovered along the way.

At this time of the year, freeze tomatoes whole, and although no good for sarnies these make excellent soups and sauces. Just hold pop the frozen tomato into a bowl of very hot water and the skins will just slide off.

By standing a tomato stem end down own a plate before slicing - find I can always gain one extra slice than if slicing 'sideways on'. Never can understand why this is - but it always seems the work with me.

To stop mincemeat bubbling out of mince pies when baking, first chill the mincemeat in the fridge before filling the pastry-lined cases. Chilling jam also helps to prevent bubbling over when making jam tarts.
If using 'room temperature' mincemeat, cut a small hole or star in the centre of the pastry lid before placing over the filling, this gives extra space for the hot air to flow out and a bit more room for the mincemeat to expand.

Keep an apple in a bag of potatoes and this is said to prevent them from sprouting.

Cling film is easier to handle when it is kept stored in a fridge or freezer.

Stand a metal spoon in hot water to heat up, quickly wipe dry and use to remove syrup (or treacle) out of the tins. The syrup will then slide off the spoon into what you are preparing instead of sticking to the metal.

To whip cream easily and speedily, always first chill the cream, bowl and beaters. Adding a little milk to over-whipped cream and very gently beating this in will bring it back to 'floppiness'.

If cutting an oblong or square cake, slice it through the middle, then the cut sides can be pushed together to stop them drying out.

To slice a tender sponge cake through to make two layers, wrap a length of sewing cotton halfway up its height, wrap over the ends of cotton, taking an end in each hand and then pull the hands apart. The cotton cuts through the sponge giving a perfectly even surface.

Useful tip for anyone, but especially those on a gluten free diet. To thicken soups, use instant potato instead of cornflour.

Reconstituted instant potato, made up with milk and a little butter (even better with grated cheese) will freeze perfectly, unlike mashed potatoes made the normal way.

If space is limited in the freezer, put about 4oz (100g) minced meat in a smallish poly bag, and - with the open end of the bag away from you - roll flat with a rolling pin. These I call 'tiles', and when frozen flat can either be stacked or slid along the sides of the freezer. These 'tiles' thaw rapidly, and are the size to fit directly into a frying pan, so no lumps of mince to break up with a wooden spoon. Small amounts of minced beef (to add to a minestrone soup for example) can be snapped off the frozen tile, with the remainder replaced back in the freezer.

The easy way to fasten an opened bag of frozen vegetables without using a plastic clip, is first cut the top of the unopened bag about half an inch down and across to about an inch of the side, then slit this strip in half along its length. Remove the veggies you want, then fold the uncut end back down and bring the strips round and tie together into a bow.

To make the most of freezer space, avoid gaps and whenever possible pack (or decant) into square stacking containers. Use a marker pen to write down what the contents are if not obvious. So many things look exactly the same once frozen. Even strips of chicken fillets look like chicken breasts once bagged and frozen.