Ask Felicity Cloake: readers grill our resident culinary perfectionist | Food

What's the logic behind the meals deemed appropriate for the British breakfast? Historically, we eat bacon however not ham, kidneys however not liver, haddock however not cod, kedgeree however not curry. I do know there are particular person and regional variations, however the taboos nonetheless appear eccentric.
Matthew, Aberystwyth

Full English Breakfast served on a cafe style blue table – eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms and grilled tomato. Served with toast, coffee and a fresh orange.

There isn't a logic, as a result of it isn’t truly a really outdated custom – look again at Victorian or Edwardian breakfast menus, and every part was truthful recreation, from pasta to pickled herrings, mutton chops and onion soup. I think the fashionable “guidelines” about what's and isn’t breakfast meals come up from the truth that today a cooked breakfast is usually consumed exterior the house, in busy cafes with cramped kitchens, which limit them to a sure, a lot smaller number of dishes – favouring pretty low cost, straightforward to organize meals with an extended shelf life and extensive attraction, equivalent to bacon and eggs, slightly than turbot au gratin or devilled pheasant.

I like spaghetti carbonara, however don't eat meat. I’m additionally not eager on “not bacon” as a result of it’s processed nonsense. Any strategies?
Michael, Manchester
I usually make a type of carbonara with strips of courgettes, slightly than pork, and it’s scrumptious, but it surely doesn’t hit the umami spot you’re looking for. I think the very best substitute could be mushrooms, lower into lardon shapes and fried with just a little garlic and a pinch of smoked paprika, as the bottom of the sauce. Let me know the way this goes – I’m fairly intrigued now.

Felicity Cloake’s perfect vegetarian chilli.
{Photograph}: Ola O Smit./The Guardian. Meals and prop styling: Frankie Unsworth.

I feel my cooking is boring. I’d prefer to make extra meatless dishes – eg, lentils, beans, and many others – however don’t know the way to spice them up or make them kid-friendly.
Kate, North Carolina, US
Snap – I’m additionally making an attempt to eat extra beans and pulses in the mean time. I feel a simple means to have a look at it's to consider your favorite meat dishes, and use those self same flavours with greens, beans or no matter – consider a bean chilli or courgette carbonara, for instance. It sounds apparent, however acquainted flavours and reference factors are a great way to get children, particularly, to strive new issues, particularly if they will add cheese or ketchup on high. Don’t be afraid to be daring together with your seasoning – greens and pulses can take it – and think about investing in a guide or two for inspiration (I'm now the proud proprietor of two books on bean cooking).

What are your favorite cheats and timesavers? Are there any (not so) responsible secret jars and pastes that you just use to shortcut to the straightforward life?
Lawrence, Hong Kong
After I’m not testing recipes, I are inclined to maintain cooking fairly easy, so although there are some glorious time-saving pastes and sauces available on the market, they don’t play an enormous half in my life. Issues I do normally have readily available to make life simpler: jars of fried shallots for topping noodles (you by no means remorse having some good high quality on the spot noodles knocking round for a fast dinner with a boiled egg and a few chopped greens or pickles on high); Gentleman’s Relish for including savoury oomph for completely every part (Marmite additionally works effectively if cooking for vegetarians, and, with butter, makes a wonderful sauce for dried pasta); frozen whole-leaf spinach and sauerkraut or kimchi for when you might have completely nothing recent in the home; pecorino or parmesan; eggs; tinned fish (I’m a sucker for sardines on toast); and chilli oil, for sticking on all the above.

Cloake’s favourite: Jane Grigson, author of the Observer Guide to British Cookery.
{Photograph}: John Wildgoose/The Observer

Who's your favorite cookery author?
Craig, Yorkshire
That’s a very powerful one, as a result of I've many, however somebody who I don’t assume will get sufficient recognition in the present day (maybe as a result of she’s usually overshadowed by her extra well-known pal, Elizabeth David) is Jane Grigson, who was for a few years the Observer’s cookery columnist, and an endlessly curious, quietly erudite author whose recipes are each dependable and a jolly good learn.

I’ve by no means had a lot doings with new-fangled issues, however with my daughter now off to uni, and a restricted funds, I’ve invested in a combi oven that apparently has a microwave, grill, oven and air fryer. Why do I have to fry air? Please assist. I’m fairly a conventional cook dinner, so how do I alter to this new single particular person with no ravenous teen to fill life?
, Sheffield
Although the air fryer is, for my part, misleadingly named, provided that it’s truly a tiny oven, slightly than any kind of fryer, I feel you’re going to search out it extraordinarily helpful, as a result of it permits you to cook dinner small quantities of meals shortly, relative to a normal oven, and utilizing far much less power. Something you’d like crisp, slightly than microwaved, is an efficient candidate, from single cookies to roast greens to sausages. You possibly can even make fairly first rate chips in there, with out the necessity for gallons of oil.

A baked potato: try microwaving first to save energy.
{Photograph}: robynmac/Getty Photos/iStockphoto

You probably did a How to cook the perfect jacket spud again within the days of cheaper power, however what's the most cost-effective strategy to cook dinner one now? It’s a favorite consolation meal for a lot of, however with power costs as they're, it is going to be coming off many individuals’s menus, which might be a disgrace, except you'll be able to inform us the way to cook dinner them for much less.
Ben, Ipswich
I requested Dr Christian Reynolds, senior lecturer on the Centre for Meals Coverage, Metropolis College, London, about this not too long ago, and he recommends cooking them by means of within the microwave, then briefly crisping up the skins in a scorching oven to complete – ideally, one you’re utilizing for one thing else (as a result of who would put the oven on for only one meal today?). It’s not an ideal resolution, but it surely’s higher than going with out jacket potatoes.

My associate can't eat garlic or onion. What are the very best options?
Alan, London
I’m assuming this implies different members of the identical household, equivalent to leeks, shallots, wild garlic and spring onions, are additionally out? In that case, it’s a tough one, as a result of alliums have a particular, virtually sulphurous flavour that’s tough to recreate, although sauteed, finely chopped celery and inexperienced pepper or carrot will make a good base for stews, soups and so forth with out them, whereas fennel has an identical texture, if a slightly totally different style. Jain and Brahmin Indians, who keep away from onion and garlic for non secular causes, usually add a pinch of asafoetida, or hing, to meals as a substitute – don’t be delay by the scent of the powder: as soon as cooked, it blends seamlessly into the opposite substances so as to add a refined, however particular savoury notice. In actual fact, for those who’re each eager on Indian meals, their recipes could be price trying out.

Felicity Cloake’s perfect chocolate cake: but how much chocolate to use?
{Photograph}: Lizzie Mayson/The Guardian. Meals styling: Tamara Vos. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins

I’ve been making your wonderful Perfect Chocolate Cake for greater than a decade, with various success. I'd love to be extra decisive when taking it out of the oven; I usually go away it longer, considering it’s too wobbly on high, however the top consequence then finally ends up just a little dry. The opposite factor is, the place do you stand in relation to the cocoa proportion within the chocolate used? Is 55% OK?
Annie, Hertfordshire
Oh pricey, I’m hoping that “various success” refers solely to how presentable the cake appears – in my expertise, even an under- or overbaked chocolate cake remains to be scrumptious (for those who drastically overbake it, it’s fairly good damaged into chunks and tossed by means of Greek yoghurt or crumbled on high of ice-cream, perhaps soaked in a fruit syrup or a little bit of booze to moisten it first). Ideally, nevertheless, it could be good, and meaning it has a crust that’s fully set on high, however which, for those who shake it, has simply the slightest trace of a wobble within the centre: not a wave throughout the entire cake, however not a strong biscuit, both. Take a cautious notice of timings when you obtain perfection, as a result of each oven differs. Concerning the chocolate, it’s largely a matter of style - particularly, how intense you need the cocoa flavour to be and the way candy your tooth is. I have a tendency to make use of 70% cocoa chocolate to check, however for those who desire 55%, by all means use that. A part of the enjoyment of cooking for me is making a recipe my very own. Good luck.

Do you might have any recommendation on the way to make vegetable inventory?
Bridget, Birmingham
The pungent, dried celery notes of some business vegetable shares spoil them for me, which is why I have a tendency to make use of hen as a default (it has a extra impartial, savoury character), however a greater resolution is to make your individual. My golden rule is to consider the steadiness of flavours (virtually something however bitter brassicas and starchy spuds will work, however for those who go too heavy on the foundation veg trimmings, say, you’ll find yourself with a really candy inventory); carrot tops, onion ends and celery are an excellent base. Mushrooms add umami, and different herbs and greens (garlic, ginger, chives, fennel tops, spices and many others) might be added to style. For a extra intense flavour, roast or saute the veg in oil or butter first, to caramelise them, and think about including dried mushrooms, seaweed or tomatoes, too. And don’t overlook to season it.

Felicity Cloake’s sweet potato fries.
{Photograph}: Dan Matthews/The Guardian

I like chips, however I’m making an attempt to eat extra veg and I can by no means get candy potato wedges crisp sufficient or chip-like. They flip right into a soggy clump if too thick and burnt matchsticks if too skinny.
Diana, Manchester
A number of issues: rinse them first, to get as a lot starch off the floor as attainable; par-boil, so the outsides don’t burn earlier than the middles are cooked by means of; and coat them with one thing that may crisp up, equivalent to seasoned cornflour. And I’m afraid that, as with odd chips, for best results you really need to fry them slightly than bake them. I’d apologise, however the outcomes are so scrumptious that I don’t assume you’ll remorse it.

I bake two gluten-free muffins that I like: Gino d’Acampo’s bella caprese and Nigella’s Venetian carrot cake (because of your pointer from the perfect carrot cake). I’m in search of others. What are you able to counsel?
Marcie, Huddersfield
The basic that springs to thoughts is Claudia Roden’s famous orange and almond cake, in her Book of Middle Eastern Food, a easy recipe that has spawned a thousand imitations (Roden herself obtained it from her brother’s first spouse’s Syrian grandmother). She additionally has a stunning Turkish walnut cake in her current guide Med that might match the invoice, and, unsurprisingly, I like the pink grapefruit and pistachio cake from my very own guide, The A-Z of Eating. In case you’re sick of nuts, polenta is one other excellent gluten-free choice for dense, sticky muffins that tackle different flavours, equivalent to fruit or spice, superbly – Yotam Ottolenghi has an orange one, Russell Norman a Venetian lemon model, Nigel Slater provides gooseberries and elderflower… you get the concept. Lastly, I haven’t seen it myself, however Katarina Cermel’s guide of gluten-free recipes, Baked to Perfection, received a Fortnum & Mason award this yr, so it’s most likely price investigating for additional inspiration.

What are the important thing issues for failsafe, beautiful gravy for roasts, with a great deal of flavour. Gravies that use the juices from the joint, thick sufficient to pour, however not too runny?
Susannah, Milton Keynes
I'd say crucial consider good gravy is open mindedness: even the very best meat typically, inexplicably, yields little or no to the roasting pan, which is when you should deploy your culinary arsenal. If, when you’ve scraped the pan with boiling water, it nonetheless lacks that savoury oomph one so dearly hopes for in such circumstances, add some inventory and let it bubble away to scale back – and don’t be too proud to stir in just a little Marmite or soy sauce for an additional umami hit, if essential. I additionally like so as to add a touch of madeira or sweetish sherry (or port with pink meat) to provide a extra rounded flavour, although you'll be able to substitute a spoonful of one thing equivalent to redcurrant jelly (a pal of mine makes essentially the most unimaginable gravy, and, when questioned, normally confesses to having simply added the contents of varied almost-empty jars), whereas mustard or horseradish are helpful for giving beef gravy a little bit of a kick. When you’re pleased with the flavour, stir just a little gravy right into a spoonful of cornflour or odd flour to make a easy paste, then stir again into the pan and cook dinner till the gravy has thickened to your required consistency. In brief, although we’d all like to make nice gravy from meat juices alone, typically they want a little bit of assist, and that’s advantageous.

Baying for more: Close-up of dried bay leaves for cooking on a white background.
{Photograph}: Jose A Bernat Bacete/Getty Photos

What’s the purpose of bay leaves? Now we have an enormous bay tree, and I put them in stews and casseroles, however I’m by no means certain in the event that they make the slightest distinction. Any recipe that requires 100 of the issues can be nice, as a result of we've a nearly limitless provide.
Martin, Surrey
Bay is normally the supporting refrain, slightly than the soloist, which suggests its faintly medicinal flavour blends into the background to provide a refined, savoury notice that, whereas it received’t make or break most dishes, does add to the sum of their elements. (In case you’re uncertain whether or not yours style of something in any respect, make a bay tea by boiling some up on their very own: you’ll discover that they certainly do, plus the tea will make your kitchen scent beautiful.) The leaves dry or freeze effectively, and make a stunning flavouring for a custard or pannacotta; you may as well flip them right into a flavoured salt to be used with meat or fish, or, maybe extra enjoyable, make a liqueur with them: Sophie Grigson has a stunning wanting recipe for an Italian liquore di alloro on her blog that makes use of 60 entire leaves!

How do you cook dinner a meal for 30p? For context, I’m a chef who runs neighborhood cafes and cooking lessons.
Anon, Edinburgh
With nice issue, I’m sorry to say, for those who add in the price of gas, the worth of substances for individuals who can’t afford to buy in bulk, or batch cook dinner and freeze. After I used to volunteer at a area people cooking venture, the emphasis was on the way to store to get the very best worth – going to markets, slightly than supermarkets, for instance, or wanting within the “world meals” aisle for issues equivalent to rice and spices, however these simply aren’t choices for a lot of, particularly in rural areas. A straightforward reply is to make pricy substances equivalent to meat the flavourings for cheaper fillers equivalent to beans, carbs or greens, and to not overlook about issues like eggs and tinned fish as a protein supply. To be trustworthy, although, I feel most individuals know all that already, and so they’re nonetheless struggling.

Blind baking is an art…
{Photograph}: Dan Mathews/The Guardian

How can I bake the very best shortcrust tart or quiche instances? They should maintain their form, be strong sufficient to get out of the tin intact, soften within the mouth … How lengthy do I blind bake for? What's the finest ratio of various fat? Ought to I brush with egg and bake once more earlier than including the filling? Ought to I trim it heat or chilly? What ought to I take advantage of to trim it? Ought to I go away it to chill fully earlier than taking it out of the tin? There are so many pitfalls.
Rachel, Otley, West Yorkshire
Pastry is a tough mistress, and even essentially the most skilled cook dinner can find yourself with a wonky facet or cracked base. As somebody who lacks the persistence and delicacy of the true patissier, I've a couple of ideas. Exhausting fat, equivalent to vegetable shortening or lard, give a extra delicate texture, however butter offers the very best flavour, in order that’s what I have a tendency to make use of. The usual ratio is half as a lot fats to flour, however you'll be able to enhance this for a richer, however barely extra temperamental consequence – nevertheless a lot you utilize, watch out to not overwork the dough as you rub it in, or the pastry will likely be powerful. Most significantly, nevertheless, maintain every part as chilly as attainable for so long as attainable; many recipes not solely suggest chilling the fats, however the flour, rolling pin and even the marble slab you’re engaged on, for those who occur to be fortunate sufficient to personal such a factor. Get the dough out of the fridge 5 to 10 minutes earlier than rolling it out skinny – 5mm is protected, 3mm for those who’re feeling skilled. Ensure you get the perimeters of the pastry at a proper angle with the perimeters of the tin if you line it, then chill once more earlier than baking. Trim the overhanging edges, line with baking paper and dry beans or rice, and bake till the highest is golden. Take away the liner and beans, and return to the oven till the bottom is flippantly golden. (In case you’re utilizing a very moist filling, or find yourself with cracks, brush the bottom with overwhelmed egg at this stage, but it surely’s not usually essential.) And, sure, go away it to chill earlier than eradicating from the tin.

What on earth do you do with all of the meals you cook dinner for the How to cook the perfect... column?
Jezz, Tunbridge Wells
I eat it. Actually, it relies upon – I attempt to put it in entrance of as many individuals as attainable to canvass opinion, which suggests typically I find yourself having folks over for dinner and making them eat 5 totally different variations of the identical dish in return for a pithy quote on every, and typically I lug them over to the Guardian workplace for a similar objective. Baked items are normally effectively obtained on the native meals financial institution, some stuff will get frozen and, fortunately, I’m not too proud to object to consuming the identical factor 4 days in a row. Neither is the canine.

My German associate and I run a small, English-themed B&B in Germany. Our full English breakfast is far admired, however we’re usually requested for baked beans, as a result of they're seen right here as sometimes English. We attempt to clarify that baked beans are an American innovation and don't have any place in a really English breakfast, although I'm wondering if we’re being pedantic – in any case, one would possibly use the identical argument about tomatoes. How a lot time has to go for an ingredient to turn out to be a component of a conventional dish, and may we even care?
Paul, Germany
First, let me say I like the concept of an English-themed B&B – can I come and keep? Whereas I’m not a fan of baked beans on a fry-up – like Alan Partridge, I've a horror of beans touching egg – I need to concede that they’ve turn out to be so embedded in British tradition that Heinz doesn’t even promote baked beans within the American market any extra, and so they’ve most likely been included in cheaper variations of the total English for nearly so long as that time period has been in existence. (It first pops up in 1933, and till the postwar interval appears to have referred merely to eggs, bacon, toast and marmalade, slightly than the entire capturing match we see in the present day.) You’re proper, nevertheless, {that a} grilled tomato is the considering particular person’s alternative. Beans belong on toast.

  • Felicity Cloake’s new guide, Purple Sauce Brown Sauce: A British Breakfast Odyssey, is revealed by HarperCollins at £16.99. To order a duplicate for £14.78, go to

Source link

No 'adsw_currency_selector' widget registered in this installation.



    linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram