For many people cooking is nothing but a chore, but for those of us who love to dive into the exciting world of flavours, aromas and textures, it's an adventure. If you're ready to up your game and take your food to the next level, you need to think and cook like a professional chef. While inspiration and creativity will help you dish out delicacies with your signature style and fair, understanding the principles behind the art of cooking will ensure your creations will look and taste fantastic, every single time. Here are some hacks and tips to set you up for restaurant style stunning dishes at home.
9 Cooking Tips To Try At Home:
1. Understand the science of cooking:
They say that cooking is an art-form, but at its core, it is a science. Once you learn how ingredients interact with different kinds of heat, and how preparation styles, techniques and flavours work together, you can leverage this knowledge to create stunning creations that are easy to cook. For example, did you know that toasting dry spices before pounding allows aromatic components to bloom, and activates essential oils? This gives your spice blend a much more complex flavour profile. Similarly, dry spices are always at the beginning to help construct robust base flavours, while fresh herbs are usually added at the end to accent and highlight elements within the dish.
2. Learn how flavours relate to each other:
A pinch of salt added to a dessert, or a dash of sourness to bitter opens the palette to new gastronomic experiences. When the 5 basic kinds of tastes - sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami - are used masterfully in different combinations and degrees, it can elevate any dish to restaurant-style food. A good hack is to stock your pantry with a few secret ingredients that will deliver these flavours for quick and easy cooking. A splash of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce brings a savoury and umami taste forward, a dollop of miso paste or Thai fish sauce will give your dish a salty-sweet finish, while pomegranate molasses packs a punch of tanginess to any dish.
3. Work with textures:
A gastronomical experience is more than just about taste - it's about sight, aroma and texture as well. Textures refer to those qualities of food that can be felt by the finger, tongue, palate or teeth, and being able to delicately balance varying textures within a dish will help create that luxurious feel of restaurant style food at home. A thin broth can be accentuated with firm, just-done vegetables, while velvety, creamy soups come alive with some crunchy croutons. Dishes with a soft, runny consistency are elevated through crunchy chips or crispy fried accompaniments. A rich stew pairs wonderfully with chewy sourdough or multigrain bread, while a creamy dessert is accentuated by a jammy coulis or crunchy nuts.
4. Respect the process:
While there are a number of easy hacks and tips to make life easier in the kitchen, sometimes there are no shortcuts when creating stunning gourmet food at home. It is important to know what rules you need to follow during the cooking process, and why. Marinades, for example, are used to enhance flavour, change surface texture, moisturise and tenderise. They need time to develop and react with the main ingredient, and cannot be rushed. Some grains and pulses need to be soaked overnight to fully rehydrate before cooking. On the other hand, some foods will lose their texture and form if overcooked - think of what happens to rice if you leave it cooking for too long! Gourmet cooking isn't difficult if you follow some basic principles, and understand the techniques involved.
5. Recipes as guides, not regulations:
As you embark on your culinary journeys, recipes will be your foundation blocks, where you will learn ratios and cooking methods. However, once you've mastered a recipe, you should not feel confined by it. Try adaptations to create a fresh spin on an old recipe, and make it truly your own. You can increase spice levels or decrease the amount of sugar - but make sure it doesn't upset the balance of the dish. Sometimes swapping out one ingredient for another can create a whole new flavour or texture. Start by changing a single ingredient, test and then decide if you want to make more changes. The satisfaction of connecting yourself to your heritage and bringing back old memories when crafting a classic dish with a modern twist is soul-satisfying.
6. Swap and roll:
Ingredients are extremely versatile. If you understand the role a particular ingredient plays in a dish, you can easily find substitutes based on what you have in your pantry, or a healthier option to the original ingredient. For example, you can satisfy a sweet craving with cane sugar, maple syrup or raw honey, even if the recipe calls for refined sugar. Spinach is a great substitute for Kale, and vice versa. The possibilities are endless! Just think about the flavours of the original ingredients and look for something that adds the same sweet, salty, spicy, savoury, tart, acidic or bitter flavour, and create your own individual style.
7. Challenge the norm:
We are conditioned to think that certain foods go together, or need to be prepared in a certain way. As you unlock your inner gourmet chef, you will need to think outside the box. Unusual food combinations need the willingness to try something new. Norm: salty foods go well with sweet ones. Challenge: salty, sweet, hot and cold - all at the same time. A spicy chocolate avocado milkshake perhaps or a balsamic vinaigrette flavoured with strawberry, or a banana, bacon and peanut butter trio sandwich? These unlikely pairings could turn out to be an unexpected delight.
8. Experimentation creates inspiration:
The more you experiment the more you will be inspired to create restaurant-style
meals at home which are easy to cook and amazing to taste. Experimentation works best when you know and understand the ingredients involved. Break it down to the basic proteins, carbohydrates, micronutrients, vitamins and fibers; find a way to make their flavours and textures work together, and you'll have a stunning dish on your table at the end of it.
9. Remember that Food is nutrition:
At the end of the day, a cook's sole purpose is to create a magical balance between nutrition and taste. Whether it's a fancy dish or a simple homemade meal, we need to nourish our bodies as well as our taste buds.
Author's bio: Celebrity Chef Jason is a restaurateur, an entrepreneur and flavour savant extraordinaire. His meteoric rise to youngest Executive Chef in the country was punctuated by stints with various luxury hospitality brands in India.
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