Lynda Booth reveals her 10 tips to make life easy in the kitchen, plus she shares her failsafe pasta recipe with Áilín Quinlan
LYNDA Booth called her new book Fearless Food in a bid, she says, to counteract the fact that more and more people are growing up with “a suspicion about food” and a lack of confidence in their kitchen skills.
“For them, food has become a threat,” explains Lynda, who runs her state-of-the-art, awardwinning cookery school, Lynda Booth’s Dublin Cookery School which has twice been voted Best Cookery School in Ireland.
“They constantly analyse what they can and what they can’t eat,” says Lynda.
“That’s really where the title comes from — it’s about taking the threat out of what should be a great pleasure in life. Cook more, analyse less, that’s the theme!
The use of the word “fearless” in the title also refers to having confidence in the kitchen, she adds:
“Cooking can be stressful if you’re not a confident cook or if you don’t have a repertoire of dishes that you can draw on.
“My task is to smuggle in some technique along the way so that if you cook one dish, you’re well on the way to having ideas for variants.
“It’s a book that will make a cook of you — you just won’t realise it!” Lynda’s 10 tips on how to cope with cooking and the kitchen:
Have at least three good-quality sharp kitchen knives:
“You should have a very good, medium to large, general chopping knife, a small utility knife, for chopping garlic, for example, and a good serrated knife which is suitable for everything from carving a joint of meat to peeling butternut squash,” she explains.
Ensure your kitchen boasts a well-stocked cupboard and fridge:
“Try to ensure you always have ingredients such as bay leaves, nice olive oil and grains such as cous-cous, bulgar rice and different types of rice — wild rice, thai rice, basmati rice for example, as well as different kinds of pasta,” she advises, adding that it’s also a good idea to have tins of chickpeas and coconut milk in stock, along with a supply of spices such as cumin coriander and smoked paprika, some balsamic vinegar, pesto and soy sauce.
Invest in good quality saucepans that will last for years. Add a good quality non- stick frying pan to your collection, and think about a griddle pan:
“Some of my favourite pieces of equipment are my non-stick frying pan and my cast-iron griddle pan for cooking things like fish, aubergines and courgettes,” she says. Don’t forget to get a non-slip mat for putting under your chopping board to ensure it won’t slip — however, a wet tea-towel or dishcloth will work well also.
Season as you go: “Season when you’re sweating your onions for example - seasoning with a little salt brings out the flavour,” says Lynda who advises that the cook should carefully control the amount of salt with a finger:
“The rule is ‘ a little as you go,’ she says, adding that when preparing joints of meat for roasting, it’s a good idea to season the meat well in advance of cooking - overnight, for example. “It will massively enhance the flavour,” she explains.
Cook what is in season — “at the moment for example, you’ll get lovely parsnips, carrots, baby turnips, tender-step broccoli and cavolo nero,” she points out. Use them, she advises.
Think ahead and batch-cook. When you have the time, double or triple the quantities for a particular dish, and then freeze in batches for consumption later in the week or the following week.
Make your own stock. “If I have a roast chicken I’ll always use the carcass for a stock - make the stock, reduce the broth and freeze it in ice cube trays. It’s a very simple process and it’s basically only about time on the stove while you get on with things.”
When draining pasta, reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid and add a dash of it back into the pot to mix with the sauce, she suggests:
“This creates an emulsion which coats the pasta when you serve it.”
Buy parmesan in a chunk, not readyground. Wrap in cheese paper or tinfoil, not in plastic. “After it’s used, keep the rinds whole and wrapped in tinfoil for use later on — it gives great depth and flavour to soups and casseroles,” Lynda explains.
Have hardy herbs to hand — grow your own herbs, she advises, even if it’s just in a pot on the windowsill: “Rosemary and thyme are hardy herbs and very useful in the kitchen!”
Fearless Food (€30.00) can be ordered from www.dublincookeryschool.ie and is on sale in major book stores
Lynda Booth says her book will make a cook out of the reader — they just won’t realise it’s happening.