Improving your knife skills will improve your cooking and make your life easier in the kitchen. Ensuring you are holding a cooking knife the correct way is probably the biggest step you can take towards developing great knife skills as it reduces the amount of effort required to use the knife and gives greater control of the blade.

Correct - Light grip on blade with thumb and forefinger

Correct knife grip finger and thumb on rear of blade

The correct way to hold a cooking knife is to lightly grip the blade between your thumb and forefinger just in front of the bolster and then gently wrap your remaining fingers around the handle. Holding the knife this way will give you good control over the knife and will reduce the amount of effort it takes to use the knife.

Wrong - Hammer Grip

incorrect knife grip holding like a hammer

 

The most common error that people make when holding a cooking knife is wrap their hand around the handle and hold the knife like a hammer. Intuitively this may seem like the right way to hold a hammer but it results in less control over the blade and makes using the knife much harder work.

Wrong - Finger along spine

Another common mistake is to grip the handle with 3 fingers and a thumb whilst placing your index along the back of the knife. I honestly don't know how people can attempt to use a knife like this as it is just plain hard work and significantly reduces knife control.

Easy Blender Hollandaise - www.livetocook.com

Easy Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

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Hollandaise sauce tastes and looks great  with eggs, vegetables such as asparagus, and even on your steak. I also have to admit that I "taste" this sauce way more than I need to when I am making it. For me the only downside is that it takes time and attention to make Hollandaise the traditional way and I have chosen not to make it on a number of occasions as a result. 

For me this easy Hollandaise recipe is the answer, it takes about 10 minutes to make and seems to have the same yum factor as sauce made using the traditional stovetop method.

Preparation time: 

Yield: 4 Serves

 

Ingredients

  • 150g of unsalted butter.
  • 4 egg yolks.
  • 1/3 of a teaspoon of Dijon mustard..
  • Juice from 1/2 a large lemon.
  • Tabasco sauce.
  • Salt for seasoning.

 

Method

  • Add the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and Tobasco sauce to a blender and  blend on high for 5 - 10 seconds.
  • Melt the butter in the microwave for 60 - 90 seconds until melted.
  • Turn the blender onto high and trickle the melted butter into the egg yolk mixture.
  • Blend for  approximately 30 seconds until the sauce is thickened.
  • Add salt to tast and pulse to mix through.

What is Roux ?

If you are anything like me you may have been vaguely aware that roux is the stuff that you make before you add milk to make white sauce, cheese sauce, and then quite possibly Mac Cheese, which by the way is one of my favorite dishes.  Recently I have started to  research the basic techniques of cooking and have been surprised to discover that although the recipe for roux is very simple that there are different types of roux  which have different smells, tastes, and textures and that the different types of rouxs are used for different purposes.

Roux is in its essence is  a mixture of  an edible liquid fat, usually clarified butter, and plain flour which is used as the base for sauces and gravies or as a thickening agent which can be added to soups and stews.  The recipe is very simple - heat the fat over a medium heat , add the flour, and stir until, the roux reaches  your desired color and consistency.

Warning: If you are tasting the roux during the cooking process take a small spoonful from the pot and let it cool down before tasting; If you do not let it cool down to a safe temperature before tasting you will burn yourself.

There are four basic types of roux which are all created using the same basic recipe and are used as a base for different dishes.

Types of Roux and their uses.

different types of roux 

Left to right:  white, blonde, brown, dark.

 

White roux

A white roux is cooked for a few minutes until the liquid is bubbling vigorously and the raw flour smell has gone, the mixture is removed from heat before it starts to brown. If you taste the roux at this stage it will still be quite grainy and won't have much flavor making it perfect for use in white milk based sauces such as bechamel for lasagne and cheese sauce for macaroni cheese.

Blond roux

Blonde roux is cooked for about 15 - 20 minutes until the mixture begins to smell a bit like popcorn an starts to turn a light brown color; at this point the mixture will become a little thinner and bubbling will slow. Blonde roux is most commonly used to thicken stock based white sauces such as veloute, in poultry gravies, and as a base creamy veloute soups.

Brown roux

Brown roux is made using clarified butter, or another fat such as lard which can withstand higher cooking temperatures and is cooked for for longer again, approximately 35 - 40 minutes, until it becomes approximately the color of peanut butter and starts to develop a nutty aroma; a brown roux will be even thinner than a blond roux and will bubble even less. Brown roux is used as the base for dark gravies and brown sauces such as espagnole which another of the 5 mother sauces of French cuisine.

Dark roux

Dark roux is often created using a fat such as bacon fat or an oil which can withstand very high temperatures and is cooked for approximately  45 - 50 minutes, until it becomes the color of melted chocolate, and starts to smell distinctly nutty; The roux will have a strong flavor at this point and will have stopped bubbling altogether. Dark roux is most often used in cajun cuisine to make tasty dishes  such as gumbo. 

 

Using roux

Roux can be used straight away after it has been cooked or it can be poured into a grease proof paper lined baking tray and refridgerated until it has set. Once set it can be broken into pieces and stored in the fridge or freezer for extended periods in an airtight bag or container.

When it comes time to use the roux you have created the golden rule is never to mix cold roux with cold liquid as it will become lumpy and never mixhot roux with hot liquid as it will splash and burn.  Coldish i.e. room temperature  can be successfully added gradually to liquids such as stocks and vice versa.

The other other thing I have learned in my roux adventure is that the darker the rough the thinner it gets and the less effective it is as a thickening agent; this is due to the starch in the flour breaking down during the cooking process.  A heavily browned roux can have as little as 1/3 of the thickening power as white roux so more dark roux needs to be added to thicken up a sauce. The good news is that the darker the  roux, the more rich nutty flavor it imparts to the dishes it is used in.

 

A really Fresh egg poached perfectly

 

This is my tried and true method of poaching eggs which is very simple and produces great results.

I Start by getting  the freshest free range eggs I can get my hands on, fortunately I have backyard chickens so am often cooking with eggs which have been laid the same day. Don't worry If you dont have chickens just get the freshest eggs you can, trust me it makes a difference.

Heat water in a pan until it is simmering i.e. bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat until only a few bubbles are rising from the bottom of the pan .  Do not poach eggs in boiling water as it will make them tough to eat.

Crack the eggs into a saucer and gently slide them into the simmering water.

Cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.

Lift the eggs from the pan using a slotted spoon, drain excess water, and serve immediately.

 

 

Eggs should actually only  be boiled for a very short period of time and then simmered until the white and yolk are cooked just how you like them.

I find that the best way to "boil" an egg is to gently place eggs into a rapidly boiling pan of water and immediately lower the temperature of the water  to around 180°F ( just over 80°C ) so that only the occasional bubble is rising from the bottom of the pan.  Starting the eggs in boiling water makes the shells easier to seperate from the eggs when you are peeling them but the temperature must be reduced to ensure you don't end up with rubbery over cooked eggs which start to smell faintly rotten.

If you wan't to cook the perfect "boiled" egg I would recommend getting yourself an instant  thermometer so you can measure the water temperature accurately and a reliable kitchen timer so you can ensure your eggs are cooked for the required duration. 

 

How long should the eggs be simmered for ?

The answer is it depends on the size of the egg and  how you like them cooked.

For soft boiled eggs with cooked whites and runny yolks remove them from the simmering water after around 4 - 6 minutes.

Soft boiled egg 

For medium eggs with a partially cooked yolks the eggs should be left to simmer for around 6 - 8 minutes.

Medium boiled egg

 

And for hard "boiled" eggs they should be left to simmer for 11 - 13 minutes.

Hard boiled egg

 

Cooling hard boiled eggs.

If you plan to use your hard boiled eggs in cold dishes such as salads or deviled eggs you should take them straight from the simmering pan and place them into iced water for at least 15 minutes, allowing them to cool completely prior to peeling.

 

Using a well made stock as the flavor base for  cooking is essential and will lift the food you prepare to the next level. Trust me store bought "stock" is no substitute for the hand crafted liquid culinary gold which you can create in your own kitchen , whether it be at home or in a restaurant. 

In its essence a well made stock is a clear liquid lavoured by the ingredients used to create it, which if chilled will often thicken due to the gelatin extracted from bones.  The ingredients used to make a great stock are almost always bones, Mirepoix, herbs, and spices with vegetable stock being the notable exception.

We show you how to make seven classic stocks which are foundation building blocks for dishes with fantastic flavour.

Chicken Stock

Technically Chicken stock is  just a white stock  or a brown stock made with chicken bones inplace of veal or other bones. Having said this chicken stock is probably the most commonly called for out of all stocks and cooking times are much less than other stocks so I have mentioned it seperately. My favourite chicken stock recipe takes on the flavours of the chicken along and the Mirepoix but does not have any other overpowering flavours, making it ideal for use as a base for sauces, braises, soups, and glazes.

White Stock

White stock is made from un-roasted bones to ensure that it remains clear with little or no colour whilst still containing the full flavour and body imparted from the bones and vegetables used to make it.  My favourite white stock recipe produces a full bodied, clear liquid which is ideal for use as the base for sauces such as Veloute and its derivatives such as white wine sauce.

Brown Stock

Brown stocks are made in a very similar way to white stocks with the main difference being that the bones and the Mirepoix  are browned before they are added to the stockpot. My favourite brown stock recipe is made from veal bones which impart a milder flavour and a thicker consistency than beef bones. This milder flavor makes the stock more versatile and allows it to be used in a wider range of dishes.

Fish Stock

A well made fish stock is in my view the perfect foundation for a good fish soup and is quick and simple to make , probably the hardest part is finding the right fish bones to make your stock with . A basic fish stock is made in a very similar manner to any other white stock but with a much shorter cooking time than even Chicken stock. My favourite fish stock recipe produces a mild flavoured, gelatinous clear  liquid which is fantastic as the foundation for your seafood dishes.

Fish Fumet

Fish Fumet and fish stock are often talked about as though they are the same thing, probably because fumet is very commonly used 

Japanese Fish stock or Dashi

 

Vegetable stock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rob Galloway

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for visiting, I'm Rob  a passionate home cook and my creative outlet is my kitchen.  Livetocook.com is my way of keeping a track of my culinary learnings and my favourite recipes, please think of it as a personal journal of my cooking mis-adventures . I hope you get as much enjoyment out of your visit as I get from creating it. And please always feel free to get in touch with your feedback or just to say Hi, we look forward to hearing from you.

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