Each month we ask our foodies for their expert tips and ideas for our kitchen queries.
Your curly kitchen questions answered by our team of experts.
Q How do you make gravy from scratch? Transfer your roasted meat to a warm place to rest and tip the pan juices and any rendered fat into a heatproof bowl. Place the roasting pan over medium heat and deglaze with a cup of white wine (for chicken, fish or pork) or red wine (for beef or lamb). Use verjuice or a vinegar/ water, citrus juice/water combo if you don’t use alcohol (though it will burn off as you deglaze). When it’s reduced and taken up the burnished bits on the base of the pan, stir in a little of the rendered fat and a spoonful of cornflour. Stir until it’s a tan colour, then slowly stir in the pan juices. Add stock or water to get the desired consistency. The flour will thicken it gradually, so go slow. Season it with salt and an acidic ingredient, to taste.
Q What cuts of meat should I slow cook? Secondary cuts of meat, which typically have more flavour than primary or tender cuts, really come into their own when given the low and slow treatment. My top choices for beef are gravy beef (boneless beef shin), osso buco (bone-in shin), chuck steak and brisket. Pork shoulder is my pick for pulled pork. It’s often sold as a pork shoulder roast, and can be diced for curries or slow-roasted whole, too. You’ll also find it sliced into pork ‘scotch fillet steaks’, which you can dice for slow-braised dishes. There are endless possibilities with the humble chicken maryland, whether slow-cooked in a Moroccan tagine or slowly braised in an Italian tomato sauce.
Q Why are my scones dry and tough? ‘Gently does it’ is your motto with scones, as they require a very light touch. One key error is being heavy-handed with the dough. Only use the tips of your fingers to rub in the butter, lightly lifting and dropping the mixture. (I use very cold butter, grated instead of chopped, to speed this up.) When patting the dough into a disc, do it quickly and lightly. As for cooking, they’re done if they sound hollow when tapped – avoid overcooking. Take them out and cover with a tea towel to help them steam as they cool slightly.
Q Can I cook a normal recipe in a slow cooker? Many stews can be modified for a slow cooker. Liquid increases in a slow cooker due to condensation (instead of evaporating), so you need to reduce the liquid in the recipe by half. You’ll also need to simmer it (on High or the Simmer setting) at the end with the lid off to thicken the sauce. Brown meat in a frying pan before adding it, too, for extra flavour.
Q How do I avoid curdled creamy soup? Overheating is usally the culprit. Soups with cream are best cooked over low heat. The safest way to add small quantities of dairy (up to 13 ⁄ cup) is to remove the soup from the heat and stir it in. If you’re adding more than this, keep the soup on a very low heat – no boiling! Or, use crème fraîche or cream for cooking, which are designed to withstand heat and won’t curdle.