1. Sharp knives are essential
Everyone knows that good quality knives are super important in any kitchen. Using blunt knives is not just dangerous but they damage food rather than cutting, and actually takes up a lot more time as the slice action is a lot slower. Generally, you can buy either German or Japanese knives. I always use Japanese knives. They are naturally, a lot sharper, but take a little more maintenance to keep them that way. German knives, however, tend to be a little more durable and tough. Always use a whetstone to sharpen your knives weekly and use a steel daily if needed.
Sharpening knives is a skill refined with experience. You can learn by practising or by taking a course. Kataba in pop Brixton offer group or personal sharpening courses. They are an extremely professional and knowledgeable team.
At home I have, 2 really good quality, heavy-based pans for pasta, making sauces, sautéing vegetables and meats. For searing beef and fish, I use a large stainless steel pan. Heat the pan on the largest gas hob, over a medium flame for 2-3 minutes. For fish I cook in foaming butter and vegetable oil, you will need to control the temperature well to stop the butter from burning. For meats, I use the same technique as fish with the addition of hard herbs like thyme and rosemary. Never use a super high flame as it will cause the oil to burn, which then becomes carcinogenic and will also then stick to the pan and be extremely hard to clean. Over time this will ruin your pan. Never plunge the pan while hot into the water, instead, leave it to cool at an ambient temperature, then use warm soapy water to clean.
3. Think seasonal - Summer is coming!
In February I always sew seeds for basil, coriander, parsley and dill in pots and keep them inside, on the window sill. Then I move them to outside once they harden off in April. If you keep them close to the kitchen you'll find that you will use them a lot more. You should always try to push yourself to think about different ways to use fresh herbs. My herb plants are always kept in a balance of life and death from being over pillaged! In summer there is honestly nothing better than fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. You should always use ingredients when they are at their best!
4. Dry goods
I have an obsession with spices. They are the best way to add quick flavour to food if your time poor. One of my favourite healthy and quick meals is a chicken and vegetable tray bake with celery salt, smoked paprika, fennel and nigella seeds. Having a well-stocked pantry is essential for quick, easy and tasty food. I always have stocks for cooking, nuts, pulses and grains for salad, loads of soy and Japanese seasonings to punch up flavour to any dish. Having vinegars, soy, and other sauces allows you to balance sweet, salty, spicy and sourness in foods well.
5. Fresh Ingredients
Always buy your food at either a farmers market, local grocer or a trusted local supplier. Super markets are famous for having overpriced, poor quality produce. Italians are famed for their passion for only using fresh ingredients and preparing them very simply. I always follow this philosophy. Working with fresh ingredients is generally very easy and enjoyable.
6. Try new things
I know it’s easy to say "don't be afraid to try new things", the best way to approach trying to cook unfamiliar cuisines is by starting with a recipe that is very few in ingredients and considered a classic. For example Oyakodon. It’s a classic rice dish with dashi stock, poached chicken and egg. Preparing the dish is very easy to execute. The more your expertise grows on the dish the more fun you can have by adding your own creative twists to the recipe. Starting with a classic is often the best way to learn and refine knowledge and cooking quality points of some of the most simple ingredients.
7. Cooking Fish
My absolute favourite fish to cook is either Cornish Mackerel, South Australian Kingfish or Scottish Salmon. There is nothing better than the smell of fresh fish. I get such a kick from watching a beautiful fillet of salmon sear in a pan. Its a super amazing experience watching the flesh change colour, experiencing the smell, watching the fish oils turn from solid to liquid and baste the fish. You can literally see all the omega 3 bursting from the fish!