The Kardashians are known for their advanced pantry organisation skills but can they kook? Here are my top 10 rules for truly excelling in the kitchen
Ten simple rules for home cooks.
THE OCD world gasped when Kourtney Kardashian revealed her hyper-organised pantry recently. But it takes more than a few religiously arranged cereal containers to master the kitchen. To graduate from an OK home cook to a great one requires learning the 10 Kulinary Kommandments, which should underpin everything you do. Take note.
CONFIDENCE I suspect ingredients can smell our fear and misbehave accordingly, so be bold when you cook.
UNDERSTANDING Know that things will usually turn out differently if you substitute ingredients in a recipe or if you fail to follow a recipe from a trusted source. Think before you do it.
SIMPLICITY It’s far easier to make three ingredients coherent than a dozen. It is about balance, which leads us neatly to…
BALANCE I love the way Thai cooking mixes sour, sweet, hot, salty and sometimes bitter. It’s something that is equally important in home cooking.
Often a dish needs a bit of acidity, salt or sweetness to bring it into focus. I see it as sharpening the flavour or rounding out the flavour profile. That’s why when making something very sweet and sour like a barbecue sauce, I add a shot of espresso for a touch of bitterness. You won’t taste the coffee but compare the two sauces and the one with the shot will be mellow and less sweet.
SEASONING More often than not, seasoning needs to be bolder. I like to season with salt and something acid like a squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar at the end of cooking rather than pepper.
CONTRAST So often, a good dish can become sensational with the addition of something creamy against all the crunchy textures; maybe something nutty against the smooth; or something sour to help alleviate all that meaty saltiness. It’s why crunchy fries go so well with mayonnaise, and makes salt a natural partner to vinegar.
UNDERSTAND UMAMI This mysterious fifth taste is the secret to the savouriness we so often crave, whether it’s Australians with their Vegemite, Italians with their love of parmesan and tomatoes, or Japanese with their worship of shiitake mushrooms and dashi broths.
I’m always looking to supercharge dishes with everything from parmesan crusts to adding mashed anchovies or smoked bacon to the base of a stew.
COMPLEXITY While straightforward combos like tomato and cheese, cashew and chicken, or ham and pineapple are always winners, I’m constantly searching for that extra ingredient to push a dish to a less predictable place.
It could be adding tarragon to that cheese and ham sandwich, coriander seed or maple syrup to a chicken roast with cashews, or caramelising pineapple with a little sugar to bring a bitterness and sweetness to the bite of the fruit. As you’re experimenting, make sure to taste again and again and again.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT While it is important to listen to advice, to find trustworthy sources for recipes and to remember all those little “one-percenters” that lift your cooking (like salting the water for pasta properly or emulsifying your sauce with a little of the starchy pasta water), NOTHING replaces practice.
That’s one of the challenges for home cooks – the “signature dishes” they make when friends come round are not cooked nearly as often as the everyday dishes.
I’m forever striving to develop recipes that are bulletproof and will deliver something close to the promise in the introduction and the picture in the book even when you cook them the first time. TRUST YOUR GUT Once you understand these commandments, you need to learn that your instinct on everything, from whether to cook something longer, to what ingredient to add (or how much of it), is usually right.
One word of caution, though: go slow and don’t overcommit. I’ll always remind myself to add potentially dominating ingredients, like fish sauce, sugar or salt, in small batches, tasting along the way, to avoid disasters.