Many of us have been honing our cooking skills during lockdown and while we can now dine at our favourite restaurants again, there’s still a sense of accomplishment when you perfect that certain recipe or finally get your chopping skills up to scratch. While making your daily eggs on toast may seem manageable, there’s also so much to learn from our country’s culinary stars. Here are some easy chef’s hacks to add to your repertoire that will make you a true master in the kitchen.
A top hack from Salsify’s Ryan Cole is to invest in a good knife. “Learn how to use it and chopping will turn from a chore into a challenge,” he says.
Speaking of chopping, The Marabi Club’s Katlego Mlambo suggests always placing a wet cloth underneath your chopping board to avoid it slipping. He also suggests using a teaspoon when peeling ginger to avoid wastage.
Prep like a pro
When boiling eggs, Christina Semczyszyn of Tjing Tjing Momiji suggests adding a teaspoon of vinegar. This will help to stabilise the white if the egg cracks.
Katlego’s hot tip for the arduous task of prepping garlic? Simply soak in water for 5 minutes just before peeling. “It makes it so much easier!” he says.
The golden rule when frying mushrooms: “To a screaming hot pan, add salt then fry the mushrooms until they dump out all their water – then fry until the water has reduced completely, then add a knob of butter. This prevents soggy, flavourless mushrooms,” says Christina. She also suggests avoiding washing mushrooms in water: “Brush off any soil with a paper towel. Mushrooms are little sponges and will soak up extra water, which will just dilute their flavour.”
Serve with skill
Katlego also has a pro tip for when you’re serving pap: “Wrap a spoon in plastic wrap when dishing up pap,” he says, “it helps with the stickiness.” As for buttering your bread, Katlego suggests using a potato peeler when you’re in the tricky position of needing to peel hard butter.
Tjing Tjing’s Christina says double-dipping is a no-no. “Don’t double-dip spoons into homemade sauces. This seems to be a pretty common mistake people make. When you dip a spoon or knife into a sauce, touch it to your food and then put it back into the jar, it introduces something to the sauce that wasn’t meant to be there, which will cause it to spoil faster. The same goes with yoghurt. Keep it clean and it will last longer.”
Over-salted soups and stews? Christina suggests adding a halved potato and cooking for 15 minutes to absorb the salt.
Get the most out of your ingredients
Michael Cooke of Camphors at Vergelegen shares how to get two meals out of one meal prep:
“Roast a whole chicken (which is more than enough chicken for one meal, so I know we’re going to be stuck with leftovers!) on the braai. Once cooked, carve the chicken into its pieces then put the chicken carcass back on the braai to roast and get a bit of smoke. Once done, put the roasted carcass in a pot, fill with water until it’s just covering the carcass and throw in any veggies and herbs from the fridge that are wilting or passing their sell-by that you know you’ll be chucking out soon (a great way to avoid wasting any produce). Simmer for about an hour while you sit down to tonight’s dinner, then strain the stock – discarding the carcass and old veg – and keeping the flavourful broth.” You can then use the roast chicken meat for night one’s meal (Mike suggests serving it with a crunchy slaw) and for night two, make up a delicious ramen bowl. Simply boil up some noodles and add the broth plus any leftover shredded chicken.
Master your meat
Johannes Richter of LivingRoom at Summerhill Estate says that resting your meat properly is one of the most important things if you want to get the best out of a good steak or roast. “Letting meat relax and allowing for all the juices to settle just makes it so much juicier and more flavourful. After finishing it off, just leave it aside for a couple of minutes (depending on size) and only cut/serve once rested,” he says.
Peter Tempelhoff of FYN echoes this: “The golden rule is to rest the meat for as long as you cooked it before eating it.” He also adds that cooks should “never, never, never cool meat straight from the fridge; it must come to room temperature before seeing the pan or grill”. Lastly, Peter also suggests turning the meat on a very hot grill every 10-15 seconds until ready; this will guarantee a perfectly pink steak.