MATT PRE­STON

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

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - MATT PRE­STON

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.

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