Q & A Q & A Q & A Q
What does the word
The latest culinary verb
is ‘to French’ as in ‘Frenching’
cuts of meat, meaning baring the bone and trimming of unwanted tissue. A
succulent piece of meat is left on the end.
The term ‘Frenching’ as it is applied to vegetables is to
slice the vegetables in long thin strips.
Is water or milk the
preferred ingredient to add to beaten eggs when making a mixture for omelettes?
Water is the preferred
ingredient as it produces a lighter, more delicate mixture.
Some cooks add milk, or
milk and water. This produces a heavier, richer mixture.
The French do not dilute
the eggs at all. They rely on the quality of the pan, the quantity and
distribution of the excellent quality of the Normandy butter and eggs
they prefer, as well as a special knack in the making. A good French cook
will always succeed in having the centre of the omelette
moist, whether or not they use Norman butter and eggs.
A plain French omelette appears flatter than its English counterpart
and some French chefs recommend beating the yolks and whites separately
to obtain a lighter and foamier omelette.
What does ‘Al
This is an Italian
expression (meaning literally ‘to the tooth’) meaning cooking
until just done, but not soft. It is indicative of the correct degree of
cooking for pasta, which must be removed from the heat and drained while
it is still firm enough to bite into.
The expression may also
be applied to certain vegetables, such as green beans, which are served
while still retaining their crunchiness.
What is a ‘Bouquet Garni’ and how is it used?
A bouquet garni is a selection of aromatic plants used to flavour a dish you are cooking, such as stews, sauces
or stocks. The herbs are normally tied together in a small bundle to
prevent them from dispersing in the liquid. They are placed into the dish
you are making and removed before serving.
A simple bouquet is
composed of parsley, bay leaves and sprigs of thyme and tied with twine
to facilitate the removal from the dish. A mixture of dried herbs can
also be placed in a little square of cheesecloth or muslin.
The composition of a
bouquet garni may vary according to local
resources, and the requirements of local dishes. Bouquet garni can also be bought ready made.
What went wrong with the
Weather : Meringues do not succeed in humid weather, so in hot weather
make meringues very early in the morning.
Utensils: The bowl and
whisk should be spotlessly clean and completely dry.
Ingredients: The eggs must be fresh and at room
temperature. They will take too long to whisk if they are too cold and
will not achieve a greater volume.
The eggs must be
carefully separated allowing no yolk or blemish or odd piece of shell
into the whites.
Other gremlins present
themselves when a clean syrup runs out of the
meringues during baking.
This will happen if the
meringue is not baked immediately.
There might have been moisture
in the oven during baking.
The sugar might have been
added too quickly or too much at once, so that it did not have time to
Granulated sugar is not
preferred as it is too coarse and does not dissolve as well in the
mixture as castor sugar.
Meringues are baked in a
very low oven and if they are still moist in the middle, they were not
allowed to dry out in the oven for long enough.
meringues should be slowly dried in a very cool oven (110ºC 225
ºF or gas mark ¼) for one and a half hours. If they are over-
baked, they will turn a light toffee colour and
have a lovely chewy consistency.
What are the techniques
for removing oil from the surface of soups and stews and other dishes
that appear oily and fatty?
Excess oil has been
proven unhealthy, and it is wise to remove it when cooking.
There are a few ways to
remove oil. You could dip a soup ladle or spoon into cold water, shake it
dry and put it into the pot of hot stew or soup just below the surface
and skim off the layer of oil.
Another way of skimming
off excess oil is to run an absorbent paper towel over the surface of the
You can also cool the
soup or stew in the refrigerator – overnight if you wish, until the
fat has hardened and lift it off. All these methods require time and
patience, but the end result is worthwhile and presents a much healthier
and attractive dish.
What does M.S.G. stand for and what is it?
M.S.G. stands for
This is a sodium salt found in wheat, beets and soybean
products. It is used extensively in Chinese cookery and thought to help
accentuate the flavours of certain foods.
Many people suffer
allergic reactions to M.S.G., so widespread use has been reduced in the
commercial food industry.
It is also advisable to
read labels where ingredients are listed, if M.S.G. is to be avoided.
Which side of aluminium foil should you use?
The correct side of aluminium foil to use for roasting and indeed
generally is with the shiny side inwards and the dull side on the
outside. The shiny side attracts and retains more heat so your roast is
cooked evenly. Aluminium foil does not absorb
moisture or grease and food cooked or stored in foil, does not lose its flavour and moisture. Food stored in foil stays
fresher longer as foil is resistant to bacteria and mould.
What is the traditional
French wedding cake?
The name of the traditional French wedding
cake is ‘Croquembouche’ which means
‘crisp in the mouth’. It is a grand confection made up of
cream puffs that are dipped in caramel and assembled into a large pyramid
shape on a circular base usually made of nougat. It is elaborately
decorated with spun sugar, crystallised fruit
and nuts or sugar flowers.
This confection can also be served at first
– communion meals.
What is the difference
between a soup and a chowder?
Chowder is the American
term for a soup that has substantial chopped ingredients and is halfway
between a soup and a stew in consistency. Shellfish is most often used in
a chowder. Clam chowder is most well known.
Chicken chowder is also popular. It is most often prepared as a
How should table cutlery be set?
Work from the outside inwards according to the
courses of the meal. The places are laid symmetrically with forks on the
left and knives and spoons on the right. The cutting edge of the knives
should point towards the plate and the spoons should be on the outside of
the knives. The setting is the same for both left and right-handed
It is also ideal if ones
table allows sufficient elbow and legroom for the guests – about 60
cm (2 ft) is a useful benchmark.
What is a Globe
How to choose a globe artichoke for cooking.
What are the rules of etiquette when eating a globe artichoke?
The word artichoke is shared by 3 unrelated
plants; the globe artichoke, the Jerusalem artichoke and the Chinese (or
Japanese) artichoke. The globe artichoke, considered the true artichoke
is a perennial vegetable related to the thistle. The edible immature
flower head is formed on a fleshy base (fond) and a heart surrounded by
scaly leaves or bracts. The base is eaten after the inedible hairy
central core (choke) has been removed. The bases of the leaves cradle a
small portion of tender flesh that is also edible.
They are best in summer. Choose one that is
firm and heavy with stiff tightly packed leaves. Because the artichoke is
a flower bud, open leaves indicate that it is overripe, and will
therefore be hard and have too large a choke. If kept too long after
picking, the tips of the scales go black. Individual recipes give
specific instructions for preparation.
The globe artichoke is eaten leaf by leaf; the
leaves being detached with fingers dipping the base in a sauce. The
tender edible part is nibbled off, before the rest of the leaf is
discarded. At formal meals only the hearts are served, garnished or
How does one get the best
results when cooking with wine?
It is very important to
use a decent wine for cooking and marinating, not your absolute best, but
one that you would not hesitate to drink or serve to guests.
When adding wine to a
sauce or hot dish, let it cook to allow the flavours
to mellow and to cook off the alcohol.
Meat and poultry are very
often marinated in wine to add flavour. The
acid in the wine also acts as a tenderiser. A
subtle flavour is achieved by using wine in
moderation when cooking.
Vinegar, stock or juice
can be substituted for wine in recipes.
How does one succeed in
cooking tender and succulent calamari?
Calamari is the Italian
word for squid.
There are 2 ways of
cooking calamari. It should either be cooked very
quickly, literally plunged into boiling water for a few minutes and
when the colour changes, it is done. The other
method is long and slow, as when one stews calamari.
Calamari can also be tenderised by marinating it before cooking. Leave it
for an hour or so in lemon juice, vinegar or wine, the acid helps break
down the tough connective tissue. Adding a little wine or lemon juice
when stewing calamari can also help.
Is the term ‘slow
food’ anything like fast food?
Slow food is an
international food and wine movement set up to counter the effects fast
food has had on society and to put the heart and gastronomical delight
and style back into eating and drinking. The founder of the movement,
Carlo Petrini, wants people to eat better and
to resist the haste and pace that has been introduced by today’s
world of hectic fast food. In 1986 a small group of people demonstrated
at the opening of a McDonalds in Rome’s magnificent Piazza di Spagna and the fast food
movement was born.
What does it mean when a
recipe calls upon you to ‘sweat’ the vegetables?
Sweating is a common
preliminary step in vegetable cooking, particularly for onions and leeks.
This process, which is essentially a form of steaming, draws out the
juices and develops the vegetable’s flavour.
Be sure the pan you use
for sweating has a heavy base that will conduct the heat evenly, so the
vegetables don’t stick or burn. It is also important that the lid
be tight fitting to keep in moisture.
The first step is to heat
fat (usually butter or olive oil) over low heat. Add vegetables and stir
to coat with melted fat.
Cover the pan tightly and
cook gently until the vegetables are softened but not brown, onions will
be translucent. This can take 10-15 minutes or longer. Stir occasionally
during the cooking.
Sweating is a popular
alternative to sautéing or frying as a low-fat cooking method.
Two Quick questions and
How many Kilojoules to 1
4.2 kilojoules to 1
What is the usual
proportion of oil to vinegar for a salad dressing?
3 parts oil to 1 part
How does one use dry
Pulses must be soaked
before cooking to soften them and thereby reduce the cooking time.
Soaking also allows the skins to rehydrate and
the beans to plump up, preventing both from separating during boiling.
Before soaking you should spread them out flat and check for little
stones and other foreign particles.
Rinse them under running
water in a sieve or a colander. As most pulses double their size during
soaking, cover the beans with twice as much water
as the amount of beans used. Overnight soaking in cold water is best.
Beans should not be left
in warm water or in a warm room and they should not be soaked for more
than 24 hours as they may ferment and produce poisonous substances. For
this reason always use fresh water for cooking.
Boil beans rapidly to
destroy natural toxins, and then reduce the heat to just simmer the
Don’t add salt when
you begin cooking pulses, as it will prevent them from softening. Add it
towards the last half hour of cooking time, when they have already begun
Acidic foods like
tomatoes, acidic fruits or vinegar prevent the beans becoming soft.
There are a variety of
dried beans available in South Africa. Each is used with different food and has
different cooking times. All are nutritious and highly delicious.
What is Bulgur wheat?
Bulgur is also known as burghul,
cracked wheat or kibbled wheat. It is wheat that has been hulled and
parboiled/precooked until the hull splits, then dried and cracked to
different degrees of coarseness. As bulgur is precooked, it needs very
little or no cooking – in some recipes like the Lebanese Salad, Tabbouleh, it is only soaked to rehydrate
the grain and no cooking is required. This salad is made of softened
bulgur tossed with vegetables and seasoned with lemon and mint.
When Bulgur is cooked, boiling for 5-10
minutes is sufficient.
Bulgur can be used as the starch portion of a
meal and is a good substitute for rice.