When roasting, the food is cooked with oil or fat either in an oven or on a spit. The joint of meat to be cooked is placed on a trivet in a roasting tray and placed in a hot oven to seal. The temperature is then lowered and the joint cooked through with frequent basting. Alternatively, the joint can be placed on a spit over a heat source and basted regularly.
This is a great way to cook a large joint of meat as it uses only the heat and the fat within the meat to cook and all the excess fat is rendered out of the meat along with some of the natural juices, these juices can be kept and used to make gravy.
It’s always a good idea to use a roasting tray that is deep enough to hold all the ingredients easily. It’s essential when basting that you do not splash fat onto yourself or others or indeed the oven or heat source as this could cause a fire. Remember to drain off the excess fat before making the gravy.
Finally the joint should be left to rest before carving as this will make it easier to carve.
To braise food it is first, either quick fried to seal it or blanched. It is then placed on a mirepoix (roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery) in a covered container with just enough sauce or stock to cover it, then cooked in an oven until done.
There are two types of braising, brown braising where the food is cooked on a mirepoix with a sauce and white braising where the food is cooked on a mirepoix with white stock.
Braising is usually done in an oven at approx. 200C however lower temperatures can be used with longer cooking times. A lid is always required, so casseroles and braising pans are the most common containers used, however if you have an oven suitable saucepan this could also be used.
As with stewing it’s important to handle your braising pan correctly, using dry cloths when lifting to avoid burns.
The big bonus when braising is that nutrients and flavour are retained in the braising liquid, so if it was a sauce to begin with then the flavours will have intensified and if the braising liquid was a stock this can be used to make a sauce or gravy to be served alongside.
It’s when you cut food into even sized pieces and simmer them in a minimal amount of liquid or sauce that forms part of the stew.
There are three different ways to cook a stew although I have to admit I’ve only ever used the first two. The first way is the one that most of us would be familiar with where the food is cooked in a liquid that is thickened by the ingredients themselves.
The second, is when the food is cooked in a liquid from which a sauce is made and the last way would be when the food is cooked in a prepared sauce.
Usually a stew is cooked at around 180C in a heavy based saucepan with a suitable lid or a casserole. It’s a great method of cooking for a number of reasons, but the best ones are that it retains almost all the nutrients of the ingredients and it’s also quite cost-effective to make as less expensive meat cuts can be used.
With stews it’s particularly important to remember correct handling of your pans as not only is it easy to burn yourself but in many cases you will be lifting heavy pans with hot liquids inside in and out of your oven, be careful of your back and remember to lift with your legs 😉
Steaming is my favourite way to cook green veg like Broccoli, French beans etc. as it retains so much of the nutritional value in the food, it gives a great colour to veg as well and it’s difficult to over cook food when steaming (not impossible, but you really have to try 😉 )
There are two types of steaming Atmospheric and High Pressure.
When atmospheric steaming the food is cooked by the action of the steam, so it’s important that the food is separated from the water, this can be done by using an atmospheric steamer or a steaming basket in a normal saucepan.
High pressure steaming requires specialist equipment in the form of a pressure cooker and is generally more suitable for cooking small quantities of food. Foods are cooked much faster by pressure cooking than by most other methods, so dishes can be ready sooner. Less energy is required than when boiling, atmospheric steaming or oven cooking. Since less water is necessary, the foods come to cooking temperature faster.
With all steaming it’s important to check the water level and temperature before you start and to be aware of the risk of scalding. When lids are removed there is going to be a cloud of steam rising and this can give a very bad burn so always protect yourself.
Also remember to time foods carefully when using a pressure cooker.
Poaching sounds like it should be really easy and it can be, however it’s also very precise in terms of cooking time and this is what catches a lot of people out when poaching food. The main advantage of poaching is that it allows fragile food to be cooked gently.
Just like boiling you can use water or stock, but you can also use milk when poaching but unlike boiling you don’t want the liquid to boil at any point during the cooking process. The ideal temperature is between 80C and just below boiling point.
There are three different methods of poaching Deep, Shallow and Oven poaching
Shallow Poaching is when food is lowered gently into the liquid and removed individually. e.g.chicken or fish
Deep Poaching is when food is placed into deep liquid, sometimes on a rack. e.g. eggs or Salmon
Oven Poaching is when food is placed in a shallow dish with minimum liquid, then covered and cooked in an oven. e.g. chicken and salmon
There are many specific utensils that can be used for poaching such as bratt pans and fish kettles but you can also use your regular saucepans on the cooker top and oven proof dishes for oven poaching.
Another plus of poaching is that the liquid can generally be used to make some great sauces to go along with your dish. Poaching fish in milk? Use the poaching liquid to make a bechamel sauce, add some tarragon and nyom!
When poaching you must be gentle when immersing the food in the cooking liquid, and it should be removed from the liquid as soon as cooked, for this reason I use a timer whenever I’m poaching anything. if I’m poaching fish, I’ll set the timer a little short and check the fish just to make sure it doesn’t get overcooked.