Beautiful cook books with beautiful pictures

I urge non trained chefs to go to their local bookshop today and purchase any cook book that is filled with fantastic food pictures. Take the first recipe and picture that catches your eye, follow the recipe and instructions to prepare the dish. Lay the dish on chosen crockery and compare the finished dish with that of the dish in the book and see if they look the same. If they do not look the same, this is because you do not have the basic cooking methods that the chefs have who prepared the dish in the book. However, all is not lost and it is never too late to start to get these basic cooking fundamentals to ensure that every dish you make will turn out just fine as if prepared by professional chefs. I try to keep Chef’s Tales as simple as possible to ensure everyone understands that basic fundamentals are whats needed to ensure you have the gift and skills to experiment on your own. Sometimes chefs even use terms and words that you do not understand and get lost in translation making the finished dish impossible to duplicate. I would hope that Chef’s Tales becomes like a classroom to arm you with the skills to follow any recipe given and to ensure that you are cooking wonderful meals for your loved ones you can be proud of at home. I will also start to compile a list of culinary terms used by trained chefs so that when these terms arise in cooking methods you understand what they are talking about which should help you follow the instructions more easily. Happy Cooking!

All Meat Stocks

General proportions of ingredients for all stocks except fish stock

  • 4 liters Water
  • 2 Kg Raw bones
  • ½ Kg Hard Vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, leeks)
  • 1 Piece Bouquet Garni (thyme, bay leafs, parsley stalks)
  • ½ Pc Whole Garlic Bulb (not a segment the whole thing)
  • A dozen assorted peppercorns
  • 60 Grams Tomato Paste (Brown stocks only)

General method to make all types of white stocks

  1. Chop all bones and remove any fat.
  2. Place in a large thick bottomed pot and fill with cold water.
  3. Bring it to a slow simmer.
  4. As the stock comes to a simmer, scum will form in the centre as it is pushed from the outside of the pot, this has to be skimmed off with a ladle or spoon and discarded.
  5. When it is simmering without any more accumulation of foam or scum, the other ingredients can be added.
  6. The stock should be simmered for at least 8 hours, for optimum results and to ensure that all the flavour is out of the bones, they should be simmered until the bones can be crumbled with your thumb nail.
  7. When the stock is simmered for a long period of time, clean cold water can be added to top up the stock level due to the ongoing evaporation process.

General method to make all types of brown stocks

  1. Chop all bones and lay them in a heavy roasting tray.
  2. Carefully roast the bones without burning (burning will make the stock bitter)
  3. When the bones are golden brown, drain off all oil.
  4. Add the bones to a large thick bottomed pot and fill with cold water.
  5. Pour most of the oil out of the roasting pan and then add the tomato paste.
  6. Cook on top of a stove for 5 minutes then add the hard vegetables & Garlic bulb.
  7. Stir until golden brown, again without burning.
  8. Add all ingredients to the bones in the pan.
  9. Bring it to a slow simmer.
  10. As the stock comes to a simmer, scum will form in the centre as it is pushed from the outside of the pot, this has to be skimmed off with a ladle or spoon and discarded. (you must ensure that you do not skim off all the ingredients you just added when you do this).
  11. The stock should be simmered for at least 8 hours, for optimum results and to ensure that all the flavour is out of the bones, they should be simmered until the bones can be crumbled with your thumb nail.
  12. Every few hours any scum or oil collecting in the middle of the pot again, has to be skimmed off.
  13. When the stock is simmered for a long period of time, clean cold water can be added to top up the stock level due to the ongoing evaporation process.

 

 

Notes:

When making stocks, especially meat stocks, they should be a labour of love and lots of care has to be taken to ensure the stock has the most flavour possible. Every day you can go through the fridge to find any bits and pieces of hard vegetables, tomatoes, herbs or even small scraps of the types of meat the stock is derived from and add them to the “works in progress” (all meat must be browned first before being added). However the stock pot is not a garbage bin to add all rotten ingredients that have to be used up, always remember, Garbage in Garbage out! The “Stock Pot” can be simmering for up to a week at a time, whilst the chefs keep scooping off the contents of the pot with a ladle as they use it to make soups or sauces during service. The better the quality of the stock, the better the quality of the soups and sauces made form the stock. Most of the televised cooking shows do not explain the importance of the quality of stock when making any dishes that require it, the difference to the end result is astounding.

You never, ever boil a stock as this will ensure that impurities in the liquid will boil back into the stock making the stock cloudy and dull. When the stock is cloudy, the finished sauce made form this stock will be light brown in colour and will not have the dark clear shine to it when added to any dish and will not be impressive when spooned on a white dinner plate. Stocks can be made from all bones including, beef, chicken, veal, pheasant, duck, lamb and so on and so forth. When serving any meat, the stock to make the sauce should be the same as the meat being served, when serving duck for example, duck stock should be used to make the sauce to match the meat being served and thereby increase the taste and aroma of the dish.

Simple Fish Stock for Everyone

FISH STOCK

  • 4 Liters Water
  • 2 Kg White Fish Bones (red fish bones will darken the stock)
  • 200g Onion
  • 50g Butter
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Parsley Stalks
  • 6 whole white peppercorns

METHOD

  1. Melt the butter in a thick bottom pan.
  2. Add the sliced onions, the well washed and rinsed fish bones.
  3. Cover with a lid and sweat for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the water, bring to a slow simmer.
  5. Skim and continue to simmer for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Strain through a fine cloth.

Notes: It is very important to wash the bones stringently, therefore getting rid of as much blood off the bones as you possibly can, otherwise the blood will darken the stock. If you require a light in colour fish stock to be used for a cream sauce for example, it is important not to brown or add colour to any of the ingredients whilst they are sweating. Any colouration of the ingredients will darken the stock therefore darkening the finished cream sauce. When bringing the stock to a simmer, it is important not to boil the stock; as if the stock boils the rising impurities will mix inside the stock and make it cloudy.

As the stock simmers impurities will rise to the top and all these are not needed, therefore they have to be skimmed off with a ladle or spoon and then discarded. When skimming off the impurities it is important not to skim off the ingredients that you have just added at the same time, if you do that then you waste them by throwing them away as well and the stock will not taste as good. Due to the fact that fish bones are smaller and softer, 20 minutes of simmering time should be enough to get out all the flavour and the marrow from inside the joints. Fish stock is an essential base that can be used for all fish sauces and soups.

Making Stocks for soups and sauces

Stocks are the basis to all good soups and sauces, they have to be nurtured with care. some will take days to simmer to perfection, but it will be totally worth it.There is a saying in the industry which goes, Garbage in Garbage out! This week I am going to give you some good tips on making stocks, so please ensure you come back everyday to get them.

Private online Chef – Fantastic and Professional cooking tips entirely free

I would like to share my knowledge to anyone who would like to learn basic cooking skills so that they can learn how to cook gourmet meals themselves at home. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to inspire but one person to cook themselves or their loved ones a home cooked meal. The basic family structure can be strengthened by all the family members sitting around their own private dining table recounting their day and relating their experiences over dinner. To help this become a reality, good tasting and healthy food has to be a step in the right direction. I am willing to answer any question, no matter how silly it may seem to the person asking the question, in total privacy to ensure the person does not feel embarrassed.

If you allow everyone to benefit from the answer please post the question on Chef’s Tales blog by sending me a comment. They will be published in the Questions and Answers page here. If you would like privacy, please e-mail me the question. If you do not know how to make real mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, basic sauces, soups, vegetables or even dressings then I am the person you need to know. If I do not know the answer to your question, I will find the answer or put you in contact to another professional more suited to the question asked. I will try to give you directions that are easy to follow, make logical sense and help you to understand the basic science that I have studied for over 30 years. If anyone needs any help,I am right here…..and its completely free!!! All I request is that you tell your friends about it so that I can increase the volume of people visiting my blog. Sincere thanks.

Learning how to be a Chef

When somebody wants or dreams to be a chef, they have to remember one simple rule and that is that if they are going to be a successful chef, they have to love to cook from the heart and not just because they want a regular pay check. Being a chef is a way of life, you have to dream about cooking when you are asleep, you have to think about food when you are conducting your daily life’s rituals that have nothing to do with the subject of cooking. You must live to eat and not eat to live. You must live, eat & breathe food, hotels, restaurants, magazines, cook books and listen to anyone who is willing to talk to you about food. You must never think that you know it all, you must stay humble and always believe that others know more than you. You must forget about celebrating with your friends, as they will be celebrating whilst you are working and they working whilst you celebrate. You must forget about the clock and stop watching it. If you can do all this and more, then you are ready to start to learn the art of cooking from the bottom….washing lettuce, peeling potatoes and onions whilst peeping over your chefs shoulders when they are not looking. This after you have been successful and passed your cooking exams. All your dreams are going to come true and your future truly is in your own hands. Happy Cooking!

Cooking Fundamentals

When people want to learn how to cook, following basic recipes from a cook book is not always the best way to go. They need to know the fundamentals first so they can understand the basics and therefore learn to experiment themselves. A very simple example to illustrate my point would be boiled potatoes. If you think simplistically, when boiling potatoes, the way they cook, is the water they are boiling in penetrates the outside of the potatoes working its way to the middle. As the water works its way through the layers, the potato cooks from the outside in. The potato will cook more the longer it boils, until eventually after boiling for long enough, it will be cooked all the way through. Therefore, with this very basic logic you can determine that if you boil the potatoes with plain water, all the potatoes are going to taste like is….yes you have got it, just water! So therefore, whatever you place in the water before boiling the potatoes will absorb into the inside of the potato making the potato taste like that particular added ingredient. When you start to decide what you want the potatoes to taste like and start to experiment with ingredients, is the time you actually start to cook and the moment in time that you are really creating and a simple boiled potato starts to be your own personal creation.

It’s all in the Game

As it was a pre-opening and we had time on our hands, my Executive Sous Chef suggested that since it was now winter in Hong Kong, I might like to go with him to a game restaurant to explore possible menu ideas. Not really knowing what he was talking about, I went along anyway because I was keen to try as many new things as possible. We arrived at the appointed restaurant, which was located down a back street, or more rather some dark alley, such that you would never be able to find it a second time even if you wanted to. The owner and chef came out to greet us, and told us that if we were willing he would like to play a little game with us. He would bring out the food and as we finished each course, we would have to guess what we had just eaten. It sounded a little scary to me given that this was Hong Kong, but as I did want to try things, and was also keen to fit in, I went along with it.

The first dish we ate was a very strong smelling, yet clear soup, which the chef said was, “Good for the body”, which part I wondered.
He asked us what we thought it was. Well I surmised, it was a game restaurant, and it was a soup. “Pheasant” I said.

“What, what the hell is pheasant?” came the reply.

I knew then that I was in trouble, and this was going to be a long, long night.

Our host went into the kitchen and brought out a large cage on a wheeled trolley, covered by a dirt white blanket. He did his trick of pulling away the blanket like a television magician, revealing a huge, slimy, long-tongued, uglier that anything I had seen…lizard. My stomach started to turn over straight away and I thought I was going to throw up on my shoes, and for that matter, on everyone else’s.

Then came the next course, a small bowl of some kind of stronger smelling heavy stew. I nibbled at it since my appetite was already suffering under the enormous strain. “Game Restaurant”, I whispered to myself, “I’ll give him GAME restaurant.”

Out came the dreaded cage once again, and away went the blanket to reveal a beautiful Snowy White Owl, it’s huge eyes looking deep into mine. That, my friends was the last straw.

I didn’t care any more if I was going to fit in or not. Dinner was over for me and, as the next course came out, I announced that I was out of the game. So as not to cause offence, I decided to ask for something safe instead, and with which I was familiar.

“Hey, how about just giving me some chicken chow mein” I asked pleadingly.

The manager looked at me extremely confused, “Chicken chow what?” he said. “Chow mein” I reiterated.

“Are you trying to be funny?”, he responded angrily. “If you don’t like the food, I understand but there is no reason to be rude.”

“What the heck was he talking about?” I asked Tan my assistant, and then he told me that he had been living in Hong Kong all his life and he had never heard of this dish. What was worse, “chow” translated from Cantonese to English is “stink!”

For the full years I was in Hong Kong, I was unable to find a single restaurant that had heard of the famous “Chicken Chow Mein,” much less had it on their menu.

My protestations of being full had still not spared me from the third course. This was another thick stew, which the owner told us, “Is made especially to keep the body warm during winter,” while pulling away the trolley curtain to reveal a somewhat scabby-looking dog.

This time I tried a different track.

“I think I must have eaten something which did not agree with me at lunch earlier today.” I mustered.

This at least seemed to do the trick. Though still trying to extend hospitality and feeling sorry for me being unable to eat the delights of the main meal, he brought out some steamed prawns and fish insisting that it would make me feel better. Guess what, my appetite was indeed encouraged back to life!

The whole experience showed me though that if you have the taste for something and the money to pay for it, you can find it and eat it in Hong Kong.