Jamie Who is a blog about everything. Except current affairs. And politics. Also science, sport, religion, celebrities, movies, media and marketing, technology, business and design. So...basically Jamie Who is a blog about food. All things food.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Healthy cooking techniques

As I have hopefully been pointing out, healthy cooking really doesn't have to be boring. Obviously the key is to try and add as much variety to your diet as possible by trying new ingredients but the other important thing to remember is to try different techniques when cooking them. Below are some of my favourites:

1. Stir-fry:
The only mission about a stir-fry is cutting and preparing the meat and vegetables. You'll find that, like everything, the more you cut and slice the better your knifework becomes. The only important thing here to remember is that your vegetables and meat should be the same size to ensure even cooking. Always cook the meat first to about 80%, then remove it. Add your vegetables and sauces and cook until almost done before adding your meat to finish it off. Use tender cuts of beef, pork, seafood, duck or chicken and play around with authentic Asian spices and sauces.

2. Saute:
This generally isn't the healthiest option when you see it on a menu due to the amount of oil that is used. However, if you invest in a high-quality non-stick pan and use only a little amount of light olive oil you can get away with it. This suits tender cuts of meat or fresh vegetables.

3. Steam:
I got given a bamboo steamer as a gift a few years ago and it is one of the most important things in my kitchen. Steaming is an awesome way of locking in flavour and nutrients. Steamed food doesn't have to be the boring, colourless stuff you picture it as. The secret is to season the food well and not to overcook it. If you don't have a steamer you can use a heat-proof bowl placed in a wok. Surround it with a bit of water and place the food inside. Then take a plate and cover the food before fitting tin-foil or a lid over the bowl. When you get the hang of it, try adding flavours like ginger and soy sauce to the food while steaming. This is a perfect way to cook fish, chicken breasts and vegetables.

4. Griddle pan:
A griddle pan is basically like an indoor braai. They both give slighly charred results and markings on the food which are visually very cool. A major point to remember here is to always put your food in a marinade or olive oil before putting it in the pan and to make sure the pan is smoking hot. To get perfect markings on the food you have to leave it alone once it is in the pan and only turn it once. This is perfect for cooking a wide variety of foods but note that if you want to cook thicker cuts of meat (like chicken thighs), then pre-cook them first and finish them off in the griddle pan. Steaks, vegetables, and especially fresh tuna, are perfect for the griddle pan.

5. Braise:
This involves browning meat on a high heat before reducing the temperature and slowly cooking it in liquid. The pan is usually transferred to the oven but you can finish it off on a hob as long as you cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or foil. I recommend using this technique for cheaper cuts of meat still on the bone that need a longer cooking time.

6. Poach:
Not just for eggs people. Poaching chicken, lamb or beef will give you amazing, moist flavours as a result. When poaching try and use a high-quality stock or wine for best flavours. You can also use a sweet wine for poaching firm fruit to make desserts. Think figs, plums, pears etc.

7. Roast:
Similar to braising, what I like to do here is to the brown the meat at a high temperature and then roast it at a lower one in the oven. This will give you a nice crust and juicy, tender meat. Always leave a roast to rest before carving - this will make all the difference. Basically any meat is suitable for roasting but obviously the favourites are beef, chicken and lamb. Experiment with different cuts and flavours. For example, try roasting lamb shoulder instead of leg of lamb.

I would really recommend getting one or two high-quality pans, a large pot for slow cooking and a wok and/or steamer. These can be added slowly to your kitchen as your repertoire grows!

Jamie Who

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