The delicate flavour and enriching qualities of butter are important when it comes to cooking many dishes. Butter should be stored in the refrigerator. It may also be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. Salting improves the keeping quality of butter, but rather use unsalted butter for cakes. Butter is tastier when used in baking and makes pastries crispier. It can, however, be substituted with margarine.
Fresh or dried breadcrumbs can be kept frozen in airtight containers. White bread is the most popular, but brown breadcrumbs can also be used.
Fresh breadcrumbs: Blitz bread in a food processor or blender to make. Three slices of bread make around 1 cup breadcrumbs. Keep for no longer than 2 days.
Dried breadcrumbs: Use whole slices of bread, remove crust and spread onto baking trays. Bake at 160°C until golden. Remove from oven and process to fine crumbs in a food processor or blender. Eight slices make about 1 cup breadcrumbs.
Curry powder has a very recognisable flavour and is used as the basic ingredient in curry dishes. It is probably the world’s oldest spice blend, normally comprising of a combination of turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli ground to a fine powder. It may also include allspice, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and ginger. When using curry powder, fry for at least one minute to release the flavours before adding liquids.
Cocoa powder enriches the taste of baked products and is often used as flavouring in cakes, biscuits and desserts. It can also be used in combination with other forms of chocolate for a richer flavour profile. Cocoa powder is normally sifted with flour, but can be dissolved in a bit of boiling water for a richer taste.
Cheese is tasty in savoury dishes, or combined with sweet flavours. To keep fresh and conveniently packaged, grate and store in an airtight container in the freezer. Use directly from freezer and do not thaw.
Green, feathery dill has a delicate flavour and remains one of the most beautiful herbs for garnishing. It is great to use with fish and because it tends to lose its aroma during cooking, is usually added towards the end of the preparation process.
The root, which is known as the ‘hand’, is the edible part of the ginger plant. Fresh ginger can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months. It can be peeled and grated or ground to a pulp and used in many dishes. It is often peeled and cut into fine strips for use in Chinese and Japanese dishes. It can also be rubbed over chicken or fish and added to stews and soups. Other forms of ginger include dried and ground, or glacé.
A perennial plant of the onion family, it is the small bulbous root of garlic that is used for flavouring. When fully grown, the bulb is comprised of a number of sections, known as cloves. Garlic may be crushed in a garlic press, or by pressing hard with a flattened knife on a cutting board. The smell of garlic can be removed from the hands by rubbing with salt and then rinsing with cold water, or rubbing against stainless steel.
Often used in combination with thyme, origanum is strongly flavoured with an aromatic taste and complements most Mediterranean dishes. It goes well with tomato and can be used in pizzas, as well as vegetable and fish dishes.
A paper-thin pastry made from flour and water that can be bought from supermarkets or bakeries. The sheets are very delicate and should be handled carefully. Each layer is brushed with melted butter before baking. Remaining sheets of phyllo should be covered with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out. The temperature to bake phyllo pastry varies from 200-220°C. The pastry browns quickly and (depending on the dish) the baking time normally varies between 10-30 minutes. Apart from baking in the oven, phyllo dishes can also be fried in oil to make dishes like samosas.
Rocket leaves are long, rich and peppery in taste, with an exceptionally strong flavour and combines well with lettuce in salads. It can also be used raw with pastas, meats, soups, vegetables and sandwiches. In addition to the leaves, the flowers are often used in salads as an edible garnish.
A small, shallow dish used for baking, moulding or serving.
Sun-dried tomatoes give a distinct flavour to dishes and are available to purchase either dried or packaged in oil. To keep for a few months once opened, refrigerate or place in the freezer. The tomatoes can also be kept in oil, herbs and garlic in jars in the refrigerator. When using the dried tomatoes, soften them by leaving them to soak in a bit of hot water. Add a pinch of sugar to your dish to soften the acidity if required.
Sour cream is a cultured cream with a sharp, tangy flavour. It has a thick consistency and can be swirled through soups and goulash or combined with fish. If sour cream is not available, make your own by adding fresh lemon juice to normal fresh cream.
Thyme is one of the most popular herbs for a bouquet garni (a combination of fresh herbs used for soup and stock and cooked with dishes). Fresh thyme remains the best choice over dried, because it is so easy to grow and readily available. It can be used for meat dishes, marinades, stock and stuffing.