10 Really Handy Tricks in the Kitchen

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You know when you hear something, or are told something, and it seems so easy that you wonder why you never heard of it before? And you know that feeling when you try this trick or that trick and it works wonders, and you’re like “OMG, I’m never going to stop doing this!”.
This is a tip I learnt ages ago and just
keep using – slicing carrot and zucchini with
a vegetable peeler. I love it.
Well, I’m hoping that this post gives you a few of these moments.
I love hints and tips and tricks. It’s not that I don’t love experimenting and figuring things out myself, but it’s a thousand times easier once someone shares something with you. I also happen to think that collaboration and human connection are a huge part of life and are essential to creativity. So, with the interest of fighting the technology (though paradoxically using it to help me connect with you) I’m going to share a few good human tricks that people don’t write into cookbooks or share on food blogs.
Here they are:
  1. Avocado – Use a spoon to get the avocado out of the skin. It’s the easiest way to make those awesome perfectly cut slices of avocado you see when you get served up avocado at a restaurant or when flipping through a magazine. Slice it carefully while its in the skin (if you cut too ferociously you can cut your hand as avocado skin is very thin) and then scoop out carefully and spread the slices. Easy.
  2. Deep frying – When deep frying, and you don’t have a temperature gauge, use a tiny chunk of bread to help you know when the oil is up to the correct temperature. When you throw the bread into the oil it should brown in 15-20 seconds. If it doesn’t then the oil isn’t hot enough, and if it browns too soon the oil is too hot (so turn it down and wait a few minutes before throwing the food in!).
  3. Salt – You can’t get rid of too much salt in a dish you’ve prepared, but you can counteract it with lemon juice if you’ve only put a little bit too much in. A couple of small splashes should do the trick without overdoing the lemon taste. It won’t work on delicate dishes, but it’ll help you save a dish like a casserole.
  4. Tinned tomatoes – Tinned tomatoes are your saving grace. Drain them, add capsicum and cooked onion with a pinch of cayenne pepper and oregano, and you’ve got a replacement for bottled salsa to use as a dip, with nachos or with other types of Mexican food. Use them as the base of a casserole, puree and make into pasta sauce or dump into a saucepan with vegetables and beans to make homemade minestrone. You can always make something healthy with a tin of tomatoes in the pantry. You just need to decide whether to keep them as is, pureed or drained.
  5. Zucchini – When you want to use zucchini with eggs (like in a quiche or a frittata), grate the zucchini then squeeze the water out by wringing it in a clean tea towel. By doing this you reduce the water in the recipe and make it faster to cook the eggs, especially in the middle (which is always the hardest bit to get right because it’s always too wet).
  6. Oil – Don’t throw away the oil that the sun-dried tomatoes, chargrilled capsicum or packaged feta in oil comes in. Use them to grease the pan for savoury dishes (like quiche, homemade breads, etc) or as the oil base for salad dressings. They already have so much flavour that it’s almost a crime to throw them away.
  7. Cakes – Over ripe bananas don’t taste nice by themselves but they are great for helping to make a cake moist without having to add extra fat (like the butter or oil). Some packets of flour take up more moisture than others so you’ll never know when you’ll need this one, but it’ll come in handy. If you don’t want to know its in a mix, use it in a chocolate mix or one where you’re using a lot of colour, or mash it really tiny. You don’t want it to overpower the other flavours in your cake if you’re not making a banana cake. 
  8. Leftovers – To spice up leftovers either put them in a wrap for lunch the next day (toasting in a sandwich maker is optional) or between two sheets of pastry and make it into a pie. It depends on what the food is, but there is always a more interesting way of eating your leftovers than just reheating them and eating them endlessly in the same way for three days. 
  9. Leftover fruit – If you’ve bought a lot of fruit but it’s going ripe faster than you can eat it, freeze it. Chop the fruit into pieces or slices and peel them before shoving them into the freezer. When you need a healthy and quick dessert it’s a cinch to make the fruit into ‘ice cream’. Put the frozen fruit into a food processor with a few drizzles of juice for sweetness and whizz. It’s also a great emergency dessert when you find out the friend you’ve got over is gluten or dairy free and you didn’t know because you were going to serve apple pie with ice cream.

  10. Save time/space – To save on time, and how many pots you have on the stove, add the frozen or fresh veg to the pot of pasta a few minutes before the end of the cooking time. Leave frozen veg in there a few minutes longer than the fresh ones, so that they are cooked but still green and colourful (this is what they call tender in cookbooks). It makes combining the sauce with the pasta and vegetables much easier and as a bonus the flavours will have developed together.

I hope you find these tips as useful as I have. I use them all the time. And the more you use them, the better you get a judging how you need to use each one.
But you know what, today I’m feeling generous so I’m going to throw in freebie, or in this case, an extra trick. Much as I’d like to give you the steak knives, I’ve thought of another trick that you will find really useful and it’ll probably improve your skills better than steak knives would.
Bonus tip – Flour: when baking or using flour, lay a clean tea towel on the surface you’re using before placing your bowl or board down. Any flour that escapes the bowl or gets pushed over the edge of your board when rolling out dough will be easy to collect up and put straight into the bin because you can gather it all on the tea towel in one easy step. It reduces cleaning time to seconds and you won’t have to sweep the floor either!
Avoid this kind of mess by using the bonus tip.
Question: What are some of your best kitchen and cooking tips?

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