Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Kitchen Hacks

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  • Hebe, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Oats are great: Not often enough I make oat biscuits from Jill Dupleix. And one of the weekend markets here has a “posh porridge” stall.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report

  • Kumara Republic,

    I don't have an oven in my flat, period. Only a stovetop and microwave. Any ideas?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • Stephen Judd,

    If you have a bit of spare cash, I hear those benchtop halogen ovens are actually really good. Otherwise, it's pot roast and braising for you.

    (Is that legal, by the way? I had the idea that a working stove was a requirement).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report

  • Thrash Cardiom, in reply to Stephen Judd,


    +Stephen Judd: I have one of those camp ovens though it's about 20% larger than the one in your link. They are huge and weighty things. Not good for in the oven and they take up a huge amount of room on the elements. Very good for outdoor cooking.

    I have a much smaller cast-iron pot is a perfect alternative. Cost was around $25.00 20 odd years ago but I have seen very similar items recently at very cheap prices.

    Photo shows the two side by side. The exterior of the large one is fire blasted to hell but the inside is smooth, black and lightly oiled.

    CHB • Since Nov 2006 • 55 posts Report

  • Hebe, in reply to Thrash Cardiom,

    I had the camp oven on the left and a frypan that fit the lid as my sole pots and pans for years and years. From memory I got them from a camping shop for about $30 for the lot. They cook better than the Le Creuset- type enamelled ones once they are seasoned (and the initial coating which pongs fiercely is scrubbed off). It's pretty hard to break these ones -- unlike my aunt's ruinously expensive collection of Le Creuset which fell off hooks and shelves in the big earthquake and broke into pieces or was badly cracked.

    I like the unglamorous simplicity of these iron pots.

    The one on the right looks a lot like an old Lodge.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report

  • Hebe, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Had a little benchtop oven for a few months that was given to me: it was a surprisingly effective cooker; great for pizzas and worked for most baking and roasting. Are you in Christchurch? I may be able to find it for you.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    One can do a surprising amount with a microwave oven. It's very quick for some things that usually take quite a bit of time, and has the advantage of needing no tending at all. The main disadvantage is the lack of browning on top, although I believe there are various powders you can get which have a very similar effect. It's so easy I think it can rob you of one of the best parts of cooking - all the fooling around with it. Check out practically any book on microwave cookery - you can do baking, roasting, stews, sauces, rice, pasta, etc.

    I often microwave bacon. Crispy, and no mess, in a few minutes. If I'm cooking pancakes for the kids, the frying pan is already taken.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • linger, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    I had the idea that a working stove was a requirement

    In NZ, maybe (though "stovetop" may be sufficient?) but just try finding any apartment in Japan with an oven. Mine has a microwave; a toaster oven; and a gas ring -- and no room for anything else.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

  • Jake Pollock,

    As Gareth said, a meat thermometer is life-changing if you cook meat and want to consistently hit the right temperatures. Cook your steak to 52º, let it rest for ten minutes, and its perfectly medium rare every time. It doesn’t even need to be a fancy digital one that beeps, although those are pretty cool.

    In terms of lighting your charcoal grill, rather than pouring gasoline all over it, get yourself a chimney starter. In 20 minutes you’ll get enough briquettes hot enough to roast a leg of lamb to beyond well done if that’s what you really want.

    Also, if you want to slow-cook a pork shoulder, or anything really, on a charcoal grill, use the fuse method described here. Only you don’t need to use lighter fluid to light it, just your chimney starter on a few briquettes, and my pork shoulders only tend to take seven hours from start to 93º.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report

  • Thrash Cardiom, in reply to Hebe,

    Not sure of the brand. However, it was bought in Wairoa for about $65.00 about 5 years ago. It's excellent when you have 15 - 20 friends around for a large backyard fire in Autumn/Winter/Spring. Last thing cooked in it was a 3.5kg rump cut into fairly large pieces and slow cooked in coals/ashes with plenty of onions, whole heads of garlic, root vegetables, lots of red wine and stock, large mushrooms kept whole (but added in last hour or so to ensure they kept their integrity). It also handles whole legs of lamb, pork roasts etc. The food can be wet or dry but if it is a roast, you need a good fat layer and a vegetable bed at the bottom. You can even simulate a hangi with it and steam food.

    CHB • Since Nov 2006 • 55 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Man - you go to conferences for two weeks and Russell posts a food thread!

    We have lots of hacks but having not read the thread yet (man the e-mails pile up while you're behind the great firewall) I'll post a couple for now and more as I read along the thread.

    Roast potatoes
    I kinda like the roasting from raw but if you are short of time you can par boil them and then finish them off in the roasting dish in the oven which has been heating up while you boil the spuds. You need to dry them after boiling but they steam off pretty quick. The plus about par boiling them is you can fluff them up a bit before roasting which leads to more crispy bits and creates more surface area for flavour to be added.
    Flavour come from two favourite options
    One) salt and oil then roast and then just after taking them out of the oven drizzle a little truffle oil over them. Gavin will probably point out that most truffle oil has never seen any truffles but it still tastes good.
    Two) salt and oil and smoked paprika (LOTS). We now exclusively use La chinata also available from New World. We usually use the sweet variety but the hot is nice sometimes too. The paprika is not cheap but it makes food amazing. And of course you can drizzle truffle oil over those potatoes too :)

    Mashed potatoes
    We throw two or three cloves of garlic in with the potatoes as they boil. Then mash as normal.

    Pretty much always use Agria potatoes now and always boil from cold water with salt.

    Hungry now - must go home and eat.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Gareth,

    Gavin will probably point out that most truffle oil has never seen any truffles but it still tastes good.

    Gareth will, certainly.

    All commercially available truffle oil is made with "arome de truffe" (truffle flavouring) which is an entirely artificial chemical cocktail you can buy by the litre in France and Italy. Any bits of truffle in the bottle will have been sterilised before bottling, thus rendering them flavourless.

    Truffle butter made with real truffles is much better than any oil.

    Interested parties might wish to drop me a line. I'm taking Rosie the truffle machine out for a sniff round the white truffle block in the morning.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Gareth,

    Gareth will, certainly.

    Bah! Sorry Gareth. As I was driving home I was trying to think whether I had written Gavin or Gareth ... sigh.

    As for truffle butter mmmmm sounds delicious.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    A device: We don’t have gas

    Not an easy hack but definitely a kitchen hack:
    We couldn't afford to get city gas up the driveway but I really really wanted to cook on gas. So we got a gas hob and connected it (registered gasfitter reqd) to an LPG bottle outside the house. It's just a 10 kg bottle and it lasts about 10-12 months between refills!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Hebe, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Gas is good though I have decided against it. My unscientific calculus was:
    Gas connection + old wooden house + 2km from a bouncing faultline = unable to sleep at night.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Me and your food processor need to have a knead-off.

    There is a small triangular shaped cartilage in your wrist that as you age becomes somewhat fragile. After about 9 months of being very careful with my wrist I can almost knead dough again. For now we let the breadmaker's dough cycle (45 min) do the work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Stewart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    We did just the same when building our place, so we have an electric oven and gas hob. As you say, a full bottle lasts 'ages' (8+ months at a guess), you get the instant temperature control & all the benefits. Just make sure you've got a spare, full bottle of gas around for when it runs out. Takes me about 3min to swap bottles & get back to the kitchen.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    juicing a huge number of lemons, and freezing the juice in icecube trays

    This also works very well for Limes. This is an incredibly important hack because limes ripen in winter (and are cheap then) and margaritas are best drunk in hot summer (when limes are very expensive).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Gary Young,

    how does one actually use a preserved lemon

    finely dice a small amount and add to aioli - goes amazingly well on pan fried fish

    BUT the amount you use should be small when you first do it since it is very taste dependent and it's easy to use too much

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    using a fan


    Dr George Goble got a Noble prize (Ig) for doing it faster and hotter

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes,

    Handy kitchen tips.

    Washing up is always a chore, save time and effort by simply putting your dirty dishes straight into a cheap plastic washing up rack and put it outside in the rain for a day or two, works wonders.
    If you are in a hurry, or have few dishes, a good alternative is to use a water blaster.

    Egg storage can sometimes be a risky business, try putting them in a bowl or similar receptacle, this will stop them rolling off the bench.

    To save time and effort when cooking bacon try placing the bacon on a plate and microwaving on full for 2 minutes. This will not only save time on cooking but also washing up because the plate usually breaks.

    When cooking Lambs it is advisable to ensure they are dead first, this can go some way toward avoiding excessive mental trauma to your children and thus almost eliminate costly therapy sessions later in life.

    When scaling fish make sure you save the scales, they make wonderful sequins for that special little outfit for an important night out.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Not so much a hack but a bit of geeky science info

    Tomatoes must never ever ever be chilled!
    Tomatoes are alive, they keep producing flavour on the bench at room temperature. This is really important because many of those flavour components are volatile, they just float out of the tomato and are lost over time. Because the (living) tomato keeps producing more of those flavour compounds you don't notice


    Some of the enzymes responsible for producing tomato flavour are very cold sensitive ... so if you chill a tomato the enzymes die and the tomato stops producing many of the flavour compounds. Those that are there at the time you chill the tomato will slowly disappear.

    So never store tomatoes in the fridge and try not to buy from suppliers that chill store their tomatoes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Thank you! I can now win my argument on this issue WITH SCIENCE.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Because tomatoes are a fruit rather than a vegetable. Another caution: don't pick tomatoes if you are a smoker of rollies as you may transmit debilitating Tobacco Mosaic Virus to the plant.

    Ain't nature wonderful!

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Gee, if I just add one more it would make 2000 posts!

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report

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