In honour of 25 years spent creating recipes in the Good Food test kitchen, we put together our favourite tricks and quick solutions to make certain tasks that little bit easier...
If you’re a regular cook, you’ll know the “eureka” feeling when you discover a way to cut an everyday kitchen task in half. As our cookery team has spent so many hours writing and triple-testing recipes, they’ve picked up a fair few tricks and tips along the way, so we asked them to impart their wisdom as part of our birthday celebrations…
Kitchen scenario #1: My boiled eggs are difficult to peel
The solution: Add vinegar
You probably already know that adding a dash of vinegar to egg poaching water helps coagulate the white. But did you know adding a dash of vinegar to the water when boiling eggs helps the shell peel off more easily? Say goodbye to piles of tiny egg shell shards.
Kitchen scenario #2: I have lots of dough to cut into shapes
The solution: Use a pizza cutter
A pizza blade can be wheeled around a slice of pastry or dough with fluid ease, saving you the expense of buying shaped cutters, or time spent fiddling around, twizzling the point of a knife into strange angles.
Kitchen scenario #3: My herbs are about to go off
The solution: Freeze them
‘Hard’ herbs like rosemary and thyme can be frozen whole. When you come to use them, they’ll naturally crumble into pieces, bypassing the mezzaluna completely.
Kitchen scenario #4: My sugar has clumped in the packet
The solution: Undo the damage with a slice of bread
If your brown sugar has clumped into pieces, place a piece of soft white bread in the packet and the sugar will break back down into sandy granules in a few hours. To stop it happening again, make sure the storage space is nice and dry.
Kitchen scenario #5: Un-juicy lemons
The solution: Microwave them
Save yourself the disappointment of a un-squeezy lemon by microwaving it whole for around 20-30 seconds on high. It’s just enough time to release the juices, but be careful not to go overboard and dry the flesh out.
Kitchen scenario #6: I’ve run out of bread
The solution: Make instant flatbreads
If you have plain flour in the cupboard, you always have bread on hand. Just take one mug of plain flour combined with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil per person, then slowly add cold water until it’s a soft, smooth dough which leaves the bowl clean. Divide the dough into balls, roll out to a 2mm thickness then dry fry in a non-stick pan. They’ll only take a few moments and are ready when both sides have golden brown patches all over.
Kitchen scenario #7: I have a rind of expensive Parmesan I don’t want to waste
The solution: Use it as seasoning
While the hard rind of cheese such Parmesan, pecorino and Grana Padano is difficult to grate, it’s a shame to waste such an expensive by-product. But there’s no need to – try using it as a makeshift cheesy bouquet garni. Add the rind whole when you’re sweating onions in the first stage of making a risotto or sauce. It will impart lots of its flavour but save you taking to it with a chainsaw. Don’t forget to remove it before serving though…
Kitchen scenario #8: I’m finding it hard to peel shallots
The solution: Boil the kettle
Dinky shallots can be a pain to peel, but cover them in boiling water and the skin loosens, making the process far quicker.
Kitchen scenario #9: I need breadcrumbs but don’t have a food processor
The solution: Go manual
Make your own dried breadcrumbs by grating stale bread on the coarse side of a grater, then spread the crumbs in a thin layer over a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes at 140C, giving them a good shake halfway through. The golden, crispy crumbs will last in a sealed container for up to two weeks.
Kitchen scenario #10: I need a marinade for my meat but only have half an hour before cooking
The solution: Reach for the wine
If you need your meat injected with a short, sharp burst of flavour, choose marinade ingredients wisely. Red wine quickly penetrates meat, giving it a deep colour, while citrus zest and juice tenderises it rapidly.
Kitchen scenario #11: I’m having a party and don’t have fridge space for drinks
The solution: Salt water
Not enough space for your party loot? Save space for food by putting drinks into big tubs, buckets and bowls filled with salted ice water – the salt will cause the temperature to drop, giving you icy cold drinks in seconds.
Kitchen scenario #12: I want to make pastry with a difference
The solution: Customise it
Spruce up shop-bought pastry by dicing a block of shortcrust and popping it into a food processor. Being careful to match it to your filling, add a flavouring - herbs, vanilla, cheese, cocoa powder, honey or spice are all great ways of giving your pastry an edge.
Kitchen scenario #13: I need to line a springform cake tin with no fuss
The solution: Clamp it
Bypass pencil outlines and fiddly scissors by lining a springform cake tin - one with a clippable ring and removeable base - the easy way. Lay the parchment onto the flat base of the tin, then press down and clamp the ring into place, leaving edges around the outside to easily tear off.
Kitchen scenario #14: I want to make an easy rainbow cake
The solution: Ditch the liquid food colouring
We love our stripy rainbow cake, but it’s perhaps one for the keen baker to take on. If you want your sponge to sing with Technicolor joy but don’t have the food dye resource, pick up a tub of multi-coloured hundreds and thousands instead. Weave them through your sponge batter and watch them dissolve into a beautiful polka dot design during cooking.
Kitchen scenario #15: I want to peel a kiwi the easy way
The solution: Spoon it
To peel a kiwi fruit, just chop off the top and bottom, then push a dessertspoon inbetween the fruit and the skin. Turn the kiwi fruit until all the skin falls off the back of the spoon.
Kitchen scenario #16: I don’t want my avocado to go brown
The solution: Twist it
If you don’t always manage to eat a whole avocado in one go, keep the surplus from turning brown with our clever storage technique. Cut the avocado in half and twist into two pieces, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the side without the stone and eat it. Return the empty skin to the other half, which still contains the stone, and use the skin to cover it over. Keeping the stone in and covering it with the skin helps retain colour and freshness until the following day.
Kitchen scenario #17: I want perfect fried eggs
The solution: Steam them
Achieve the perfect set white and creamy runny yolk with a few splashes of water. Fry the eggs in a non-stick pan and when the whites are almost cooked, put a few drops of water into the pan, quickly cover it with a lid and turn the heat down low or off completely and leave for a minute or two to finish cooking. The effect will be a perfect semi-poach.
Kitchen scenario #18: I can’t keep my supermarket herbs alive
The solution: Get snipping
As soon as you buy herb plants from the supermarket or greengrocer, remove the plastic wrapping and trim the top leaves quickly to use in your cooking. By trimming off the top leaves first you’ll help the plant shoot out from lower down the stem making it stronger. Water every other day or according to the instructions on the pack.
Kitchen scenario #19: I need brown rice to cook quickly
The solution: Soak it
Kitchen scenario #20: I need a quick white sauce
The solution: Cream cheese
Making a roux from flour and butter isn’t too difficult a process, but if time is of the essence, it might be easier to reach into the fridge. A tub of cream cheese watered down until the same consistency as béchamel makes a super-simple alternative. If you want to boost the flavour, add a grating of nutmeg. Alternatively, use crème fraîche and grated cheese.
Kitchen scenario #21: Garlic cloves that are tricky to peel
The solution: Don’t bother
Garlic cloves are one of the trickiest items to prepare, and if you find it a frustrating feat, invest in a sturdy garlic press and voilà - the whole clove can be passed through it with the skin intact. It might take a bit of pushing, but once through the flesh is passed through the holes while the skin is left in the press to be easily removed.
Kitchen scenario #22: I need to ramp up the flavour of my dish
The solution: Don’t just use salt and pepper
Don’t just stick with salt and pepper - experiment with other storecupboard seasonings. Try sprinkling a crushed up chicken stock cube over a whole chicken before roasting or add a splash of soy sauce to boost the flavour of your gravy.
Kitchen scenario #23: My bag of salad leaves is about to go out of date
The solution: Cook them
Plastic bags of washed and ready-to-eat salad leaves are really convenient but don’t seem to last very long at all, even in the fridge. If you find yourself with leftover leaves, that are starting to lose their crispness, ensure they don’t go to waste. Instead, pop them in a pan with a little olive oil or butter, garlic and seasoning and wilt down as you would for spinach. This works particularly well with leaves like watercress and rocket.
Kitchen scenario #24: I’m entertaining and need a quick starter
The solution: Spice up shop-bought dips
Stir a few extra ingredients through your favourite shop-bought houmous and everyone will think you’ve made it yourself. Add a dash of lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander, some ground cumin, smoked paprika or a smidge of harissa paste to give it a kick. Alternatively add a few whole chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil to really make it look homemade.
Kitchen scenario #25: I need a tiny squeeze of citrus juice but not a whole fruits-worth?
The solution: Spike it
Don’t cut a whole orange, lime or lemon and risk the rest going to waste for the sake of one small squeeze of juice. Use a skewer to pierce it to release a few drops without having to break the fruit open.
Have a cheat we’ve not covered? We’d love to hear your hints and tips…