Posted in General, Technique

Technique: How to Caramelize Onions

Caramelized Onions 1

Cooking onions over a low flame for an extended period in order to cause the natural sugars to caramelize is something I do pretty regularly… at least once in any given week at least. Mostly, I do this on an ad hoc basis for a particular meal… as a topping for a steak, for example… but you can also do up a larger batch for keeping in the fridge, or freezer, and thus have then on hand for whenever the need arises.

In the above picture, you can see the end product of processing two large Spanish Onions. It may strike you that these are considerably lighter than the very dark, almost mahogany coloured versions you may have come across (and this is usually closer to how I would cook them for a single use), but for keeping, I find it best to stop the process before the onions lose their integrity and get too dark. That way, you can take a little at a time and, if you like, finish the process quickly by reheating… say, for putting on a burger… or you can simply add them as is to a stew, or sauce, or what have you… Anyway, the process is fairly simple… Continue reading “Technique: How to Caramelize Onions”

Posted in Technique

The Chinese ‘Velveting’ Technique


One of the secrets of Chinese Restaurant cookery is a process known as ‘velveting’ which gives meat or fish a silky, tender quality that many people find hard to reproduce at home. Basically, the idea is that the chosen ingredient, say, beef, or chicken, is first marinated in a mixture of egg-white, cornstarch, and some liquid (often rice wine or rice vinegar), and then briefly blanched in deep-fry oil, or sometimes water, before being cooked with the other ingredients of a (usually stir-fried) dish.

Quite honestly, I often don’t bother with a strictly proper velveting when making Chinese dishes as I usually wish to avoid trying to find a use of the leftover egg-yolks, but I frequently do a modified version where the egg-white, and sometimes the other liquid, is omitted. Indeed, you can find many, many any recipes here on my blog where I have done just that (Beef with Leek, for instance), but the effect is not quite the same as with the true technique. Accordingly, I am going to take a look at using the process (both oil-fried and water-blanched) here in this post today… Continue reading “The Chinese ‘Velveting’ Technique”

Posted in General, Technique

Technique: The Egg and Bottle Trick


Egg and Bottle 1

Have you seen this one yet?

I forget where I came across this trick but it makes the task of separating egg yolks from white so much simpler than the old, traditional method of pouring the egg back and forth between the two halves of a cracked open shell and letting the white dribble away a bit at a time. I know I’ve managed to tear the yolk on the edge of a shell many, many times, and, even when you don’t mess it up like that, the process is really slow. Here, you can achieve a perfect result in seconds and all you need (aside from eggs, of course) is an empty one of those soft drink, or water, bottles… Continue reading “Technique: The Egg and Bottle Trick”

Posted in General, Recipes, Technique

Crispy Fried Onions

Crispy Fried Onions 1

I can’t imagine serving an Indian Biriyani without including crispy fried onions on top of the dish. Indeed, this rather simple ingredient is not only just pretty much de rigueur for a Biriyani) where it is sometimes called ‘Birista’), rather, you can find also the condiment being added to many rice, meat and vegetable dishes in  India, Indonesia, and a host of other eastern cuisines.

In the west,  however, fried onions, either in the form of flakes or ‘strings’ are quite easily  available commercially in many supermarkets but  they still don’t seem to be as popular or as widely used as in Asia. One does find  them being used toppings for salads or burgers, from time to time, but not, as it happens, in  a great deal else.  This is unfortunate, really , as the sweet and savory flavor these onions provide could easily be adapted to many sorts of dishes , including omelets, ground meat mixtures, vegetable seasonings, or plain old sandwich toppings.

That being said, the commercial varieties available here, are often not all that good (being frequently stale or tasteless) but, luckily, the making the condiment at home is not at all complicated… Continue reading “Crispy Fried Onions”

Posted in Technique

Pan-Frying Good Quality Steak

Pan Fried T-bone 1

There are countless recipe book entries and web-pages promising to reveal the secret for cooking the perfect steak. Most involve complicated preparations and procedures and generally repeat certain ‘wisdoms’ which, for the most part, are largely nonsense. In my experience, most seasoning and ‘special’ techniques are mere window-dressing and, really, all that is required for a great result is choosing a good cut and avoiding over-cooking.

I love to barbecue but, often, pan-frying is the only practical method available. Some people pooh-pooh this as an appropriate cooking method for steak at any time, while others grudgingly suggest it may be okay for lesser cuts. In truth, however, as long as you are careful, you can begin with a pricey, top-quality piece of beef and produce some excellent results just using a pan… Continue reading “Pan-Frying Good Quality Steak”

Posted in Technique

The Soup Dumpling Secret

Soup Dumplings 01

If you have ever tried any of the Chinese delicacies generally known as ‘soup-dumplings’ or their (often) larger, and well-known cousins, Xiaolongbao, you have probably enjoyed the way that the steaming, liquid content squirts in your mouth when you bite into them. Quite possibly, it also occurred to you to wonder how on earth the cook gets the delicious broth into the dumplings in the first place…

Not long ago, when I featured the technique for making a Basic Chinese Pork Stock, I hinted at this ancient Chinese secret. If you haven’t guessed the answer yet, read on…  Continue reading “The Soup Dumpling Secret”

Posted in Recipes, Technique

Roasting Red Peppers…

Roasting Red Peppers 01

Roasted Red Peppers that have been marinated in olive oil make a lovely Italian Antipasto style Appetizer but they are great to have on hand for a variety of other uses. They can be added to a whole variety of more complex hot and cold dishes, are fantastic when pureed for sauces and condiments, make great garnishes when sliced or dices attractively, and, on a more pedestrian level, go great on sandwiches and wraps. You can buy some fairly decent pre-made varieties in jars, or occasionally in bulk from the deli section of the supermarket, but they are easy enough to prepare at home and the results are far better… Continue reading “Roasting Red Peppers…”

Posted in Technique

Pressing Tofu…

Pressing Tofu 1

The firm tofu you purchase at the supermarket has already been pressed during manufacture in order to from it into blocks but many recipes require that it be pressed even further to remove as much water as possible. As I have a number of recipe posts planned that will require this process, I am doing up this simple preliminary post now so as to save repeating myself several times later…  Continue reading “Pressing Tofu…”