Kitchen Queries Answered

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We all love to eat
potato fries, but we also know how unhealthy they can be. So how we can prepare
and eat fat free fries.

Yes, we would all like to enjoy fries without feeling
guilty. To prepare low-fat fries at home, wash potatoes, pat dry with paper
towel. Cut into 1/4″ thick strips; add a reduced fat dressing and grated
topping; toss well. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray
sprayed with cooking spray. Spray potatoes with the same. Keep in the oven to bake.
After 12 minutes turn the potatoes over with a spatula and continue baking until
golden brown and crisp.

Avocados are a new
fruit for many of us, please tell us how we can buy, store and eat this fruit.

There are many varieties with skin that varies in thickness
and ranges from bright green to purplish black. Ripe avocados should have a
slight “give” when pressed or squeezed. Under-ripe ones can ripen at home and
they are less likely to have bruises from over-handling at the store. Ripe
avocados can be kept in the refrigerator for one-two days. Under-ripe ones can
be placed in a paper bag and set aside at room temperature for two-four days. Avocados
have a smooth buttery texture with a slightly nutty flavour and a good source
of essential nutrients. Eat avocado just like an apple, it’s flesh will quickly turn brown once it is cut.

Please give us some
suggestions as to how to freeze various berries and to enjoy the summer-fresh
taste during the cold winter months.

Frozen berries a great way to enjoy their
summer-fresh taste during the cold winter months. Gently wash fresh
strawberries, raspberries or blackberries, and then pat them dry. Arrange them
in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until firm (this prevents them
from sticking together in a big clump). Transfer the berries to a freezer re-sealable
plastic bag and store them for up to nine months. When freezing blueberries, don’t
wash them beforehand since this can toughen the skins, instead, wash the thawed
berries before using them.

Nowadays we are
constantly advised to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables in our diets.
Please tell us how we can do this.

Yes, this is true that we should all add more fruits and vegetables
to our diet. Some useful hints to do so throughout your day: keep a bowl of
fruit on the counter and pre-cut veggies in the refrigerator for snacks. Fresh
grapes, cherries or berries make a cool refreshing treat. Grill fruits and veggies
for a nutritious flavour twist as grilling brings out the sweetness and flavour
of the fruit.

Kitchen Queries

Can we grill peaches,
nectarines and plums?

Peaches, nectarines and plums get a deep, caramel like
flavour when cooked on the grill – that makes them even more delicious. Just-ripe
fruit or which are just starting to soften works best, they stays firmly on the skewers. Add flavour to the fruit by sprinkling it with sweet
spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. Place fruit on the grill for a minute to
sear, check the underside; once it’s golden with grill marks, turn it over to finish cooking.

Chicken cutlets are very lean and cook quickly, how can we avoid overcooking them?
The most important thing to remember is not to overcook them to the point where they’re tough and dry. A nice way to treat them is to flour them, dip in beaten eggs and saute quickly in melted butter. Depending on how thick they are, 3-5 minutes a side over medium heat should be all it takes.

How can we use lemon peels after the juice is pressed out?
Lemon halves can be frozen to be used later as lemon rind for cakes and biscuits. They can be used to de-odourise a cutting board, get rid of the garlicky scent from your hands, or sprinkle with salt to scour copper pans.

To marinate a frozen chicken is a big problem. Can you help?
All problems big and small in the kitchen have solutions too. Just add a couple of tablespoons of your favourite dressing to the chicken before freezing it. The chicken will marinate in the dressing as it thaws, so you can take it straight to the grill or skillet. Store on the lowest refrigerator shelf, away from contact with produce. When defrosting let it thaw in the refrigerator, never on the counter. To store leftover cooked chicken, simply freeze it. Reheat covered, in the oven or microwave.

How can we prepare glaze topping and chocolate curls for garnish at home?
Place frozen whipped topping and semi-sweet chocolate in a microwable bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Stir, microwave 30 seconds or until chocolate is melted and mix is shiny and smooth. Let stand for 15 minutes to thicken. Use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate to create curls for garnish.

What can we do to liven up a pasta salad?
For a change and to liven up a pasta salad, add the refreshing zing of grated lemon peel. When grating the lemon, make sure to only take off the yellow skin since the underlying white part will add bitterness.

When we bake cup cakes at home, it becomes quite a messy affair, please tell us how we can avoid the mess.
To bake cup cakes mess-free, instead of clumsily spooning batter into cup cake liners and dripping it onto the tin – where it gets baked on – funnel it into a turkey baster and squeeze it into the liners. Not only does this technique allow you to get just the right amount into each cup, it’s also a simple way to make two-tone black-and-white cakes. Just layer a vanilla mix over chocolate.

Which preferably should be consumed, fresh or dried fruits?
We all know that all kinds of fruits are good for our health. But include fresh fruits in your diet as far as possible instead of dried because, for example, a half cup of raisins has more than 200 calories, but a full cup of grapes has just 80 calories.

How can we prepare herb butter to enhance the normally routine dishes?
In a small bowl, use a spatula to combine a stick of unsalted butter (at room temperature) with one clove finely-chopped garlic and 1/4 cup finely-chopped parsley or coriander. Place on a piece of plastic wrap or butter paper and roll into a log. Freeze and it can be used till three months. Use thin slices (from a frozen log) on steamed vegetables, seared pork, chicken, fish or shrimp for a quick hint of flavour.

Can we store or freeze leftover soup, and how will it have to be reheated?
To freeze leftover soup, cool it to room temperature, then ladle into freezer-safe containers or resealable bags and freeze for up to three months. To thaw, place the container or bag in the refrigerator and let it sit one night.
To reheat transfer the soup to a pan. Cook covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through about 15 minutes.

How can we correct the taste of too sweet or too spicy dishes?
If a dish is too sweet and too spicy, acidic items, such as lemon or vinegar, tend to cut down on both too salt and too sweet dishes. For savoury dishes, adding a dash of cayenne also helps cut down the sugar.
It too spicy, add something with a little fat such as butter, or something sweet such as peanut butter or honey.

How can we remove the ‘hull’ from a strawberry without cutting it?
To easily hull a strawberry, insert a sturdy plastic straw through the bottom tip and push it out the top. This will remove both the hull and the leaves without cutting it.

How sensible is it to use aluminium foil in these expensive times?
Expensive or not, but make foil your best friend: it makes up for hygienic packing for food and for easy clean-up; nothing beats a foillined pan. A foil tent keeps food warm. Dirty grill? Crumple a piece of foil and use it to clean the foodencrusted surface.

In many recipes we come across panch phoron. We understand that it means a mixture of five spices, but which spices please tell us?
Yes, panch phoron means five spices in Bengali. It is popular in Northeast India and Bangladesh. It is a blend of five seeds; cumin, fennel, fenugreek, brown mustard and nigella (kalonji). It has a bittersweet and licorice-y flavour.
Uses: pop briefly in hot ghee or oil to release flavours, don’t scorch or the seeds will get bitter. Simmer in a dal or chicken vegetable stew. Knead into bread dough. Season marinades for roasted meats. Saute with sliced cabbage.

No matter how expensive the garam masala we buy from the market is, it’s flavour is just not satisfying. Can we make garam masala at home? If so how?
Yes, it can be easily prepared at home. It is just a blend of black pepper, cumin, green and black cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg or mace-ginger and coriander is optional, moreover proportions can vary. This masala has a warm and earthy flavour with a hint of sweetness. Sizzle garam masala in oil to release its aroma, then add it early in cooking for a mellow taste to samosas, etc. Or add it just before serving to brighten flavours. Swirl into chicken curry, or drizzle over pan-fried paneer.

What does the term “chiffonade” mean?
Chiffonade means a leaf that has been finely shredded. Get a pile of leaves, roll them up and finely shred on a cutting board or sheet.

No matter how cleanly cleanliness we maintain in our kitchen, but with time we find that the kitchen windows, jars and exhaust fan are all covered with sticky oil stains or grime. How do we remove them?
As our normal cooking involves a lot of oil, there are lots of oily fumes in our kitchen. To remove sticky oil stains from kitchen windows, jars and exhaust fans, just dab a cloth in vinegar and wipe clean.

What are sugar snap peas, and are they different from the normal peas ?
Sugar snap peas are sweet and crunchy – a perfect snack when eaten raw. These peas are entirely edible (unlike the normal peas) pod and all and a good source of vitamin C and iron. Choose plump, crisp pods with a bright green colour. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to three days. Stir-fry them for just three minutes to retain their crispness and flavour.

How can we reheat “left over chapattis“?
Leftover chapattis are very easily reheated and used. Chapattis reheated on a tawa with a little water become as good as fresh and, if reheated with oil, they will be crisp and if sprinkled with chaat masala, make a very tasty snack. These days chapattis can also be reheated in a microwave.

What can vegetarians eat to have the nutrient contents of meat?
If you are a vegetarian and want to have the nutrient contents of meat, then think about mushrooms. They are low in calories and cholesterol, and free of fat and sodium. They are ideal for soups and appetisers to main courses and sandwiches. But, with many varieties of mushrooms being poisonous, make sure you are consuming the non- poisonous ones. To check if mushrooms are poisonous, put a silver coin in the pan while cooking them. The coin will turn black if they’re poisonous.

Please give us tips on what to look for while buying and storing asparagus and green onions?
Buy asparagus spears that are firm with deep green or purplish closed tips. To store, stand spears upright in a container filled with about one inch of water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and refrigerate. Green onions, also called spring onions or scallions, are light green off-shoots of the bulb onion have a sweet, delicate flavour. Choose green onions that are free of soggy leaves. When storing, remove rubber bands and place in plastic bags in the crisper.

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