Chef's Tips and Shortcuts

Cooking Lamb, Beef or other red meats

We recently had a Lamb Biryani form a local takeaway and the meat was the consistency of rubber! You can make even a cheap cut of meat nice and tender very easily. Here’s how:

The easy way to cook plain rice

Many people find plain rice difficult to cook, and they usually make the same mistake.

  • First use Basmati rice. We find that a little over a mug (300g) of rice does well for four adult servings.
  • Unlike Pilau rice (Pilau is a method of cooking by absorption) you do not need a specific amount of water, just lots of it.

OK, here’s how.

Quick dahl

Chop finely and fry until well browned one medium sized onion. When the onion is well browned, add a teacup of red lentils, a flat teaspoon of turmeric and a flat teaspoon of salt. Fry for about 30 seconds, then add three teacups of hot water. Mix well and bring to the boil, then simmer until the mixture is like porridge. Serve as an accompaniment to a curry or eat warm in a sandwich.

How to cook poppadums

PuppadomsHeat about 1cm of oil in a frying pan until hot enough that a small piece of poppadum expands and floats almost immediately it is put in. Add two poppadums simultaneously, one on top of the other: the top one holds the bottom one flat as it expands. Quickly turn the pair over so that the top one is now underneath, again the top one keeps the bottom one flat as it cooks.

Stand the poppadums on edge to drain.

Really quick mint sauce

Mix an equal quantity (one tablespoon) of good quality mint jelly with plain yoghurt. When the mix is smooth and consistent, stir in more yoghurt to taste - don't mix it all in at once, or the sauce will be to thin.

You can add a little turmeric if you want the sauce yellow, and you could even add a little mango purée if you have some around.

The secret of succulent chicken

How can you make chicken breast as tender as the chicken breast in and Indian restaurant curry?

Pasanda: serving suggestionBritish Indian Restaurants usually use chicken that is known as 74%. That's what it is: 74% chicken containing 26% added water. There is nothing wrong with this, and it is the added water that makes the chicken so tender and succulent when it is cooked; add more water and the quality goes down, much less and you don't get the right effect.

Supermarkets and high street butchers don't usually stock this kind of chicken breast, so what do you do?

You have to use a simple technique called 'brining'. All you need to do is cut the chicken breast into 25 mm cubes and leave it immersed in very salty, cold water (brine) for 20-30 minutes. Then rinse the chicken in fresh water before marinating and cooking.