Introduction: Cooking Basics : Few Tips to Be Smart in the Kitchen
The ladies of our home spent most of their time in the kitchen for preparing food for the family. As an eldest child, I used to assist my mother in the household chores when I was young. Now also I help my wife in the kitchen in some ways like cutting vegetables, shopping for food items and other little works as necessary. I think I can share few tips here which may be helpful to others.
Step 1: Most Important Kitchen Tools
A good knife and a smooth cutting board are the basic important tools to have in the kitchen. A vegetable peeler also comes in handy for peeling outer skins from some of the vegetables.
But remember, even a thousand dollar knife never stays sharp during regular use. I have seen people complaining that their knife is not what it used to be. What the knife needed is a little sharpening from time to time. We use a medium grain sharpening stone at our home to keep the knives in good shape. These type of sharpening stones are available in Hardware stores. You can also get it from online shops like Amazon and eBay.
Step 2: Cut Big Vegetables to Workable Size
It is very difficult to work with large sized vegetables like Pumpkin, Bottle Gourd and Snake Gourd. Slice them into smaller workable pieces so that peeling, removing the seeds and cutting becomes easy. We use a large sized carving knife for slicing big vegetables like Pumpkin and Bottle Gourd. Cutting a lengthy Snake gourd into six inch pieces makes it very easy to clean and chop.
Step 3: Peel Off the Skin
The outer skin of few vegetables like Pumpkin, Bottle Gourd, Ridge Gourd, Potatoes, Beetroot etcetera need to be peeled off before cooking. Few vegetable peels can be reused in cooking. We use the peeled off skin of Ridge Gourd to make tasty, spicy chutney. Few people use the Carrot and Radish skins also.
Vegetables like Drumstick have fibrous outer skin. Cut drumsticks into two inches long pieces alternately peeling off a small portion of the skin. This will allow the drumstick pieces to cook faster and at the same time prevent it from disintegration during cooking.
Step 4: Remove Seeds
Vegetables like Snake Gourd, Pumpkin and Bottle Gourd have seeds and fibrous tissue surrounding the seeds. They are not suitable for cooking. Use a teaspoon to scrap out and remove the seeds and tissue surrounding them
Step 5: Remove Fibrous Strand From Beans Varieties
Most of the raw bean varieties contain fibrous strands on both sides. They are inedible. Pinch with your fingers and peel them off from both sides
Step 6: Keep Cut Vegetables in Water
Few vegetables like Brinjal (Fruits of Egg Plant) start to discolor shortly after cutting. You need to put them in water immediately after cutting to prevent oxidation and discoloring. Though Cauliflower will not discolor, we put the cut pieces in water with some salt. This will drive out the insects from Cauliflower. You can also mix little bit of curd with water for keeping vegetables like Banana stem cubes and chopped banana flowers.
Step 7: Easiest Way to Cut Okra (Ladies' Fingers)
There is an easy and quicker way to cut Okra, popularly known as Ladies' Fingers, to the size you want
- Wash the vegetables
- Keep five or six pieces together keeping the pointed end aligned
- Cut and remove the ends
- Now you can rotate the pieces 180 degrees, align cut and remove the other ends
- Hold the pieces in one hand and slice with the other to the size of your choice. For stir-fry we cut them into smaller pieces and for making curry we cut them to about one inch long pieces
Step 8: Soak Peas in Water
Dried peas like Chick Pea and Mutter pea will not cook well even if you pressure cook them. Soak the peas in water overnight. They will become soft and cook very easily
Step 9: How to Shuck Garlic the Easy Way
We use a wooden Lemon Squeezer to shuck garlic. Place garlic pods in the squeezer and press, that's all. You can remove garlic skin easily. As the garlic pod is crushed, you can cut them into small pieces with your knife.
Step 10: How to Chop Onions Like a Chef
You might have seen in some of the food channels how the demonstrator chops the onions into very tiny pieces. it is very easy...
- Take onions, cut and remove both root and growing ends
- Cut the onions into halves
- Remove outer dry skin
- Slice one half of the onions from end to end in small pieces
- Turn the onion 90 degrees and repeat cutting from one end to other
- Now you have onion cut into very small pieces
Step 11: Dicing Tomatoes
What you need to dice tomatoes to tiniest pieces as possible is a sharp knife.
- Cut the tomatoes in half
- Make thin slices from one end to another with a sharp knife
- Now turn them 90 Degrees and cut perpendicular to the initial cut
- You have diced tomatoes. The sharp knife and the cutting board make it easier to dice tomatoes like a pro.
Step 12: Do Things Differently
Try and do things differently...
Poori is an unleavened deep-fried Indian bread, normally cooked for breakfast in Northern India. Pooris are normally round in shape. Try cutting the flattened dough with a pizza cutter into squares and see how they look different. You can cut into many different shapes also to make them more appealing.
Last two pictures show you how you can boil eggs using different molds and separately boiling egg white first and then the yolk inside the partly boiled white
You can see the complete instructions for boiling eggs here...
Step 13: What to Do With the Kitchen Waste...?
Our kitchen also generates lot of organic waste everyday. What to do with these wastes ?
Many people simply dispose of the kitchen wastes into garbage bins. At my home, I recycle most of the organic wastes for feeding the Biogas plant which I have constructed earlier. The biogas supports 40% of our gas requirement for cooking.
You can also make compost from the wastes and use it in your home garden. An old plastic bucket with a lid can be easily turned into a compost bin by drilling drainage holes at the bottom. Fill this bucket with layers of kitchen waste and soil. Keep the bucket over bricks or any other support so that the water from the wastes drain out through the bottom holes. The wastes turns into compost in about three months time.
The waste water used for rinsing rice and lentils can be used in the kitchen garden. they contain nutrients and lot of useful microorganisms.
Step 14: Bottom Line
Before you start actual cooking, keep everything ready. This will considerably reduce the cooking time as well save on gas.
Wash and clean your cutting board, knife and peeler after every use
Pressure cook whenever possible. This will reduce the cooking time
Always wash fresh vegetables before cutting