After Toast: Recipes for Aspiring Cooksby Kate Gibbs
Finally, a cookbook that answers the question all aspiring cooks ask—what can I cook once I've mastered toast? The essential young person's guide to real, and really awesome, food.
Toast is the entry into the kitchen for many cooks—the dish a young cook first learns not to burn, or that they make when there is nobody around to/b>
Finally, a cookbook that answers the question all aspiring cooks ask—what can I cook once I've mastered toast? The essential young person's guide to real, and really awesome, food.
Toast is the entry into the kitchen for many cooks—the dish a young cook first learns not to burn, or that they make when there is nobody around to cook for them. It's a reliable culinary introduction. But what comes next? Taking aspiring cooks into the kitchen fray, this cookbook shows young adults what to eat and how to cook. Distilling culinary advice from her own upbringing, the author offers must-know tricks for the new-to-cooking, modernizes classics, and inspires an interest in healthy cooking. Recipes for crunchy, fried mozzarella-stuffed croquettes; French roast chicken; mini cheeseburgers; and proper salads meet ideas for sprawling weekend feasts. This book raises the bar for the packed lunch, serves up new ideas on snacks, shows teens and 20-somethings what to cook for friends or mom, and puts an end to endless fridge searches by answering the perpetual question "What can I eat?".
"Appealing and easy to navigate." —Publishers Weekly
- Allen & Unwin Pty., Limited
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Recipes for Aspiring Cooks
By Kate Gibbs
Allen & UnwinCopyright © 2012 Kate Gibbs
All rights reserved.
STARS AND YOU
Recipes are given stars to denote difficulty levels. One star is totally do-able. Two may need a little more focus, and three is what to make when you're really getting the hang of this cooking malarky.
A COOK'S TOOLS
A bad workman blames his tools when something goes wrong. But chefs simply can't do their best work without a decent set of gadgets, knives and things. Here's a list of things you really need on hand if you're going to take this cooking caper seriously.
# Microplane grater
# Wooden spoons
# Stainless steel mixing bowls
# Baking trays
# Heavy-based frying pans (2 sizes)
# Heavy-based saucepans (2–3 sizes)
# A few very sharp knives (and a knife sharpener)
# At least 2 thick plastic chopping boards
# 1 thick butcher's block or large wooden board
# Steamer that sits inside a saucepan with a lid
# Mortar and pestle
# Metal spatula, rubber spatula, ladle
# Metal tongs (a few small ones)
# Small ceramic mixing bowl
# Heavy-based baking dish
# 12-hole muffin or cupcake tin
# 23 cm (approx. 9 inch) springform round cake tin.
SAUCEPAN Near the top of any good cook's must-have list is a decent saucepan. It should be heavy to ensure even cooking and avoid burning. I prefer cast-iron, whether unlined or lined with Silverstone or some other non-stick surface. Copper is brilliant because it's heavy, plus it looks stunning if you look after it, though it is pricey. I'm not a fan of stainless steel because, while it's quite easy to clean, it's too light and is very likely to cause burning. Three saucepans will do you nicely–a small, medium and large–and make sure they all have matching lids with steam outlets to prevent boiling over.
FRYPANS As you develop your gastronomic and culinary skills, you'll want a battery of pans. This must include a frying pan for browning meats and for general frying and sautéing. It should have a fairly long handle and sloping sides of about 5 cm depth.
WOODEN SPOONS Keep a few wooden spoons in your kitchen. Have one especially for highly flavoured foods such as garlic, onions and curries. Keep another for sweet delicate dishes like custards. This stops the flavour transferring and avoids curry-flavoured custards. Dab a little bright pink nail polish at the handle end of one to identify which is which, though the smell should make it pretty obvious.
TEA TOWELS So incredibly useful for moving hot pans around the kitchen, in and out of ovens and the like. But, a HUGE warning note–when handling hot cooking utensils, make sure never to use a wet tea towel. This is particularly true when getting something hot out of the oven. As the moisture from the tea towel comes into contact with the heat, steam forms and rushes through the cloth, bound to give a very painful and nasty burn. Oven mitts or thick dry tea towels are a much safer bet.
A COOK'S TRICKS
Cooking is a bit like a science project: you really need to pay attention or you'll end up with a mess on your hands. It just doesn't work if you do it half-heartedly. I've seen many a mini chef pay only a bit of attention to what's cooking, and mostly check their iPhones, and so things end up a bit of a disaster.
Cooking is a full-attention thing to do. You do it completely, and finish it completely, before being distracted by something else. It's great fun, but you still need to take it a bit seriously.
Here are some tips and notes to help you do all this cooking malarky better.
BLANCH. A healthy method for cooking vegetables as things only get partly cooked, so less vitamins come out. Boil water over a high heat and just pop the vegetables in for a minute or less.
CHOP. What do the words 'finely chopped' or 'roughly chopped' really mean? Chopping is a very general word for cutting food into chunks, basically. The exact shape usually doesn't matter. 'Finely chopped' things should be pretty small–say, 2 mm (1/16 inch) chunks. 'Roughly chopped' can be a little bigger, say double that size or bigger. Practise chopping on herbs. Place the herbs on a board, hold the knife handle in one hand and place the other hand, very flat, on top of the blunt side of the blade, at the other end. Keep the knife's point on the board and bring the handle up so the blade goes over the herbs. Your flat hand holds down the tip-end of the knife, while the handle end rocks and chops the herbs. Careful of your fingers!
GRILL. Get the pan or barbecue very hot to grill something. You want things browning nicely to add flavour, without cooking them forever.
MISE EN PLACE. This is one of the most useful skills I learned at culinary school. Mise en place is a French term, meaning 'put in place'. Basically, have everything ready to go–chopped, diced, weighed and measured. Before any stoves are turned on, before any bubbling or simmering begins, all ingredients should be measured and ready to go. This turns messy, distracted, frantic cooking into something that's actually fun. It also means you don't realise halfway through your recipe that you're missing a vital ingredient. Whether you're making scrambled eggs or baking a chocolate cake, get everything ready first. Read through the ingredients list and if it says 1/2 cup flour, then measure it out. If it says '2 carrots, finely chopped', then finely chop two carrots before you do anything else.
GRIND. We often grind things in a mortar and pestle. This very old, traditional cooking tool is still very much in vogue. The mortar is a very heavy stone bowl, and a pestle is a heavy bat-shaped object that is used to pulverise things in the mortar. Larger, heavy ones are generally better, because they make less work for you.
PURÉE. This really common kitchen term means to turn something solid into something loose in texture. So, for example, whole carrots become an orange, carrot-flavoured slop. Depending on the food, purées can be made in many different ways. Often a food processor or blender is used to really pulp an ingredient, or it may be ground up really fine using a mortar and pestle or by pushing it through a sieve. It's often how we make soups, dips and even some sauces.
REDUCE. First we build the dish up with lots of ingredients, then we reduce it down. When we 'reduce' a stock or sauce, we simmer it down so the water evaporates a little and we're left with something stronger and richer in flavour. If you reduce a sauce or stock too much, and it's just too strong in flavour and there's not enough of it, just add a little water to the pot. Makes sense.
REFRESH (SHOCK). Technically speaking, to 'refresh' is how we rejuvenate yesterday's leftovers by adding a fresh ingredient–some herbs or fresh stock, for example. But many cookbooks, including this one, use the term 'refresh' in another way–meaning to plunge cooked food (usually vegetables) under cold water, or in a bowl full of ice and water, to stop it cooking. Technically the term 'refresh' isn't correct for this procedure, but you'll see and hear it used a lot. In proper culinary circles, plunging hot cooked vegetables into cold water is actually known as 'shocking' the vegetables.
SAUTÉ. Taken from the French word 'jump', this cooking method requires food to be cooked in a small amount of butter or oil. The food is thrown around in the pan either by tossing the pan or moving things around with a spoon.
SCALDING POINT. This refers to the point at which liquid (usually milk or water) is heated just a moment before it boils or simmers. The liquid may shimmer a little, like it's about to burst with bubbles.
SEAR. A term often used for meats, it means to quickly brown something over a high heat. The heat shouldn't permeate the food too much. Did you know there is a myth about searing meat? Check it out here.
SEASONING. In the ingredients list, you won't always see salt and pepper listed, even though they are often used in the method. So, as always, it's a good idea to read a recipe through first so you know exactly what you're doing. Always use good-quality sea salt–I like sea salt flakes best. And always use freshly ground black pepper, unless instructed otherwise. Always taste a dish you're about to serve for seasoning, before you take it to the table. You can always add seasoning at this point, and a tiny pinch of salt makes a big difference. Be careful with seasoning though–add a little bit at a time–you can always add a little more salt and pepper, but you can't take it out. And remember people can always add a little more salt at the table if they like.
STEAM. Food is placed above simmering water so the steam actually cooks it. The nutrients don't all come out in the water, so it's a healthy way to cook. Fish and vegetables are great steamed. Just season the water with salt and then drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper after cooking.
STIR-FRY. A healthy method of cooking because not much oil is added, and food is tossed around (usually in a wok) at a high temperature, so a lot of the nutrients stay inside the food.
TOAST. Recipes often ask for nuts or seeds to be toasted. Heat a dry, heavy pan over a moderately low heat. Add the nuts or seeds and 'toast', tossing occasionally until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Use your nose as a guide, and look for a toasty, golden colour. Be careful, they will continue to toast in the hot pan even after the heat has been turned off. The microwave is also a great way to toast nuts and seeds. Place in a microwave cooking dish on top of kitchen paper and cook on high, stirring and moving frequently until required toastiness.
ZEST. Zest is the colourful, oil-rich, very outer peel of citrus fruit. It has a wonderful, strong flavour used in sweet and savoury dishes. Zest can be taken off the fruit using a zester or microplane, which removes zest in a finely grated form and leaves behind the white pithy part, which tastes bitter. So when a recipe asks for zest, you want the coloured bit of the peel, without any of the white pith.
MEAT and CHICKEN
We eat a lot of meat. In previous generations the famous Sunday Roast was often the only time a family would eat meat in a week, and all the bones and trimmings would be used through the week to pad out other meals–as leftovers in soups, stews and the like.
# Estimate about 150–200 grams (5½-7 ounces) per person for lamb, beef, pork and chicken.
# Supermarkets do a roaring trade on packed meat that is portioned out for one-meal use. Be it steaks, mince or a couple of chicken breasts, this is all about convenience. Be careful to only buy what you need and will eat, though.
# Don't use the excuse of high cost for buying low-quality meat. Best to buy excellent meat and have it less often.
HOW TO CHOOSE ...
STEAK should be a little marbled with fat, which adds a lovely texture when cooked. If you want a very lean fat-free steak, go for a thick-cut eye fillet steak, which you should cook medium-rare or rare so it's lovely and juicy. I love a scotch fillet steak, which has a ribbon of fat through it but is packed with flavour and is extremely tender. A porterhouse or sirloin steak is quite lean and has fat running along one side, which is easy to cut off after cooking. It's a top quality cut, relatively lean with a lovely tender texture. A rump steak is always boneless and quite fatty, and although it's not as tender as others, it's very juicy and tasty.
ROAST BEEF comes in many forms. Just drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then cook carefully and you can't go wrong. A fillet of beef is the long muscle that comes from deep inside the cow, not around the edge like most cuts. It's arguably the most tender (and most expensive) cut, but is amazing roasted. It's best seared in a pan then roasted for a short time so it's quite rare. Brisket is quite tough, until it is slow roasted in a low temperature oven. It's amazing value and it's really tasty. Standing rib eye (or prime rib of beef), is that glorious Flintstones- style roast done on the bone. If you love to gnaw a giant bone after a roast beef that's intense with flavour, this is your best bet.
BEEF STEW and slow-cooked dishes like Beef Provençale are about long, slow braising. So you want a beef cut that is fatty and not too expensive. The long cooking time makes fat disappear and the meat go meltingly soft and delicious. Beef cheeks and chuck steak are great for stews, cut into large cubes. Beef shin and oxtail are on the bone, but will become all soft and delicious and fall-off-the-bone when cooked for hours.
BARBECUE is about cooking at really high temperatures either over hot coals or flames. The smoke really penetrates the meat and gives it an amazing aroma and flavour. But the trick is to get the barbecue really hot first and to cook the meat for a really short time–barbecue meat is often overcooked!
# If you're doing beef, go for a sturdy, fatty, thick-cut beef from the butcher that won't cook too quickly, like rump.
# Barbecued chicken is amazing, but can dry out quickly. Ask your butcher to butterfly a whole bird for you so it's flat–just marinate in olive oil, lemon juice, chilli flakes and loads of garlic, season well, then cook flat on a hot plate. Otherwise choose thighs over breast, because they don't dry out as quickly.
# Lamb, marinated in rosemary, garlic, grated lemon rind and olive oil, makes a brilliant barbecue. I ask my butcher to butterfly a whole leg of lamb for me, so it's easy to slice for everyone. Chops and cutlets are good too, just be careful not to overcook lamb on the barbecue or it will go really dry and grainy.
STIR-FRY cooking is fast and hot hot hot. You want that wok very hot before you cook, and everything should be done in a flash. Things should brown, and quickly. Use chicken thighs, cut into pieces. You can use chicken breast but be careful not to overcook or it will dry out. I use rump steak in stir-fries because it's so full of flavour and can take the high heat.
IS THE STEAK COOKED?
Before you cook a steak, it should be at room temperature. This way, it will cook more evenly.
# RARE OR WELL-DONE We all have our preferences, though to me a well-done steak is ruined, too tough and with a grainy texture. I prefer a rare to medium-rare, which has an almost crispy exterior and is still pink instead but definitely warm all the way through. Rare looks the same from the outside, but inside it's close to raw and still bloody.
# GRILL a 4 centimetre (1½ inch) thick fillet steak for 2 to 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Minus a minute each side and it's rare, and add a minute more and it's well done.
# REST THE MEAT Remember the meat continues to cook and relax once you've taken it off the heat. So it's always best to cook it less and let it rest for 5 minutes. Resting is really important with meat–it makes it more tender and keeps the juices inside.
IS THE CHICKEN COOKED?
When cooked, chicken juices should run clear. Whether you've roasted a whole bird or pan-fried a chicken breast, just slide a knife into the thickest part and watch the juices run out. They should be clear or close to it. If they're red or pink, cook the chook a little longer. Organic chicken is often more pink in colour. That's because they haven't been pumped with chemicals that make the meat white. Don't worry about this pink and brown colour, it's how it's supposed to be. While the juices should run clear, the meat may still be quite pink, especially near the bone.
GRASS OR GRAIN-FED BEEF?
There are HUGE differences between meat produced from animals fed and raised on these different diets. I only ever eat and buy grass-fed beef, I find it more ethical and I prefer the flavour. I also buy organic because I don't like to have hormones with my steak. But do try both and see which you prefer.
# Grass-fed, or pasture-fed, beef generally has a better, cleaner flavour. These beasts roamed pastures and got to hang out with other cows in a relatively natural environment. Their muscles got a decent work out, so their meat is often less fatty.
# Grain-fed beef comes from cattle that was fed for a specified number of days on high-energy feed. So 100-day grain-fed cattle spent the last 100 days of its life being fed grain in a feedlot. Grain-fed cattle tends to have high levels of fat marbled through the meat, which impacts the flavour and texture.
Excerpted from After Toast by Kate Gibbs. Copyright © 2012 Kate Gibbs. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Kate Gibbs is an established food and travel writer, journalist, cookbook author, and the granddaughter of Australian cooking legend Margaret Fulton. She writes regularly for Australian Gourmet Traveller, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Wall Street Journal.
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