SMART COOKING HACKS FOR EVERY DAY
Everyone has to eat and we all take pride in our culinary self expression! Cooking can be an art, a chore or a joy depending on the lens through which you view it. And so to make your kitchen session a sail through here are 25 cooking tips that will put you on the 5-star pedestal you deserve.
1. MISE EN PLACE.
This is a French phrase for everything in place. This means to have all your ingredients prepared and ready for use as you start cooking cutting out hassles of stoppages or worse missing out on some ingredients!
#Whosoever invented the colander deserves an Oscar for a simple yet important part of the chef’s gear. Place one in your kitchen sink and pass all liquids through it. It will quickly trap dirt leaving you plumbing clear and saving costs.
3. QUICK RIPENING
Your plantains, avocados or even oranges not fully ripened for use? Just quicken the process by wrapping an apple and a ripe banana with the food item in a cellophane bag. The ethylene gas emitted by the bananas will speed things up.
4. BAG IT
Your favourite brand of ice cream can take ages to thaw to the right consistency after mere hours in the freezer. To avoid that, pack the ice cream in a Ziploc bag before putting into the freezer (any cellophane/polyethene bag will do). Ensure bag is airtight.
5. MOISTURE IS IT
You ‘ve baked your dream cake and are really proud of your efforts and can’t wait to impress your friends! But your cake turns up dry and not so good after some days in the fridge. Just pack the baked goods with slices of apple in a plastic bag to help preserve moisture and taste.
6. PAPER COOL ‘EM
Chill your drinks faster by wrapping the bottles and cans with a wet paper towel before storing them in the freezer.
7. USE THE BOILER
A snappy way to get things going while making soups and stews is to have handy, a kettle of hot water. This saves you time whilst washing dry fish, topping up bubbling pots. You can keep the kettle hot by keeping it on the burner on low heat.
8. BURNT POTS?
This is one aspect of cooking that I love to hate. Just the thought of washing up pots used for preparing semovita, plantain fufu had me voting for any other food than swallows! An easy peasy way to deal with such pots is to add water to cover most of the burnt crusts and boil for 5 minutes on medium heat. The crusts will crumble into the water.
9. SCRAPING YOUR POTS?
Need to scrape a burnt pot? Spoons won’t be of much help rather use the sink strainer. The flat edge of the strainer really works to loosen the debris in the pot. The shape and the different sizes of the strainers makes it ideal for anyone to work with.
10. EGGS ON DISPLAY
Having a party and boiled eggs is part of the menu, adding salt to the eggs while on the boil will save the shells from cracking. When the eggs are done, dunk them in cold water to make peeling easy.
11. CINNAMON FRESH
To deal with unpleasant cooking odours warm 2 teaspoonfuls of ground cinnamon in the microwave for 3 minutes or longer. Take out and place the warm plate of cinnamon in a central place in the house. The aroma is refreshing.
12. FLOUR TO THE RESCUE
For burns or scalds quickly dab white flour on the area taking care to cover completely. Please do not rub in! The flour will absorb the heat leaving the skin intact. To make this hack a notch more effective, keep the flour cool by leaving it in the fridge.
13. SPARKLING POTS
Get your pot and pans shiny as new by rinsing it with a solution of water and white vinegar. For added effects buff with a soft cloth.
14. TASTIER FISH
ADD a dash of lemon juice to your fish while cooking or better still soak the fish with lemon and seasoning before steaming. Your fish will come out tasty, tender and with loads of flavour.
15. CRISPY VEGGIES
Again vinegar to the rescue, just rinse your vegetables with a solution of vinegar and water before use and get the crunch going. Do remember that some people are allergic to vinegar.
16. PERFECT GRILL
Grill fish falling to pieces? Cut thick slices of large lemons and place on the grill with the fish on top. The lemon will add flavour while saving the fish from falling to pieces.
17. CLOGGED COLANDER?
SIMPLY add dishwashing soap to a pot of boiling water and immerse your colanders. Simmer for 10 minutes or less on low heat. For plastic colander, immerse in hot water (with dishwashing liquid) for a few minutes. Then wash normally. Larger colanders (sieve as we call them) will require warm soaking in a large basin. Then get the kids to use toothpicks to pick the clogged holes if need be.
18. GRANULATED SUGAR
No granulated sugar for your cooking? Simply add cubed sugar to your tablet crusher and twist. No need for mortar and pestle please!
19. SALT TO THE RESCUE
Got pepper in the eye while cooking? simply take a pinch of salt on the tongue and have the smarting off in no time. Learnt his from my grandma. And it works!
20. TOMATO SPLATTER
To stop your steaming pot of tomatoes from foaming and messing up the cooker, put a kebab stick into the pot and the foaming will stop. This also works with frying fish or meat where the oil is foaming.
21. SCOOP EASY
Anyone preparing cocoyam paste or puff puff for the first time will attest to the frustration of paste/dough sticking to the spoon or hands! To prevent that keep a bowl of water or oil hand for dipping the pestle, spoon or your hands as you work.
22. FOR NUTS SAKE!
Seeds and nuts like Ogbono, Egusi, Almonds, and even Groundnut(peanuts) keep for longer when wrapped in foil. Secure with a plastic bag for better protection and keep in the freezer. Remember to give the seeds time to warm up prior to grinding and use.
23. ALUMINIUM FOIL WORKS
Fresh vegetables stay fresh longer when wrapped in aluminium foil and stored in the cellophane bags. Keep cool in a refrigerator vegetable compartment.
24. TOO MUCH SALT
If your soup or stew turns up too salty just add a sprig of Ugu leaves to the pot. The vegetable takes up the excess salt. You can also do this with Irish potatoes. When you are done carefully lift the ugu leaves or the potatoes out of the pot. Remember to take care while stirring.
25. DISCOLOURED TUBERS
It is common to see yams, potatoes or cocoyams change colour in the peeling process. To stop the discolouration, generously apply vegetable oil to your hand knife and the tuber as you peel. The oil will cut short the colour change and the tuber will be stain free upon cooking.
26. LABELS AND COLOUR CODES
This one is for people with big families and freezers. In the normal course of running a large household, different food items are purchased at different times. So you may end up with beef bought at different times wrapped in cellophane bags with little or no concise differentiation! To avoid that confusion simply formulate colour codes for your frozen items. For instance:
BLUE ……………………………………………………………………………………. BEEF
SEEDS AND NUTS…………………………………………………………………… SEE THROUGH BAGS
WHITE……………………………………………………………………………………. STEAMED BEEF
PURPLE………………………………………………………………………………. STEAMED FISH
Remember to keep handy clear tape and marker for labelling dates of preparation or purchases.
27. CAN THE BEANS
This tip will help you take advantage of seasonal purchase of grains. Beans, pigeon pea, will keep weevil-free for longer when stored in jerry cans. Add dry whole capiscum (danjarawa pepper) and close tightly.
28. LOST SINK STRAINER?
Nothing to fret about! Quickly grab your domestic steel sponge (iron sponge) and plug into the sinkhole. Hold it in place with your hand or a heavy plate and pour in your liquid. The fine mesh of the sponge will trap most of the dirt. Shake off the debris and rinse your steel sponge with warm soapy water.
Every householder knows his/her pantry but what about your visitor? Sorting and arranging pantry items into clearly marked zones will make finding that jar of semolina or tin of sardine easy for the newcomer and of course the children.
30. POUND QUIET
Using a mortar and pestle for a recipe? Avoid the noise by piling up 2 rubber hollow mats one on top of the other. The rubber will absorb the shock of the pounding and the noise will be much reduced.
31. GINGER EASY
Need to fresh ginger for that fabulous new recipe of yours? Just use a spoon to quickly peel the skin off. It’s super easy and quick.
32. SHAKE IT OFF
Cleaning and peeling the skin off a garlic bulb can be a chore especially when you are in a hurry. One fast way to do that is to put the garlic bulb into container with a lid and shake thoroughly. The garlic leaves will come off. The garlic has to be dry too.