We are all about convenience and fun in the kitchen, and certain cooking chores are anything but. There are probably some things you do that you take as standard in food prep, and we do them too because it’s the way people have always done them. Let us help you save time and effort in the kitchen with five super helpful tips and tricks you never thought you needed.
By Roxy Greeff
1. So your recipe calls for you to cream together some butter and sugar, and you left your butter in the fridge, meaning it’s not room temperature, and definitely not going to be easy to beat. So you have two choice. You can leave it out and put off your baking, or you can put it in the microwave, leaving you with a runny, slightly yellow batter or icing. Right? Wrong! Simply measure out the exact amount you need and pop it onto a plate. Then microwave an empty mug until it is piping hot and set it upside-down over the butter for a minute or two, Voilla! Instant room temperature butter.
2. Have you tried your hand at baking your own bread? If you make it too floury and your supposed-to-be-elastic dough is crumbling apart, do not use water to bring it back together. Not that this doesn’t work, I just find that it can compromise on flavour, extra water leading to a bland flavour. I have been baking bread since I could see over the counter, and the best antidote to the problem is a saucer of milk. Dip your fingertips, and then rub your hands together (as if you were applying moisturiser). Begin to work the dough as normal until your hands are dry. Repeat until you reach the right consistency. Your bread will also boast a lovely rich and creamy flavour.
3. This one may seem a bit obvious. I hate onions, the process of cutting them with tears running from my burning eyes, and I don’t like the way they taste. So I just pop them in the food processor. If I am cooking for guests, I pulse them gently until they are roughly chopped, because I know people love onions in their food. When I am cooking for myself or for little ones, I whizz them until they are fine. They cook away on the stove or in the oven, but they leave their flavour behind.
4. Another kitchen chore I hate is spreading sandwiches when I make them in bulk for lunch for the work week ahead, and rolls for plenty of friends and family at a braai. During my time working in a restaurant kitchen, I learned a nifty trick from the chefs there. Melt the butter in a mug or bowl and use your basting brush to butter bread and sandwiches in bulk. This is also a great way to get perfectly toasted toasties.
5. This is one I learnt from my grandmother. When you are making something that asks for bread or biscuit crumbs to bind a mixture together, be it meatballs, Scotch eggs, a tart base, anything. Skip the crumbs and use oats instead. Breadcrumbs are expensive and making your own, from bread or digestives, in a blender is a waste of time and extra dishes to wash. Instant oats don’t have to be made any finer; they will soak up any excess liquid and bind your batter together with immediate ease, and they add a healthy, complex depth of flavour to your dish.