What are your worst foods? What can they teach you?
Here’s what I’ve discovered, and it might give you a chance to reflect on your own worst foods, is that cooking disasters can teach us a lot about what to do next time, and what to avoid as well.
As I used to say to my students, mistakes are great cause they can show you what you still need to learn. So in today’s post I’m sharing my learning so you can see there’s a positive side to a kitchen disaster.
What’s your worst foods and disasters? Tell me in the comments.
Worst food 1: Pizza base
My attempts at cooking pizza dough from scratch the first time were dismal. It took about 3hrs to cook and was burnt black on top while being raw on the bottom. My learnings:
- Don’t cook dough in a glass casserole dish – it doesn’t get hot enough and doesn’t make the dough crispy. Use a flat metal tray instead.
- Check the settings on your oven – some settings are just for lightly grilling a cheese sandwich not fully cooking food. Make sure your element is on and if you have a fan forced oven that the fan is on too (this is why it took 3hrs and there was no cooking happening!).
- Make the pizza base thinner – thick bases need longer to cook so thinner bases are faster and you can get dinner on the table faster.
Worst food 2: Minestrone soup
Every time I cook minestrone soup the beans are hard but the vegetables are mush and the soup is pretty tasteless. It also has a funny dark purplish tinge which is a little off putting. My learnings:
- Pre cook the beans – my beans are usually hard because they don’t get enough cooking in the soup, and the vegetables get overcooked because I’m waiting on the beans. Pre cook the beans in another pot or in the food processor first or throw in a can of beans instead.
- Avoid the purple tinge – I don’t get the purple tinge if I cook the beans separate. The purple tinge is the extra water coming off my kidney or black beans. Avoid it by pre cooking beans or using canned beans instead.
- Tasteless soup – boiled vegetables are tasteless. In a soup you can get more flavour by sautéing the vegetables with oil and garlic at the beginning of cooking. This just means frying the onions then adding the rest of the vegetables to the saucepan and cooking them till they get browned. The brownness (aka caramelisation) provides flavour. Don’t worry, they’re not burnt if they’re brown – they’re burnt if black! Add the stock and let simmer and you have a more tasty soup.
Worst food 3: Stuffed capsicums
I can make a basic version of stuffed capsicums if I pre cook the rice and meat on a pan in the stove and then stuff the capsicums. I can’t get soft rice and soft capsicums when I don’t pre cook the rice. My learnings:
- Rice needs liquid to cook – so I need to make sure the capsicums are covered with water or tomato sauce so the rice can cook in the oven.
- Too much liquid makes the rice float away – so getting the right amount of liquid is crucial. Which comes to learning number 3.
- Use the right size pan – by using a large dish I used too much liquid and got a crap meal. By using a shallow dish only half of each capsicum was cooked and the rice was raw. This is still a work in progress for me.
Worst food 4: Pan fried fish
So when I used to pan fry fish it would never get crispy. My basa fillets would be limp and if I did happen to get some crispness it would stick to the pan when I turned the fish over. It drove me nuts for ages. My learnings:
- Pan frying is really dry frying – which means you need to have a dry piece of fish because water and oil don’t mix! Pat dry the fish with paper towels at the beginning and this will help a lot. If water comes out while cooking soak it up with more paper towel, but hold the paper towel with tongs (or you’ll burn your fingers! And yes, I did do that a couple of times so it’s another learning).
- Grease the fish not the pan – I have had the most success frying fish when I add the oil to the fish before putting it into the pan. If you grease the pan the oil that isn’t touching the fish tends to burn (especially if you’re using olive oil).
- Use the right pan – non stick pans work best for me especially when using them with a silicone spatula. Regular pans cause the fish to stick and you use too much oil. You’ll get a mess at the end of it rather than 2 perfect fillets.
- Use high heat at the beginning and lower the heat to finish – you need the pan to be hot to get the fish to grill but you want to seal the first side with that grill then carefully turn the fish over on the other side. Then turn the heat down and cook through the middle of the fish. If you start with a cold pan it will stick more and if the heat stays too high for the entire cooking you’ll burn it.
So now you’ve seen how a bad cook can teach you a few lessons please share a lesson or two of your own in the comments below or tell me on Twitter @SpicedAnecdotes.