Wednesday, 14 September 2011

For the Beginner in the Kitchen....

In recent months there has been a wave of cooking related programmes gracing our screens. This has inspired many of us to don the apron, locate the cupboard in the kitchen where the cooking utensils are hidden away and give cooking a go.

Food with a view...
For the beginner this can be quite daunting so we decided to go straight to the experts to get some tips.
We asked the Blue Book cookery schools for advice:
Ballymaloe cookery school, near Ballymaloe House,  Co Cork.
Dunbrody cookery school, home to chef Kevin Dundon, at Dunbrody House, Co Wexford.
Belle Isle cookery school chef and manager, Liz Moore, at Belle Isle Castle,  Co Fermanagh.

The top ten tips for beginners in the kitchen!
1. Preparation is key.
A lot of preparation can be started the day before and a list of when to do things can be useful. Before you start to cook, take out the utensils and weigh out all of your ingredients then place them all together in a convenient place.

2. Start off simple.
Make sure you start with a recipe that sounds appealing and is not too complicated. If it goes badly wrong, it may put you off for a while.

Liz Moore with students in Belle Isle cookery school
3. Think your timing through.
When are you planning on serving the dish, how long will it take to cook and if baking, how long to cool before serving? Sometimes an unfamiliar recipe can take longer than planned.

4. Prepare your cooking area.
Wash your hands thoroughly as well as the counter top and utensils you intend using.

Freshly baked Ballymaloe bread.
5. Use good quality, fresh ingredients.
Your food will already taste good before you start! You can be sure that there are many great local food suppliers in your area. A good place to start is the local farmers market.

6. Baking.
If you intend to bake, make sure you start in the morning when concentration tends to be at its best. Cakes and bread will need time to cool before serving so make any icing, or toppings you need during this time, or even set the table for dinner. 
A great tip for removing egg shells from batter is to use the remaining shell to attract the piece!

Class in progress with Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody cookery school.
7. Only use sharp knives.
Blunt knives can ruin food and are far more harmful if you get cut. Learn how to sharpen you knives and preferably use something bigger then a paring knife. They can be useful but not for chopping. Your butcher or friendly cookery school will show you how to go about it!

8. Let roast (beef, pork, lamb or poultry) sit before carving.
This is very important as this allows the juices to retreat back into the meat. If you carve too soon much of its goodness will spill out onto the chopping board.

Enjoy a stay at Ballymaloe house while attending Ballymaloe cookery school.
9. Remove the odour of garlic, onions and fish from your fingers by rubbing them under cold water and against stainless steel, e.g. the sink, at the same time.

10. Clean up!
To clean copper bottoms on pots and pans, open a can of tomato paste, rub it on and scrub, then rinse. If you do this weekly, your pots and pans will stay clean and shiny. This is a very inexpensive way to clean copper and brass items.
Liz gathering fresh herbs from the kitchen garden at Belle Isle cookery school.
So that's it! Keep it simple and you won't go wrong. If you think you could do with a little more help then why not try a cookery course? Enjoy the surroundings of a beautiful Blue Book house or hotel and avail of one of the many cookery courses available. The schools have a wide range of courses and cater for all levels. Click the links below for more information:

Dunbrody House.

The girls in the Blue Book office had a look at some recipes we think we could manage. Here is a lovely one from Belle Isle. Have a go and leave a comment below to let us know how you get on. Bon App├ętit!!!

Spaghetti with mussels and chilli (serves 4)
350g/12oz spaghetti
900g/2lbs. fresh mussels
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced or grated
6tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 large handfuls flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Sea salt

- Put a large pan of salted water on to boil.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente, usually about 8-10 minutes.
- Put the olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic and cook over a very gentle heat with the chilli. Do not colour the garlic or it will become bitter. 
-Add the mussels to the pan and place a lid on it. Shake slightly and then cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until the mussels have opened. (Discard any that do not open)
- Add the cooked pasta and parsley. Season and toss well. Serve hot with some fresh crusty bread and a drizzle of extra olive oil.

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