10 kitchen hacks to help you cook like a pro – from one of Raymond Blanc’s top chefs

Did you know scooping out an avocado with a spoon is not the way to go? Or that peeling garlic is a task you don’t actually have to do?

Well, I didn’t either – until I spent a day at the cookery school of Raymond Blanc’s Michelin-starred hotel, Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire.

There,  Raymond’s friend, development chef and barbecue maestro, Adam Johnson shared some surprising pearls of wisdom – in between preparing perfectly-seasoned lamb ribs and vanilla-scented barbecued pineapple.

Go forth and use these tips in your own kitchen.

1. Cut out the wishbone

Roasting a chicken? Remove the wishbone before putting it in the oven (or on the barbecue, if you’re Adam). It’ll make it far easier to carve up once it’s been cooked.

2. Be brave with mussels

Try doing mussels on the barbecue or griddle pan – just whack the shells in an old colander and sit on the coals, or bundle them into a wire barbecue fish basket and grill.

Mussels on a barbecue (PA)

Don’t have a tray like this? A colander will do (PA)

3. Avoid peeling garlic

Hate peeling garlic and then having to wash up your crusher? You can skip these steps. Instead, get a microplane grater and just grate the garlic bulb – skin and all – directly into the pan. Most of the skin will fall off and any bits that do get through will be so tiny it won’t matter if they’re eaten.

4. Change how you season

If you’re seasoning a piece of meat, fish or even vegetables, rather than apply your herbs and spices directly, season the chopping board instead. Pile your salt, pepper, herbs etc. on the board, add oil, then mix together, before spreading out in the rough shape of the meat/fish/veg you’ll be seasoning. Place the meat on the board, press down, then flip and rub in so that both sides are coated evenly.

A rack of ribs seasoned on a chopping board (Ella Walker/PA)

Season the board for even coverage (Ella Walker/PA)

5. A pinch = a gram

In chef talk (and in recipes) a pinch of salt, means a gram of salt – which is a lot more than you might think. Try weighing it out and see.

6. Fork that avocado

Making guacamole? Instead of slicing and scooping the avocado flesh from its skin, scrape it out with a fork – it saves time and means less mashing later.

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7. Pineappple tenderises

If you’ve got a tough bit of meat, like a pork shoulder steak, marinate it overnight in a puree of pineapple, mango and papaya flesh. The meat will take on the flavours of the fruit, while the enzymes in the pineapple will tenderise it. Double whammy.

8. Thread chicken tightly

When it comes to doing chicken skewers, don’t divide hunks of chicken between slices of pepper, onion and courgette – it’ll make the meat dry out as it cooks. Instead, tightly pack the chicken on to the skewer, with no gaps. The meat will be tender, juicy, and more likely to cook through correctly. You can do veggie-only skewers separately.

9. Chop herbs into chunks

Adding herbs to fresh salads? Keep the herb leaves chunky so you have something to bite on once served.

10. Cut your Camembert correctly

If you’re baking a wheel of Camembert, carve slits only in the top of the cheese, not in the sides. That way you won’t have Camembert leaking out or reduced to a runny mess.

For details of cookery courses at Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, visit the website.

 

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