Cooking with Tan Chef Tan Mackay

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Chef Tan Cooking with Tan

Home    Introduction    Basics 

Recipes    Contact


Cooking with Tan

Home    Introduction    Basics 

Recipes    Contact

Basics for the Novice Cook

Herbs and Spices

Herbs can usually be fresh or dried, the latter usually being the most practical way of keeping them in a domestic environment. Dried herbs can usually go into the cooking pot at the beginning of cooking whereas I would put fresh herbs in at the end.

All of the herbs and spices needed in my recipes are listed here:

Basil: – I buy a plant in a small pot from the supermarket and use it fresh with tomatoes for a taste of Italy. Tearing the leaves really lets the flavour out. I also like to use it in stir frys and soups as a substitute for some vegetables that aren’t readily available in the United Kingdom.

Bay leaf: – It’s amazing how one or more bay leaves can improve the flavour when used in stews, casseroles, etc. It’s discarded after cooking.

Cayenne pepper: – Pepper that has a kick to it, ideal for spicing up Cajun dishes.

Chilli powder: – A convenient way to add heat to dishes like curries and chill con carne. Should you get some on your hands (or even if you’ve been touching fresh chillies), then wash you hands as soon as possible and before you touch other more sensitive parts of your body (like your face).

Cummin: – Powdered cummin has a very distinct odour which is instantly recognisable as an ingredient to curries. However, if cooked for too long, the flavour will disappear, and so should be added to dishes near the end of cooking.

Garlic: – Garlic is good for you. It is also good for maximising the flavour of all the other elements in your dish. You need to remove the skin, and finely slice or mash the clove, for example with the side of a knife. You might find using garlic from a tube more convenient, in which case one big teaspoon is roughly the equivalent of a clove of garlic. (nb: Garlic grows as a bulb which is comprised of segments. Each segment is a “clove”. I mention this because apparently there have been disasters when beginners confuse cloves and bulbs).

Italian Herbs: – A mix of herbs including oregano, which is ideal with tomato based sauces.

Mint: – Easy to grow but can be invasive if planted in the garden. Finely chopped and mixed with vinegar and a little sugar, it's popular as a dressing for roast lamb and new potatoes, etc.

Paprika: – Used quite widely in world cuisine and adds a red colour to sauces as well as flavour.

Pepper: – I buy whole black peppercorns and grind them as I need them in a peppermill. This keeps them fresh and maximises the flavour from them. I also keep a small tub of white pepper in my kitchen for flavouring mashed potato, parsley sauce and other white foodstuffs, for appearance reasons.

Salt: – Is salt. It’s essential and it isn’t expensive. Most food will taste bland without it, but use it sparingly - too much salt isn't good for you. If you've used bacon, stock cubes, or soy sauce in your dish, it might be salty enough, so taste beforehand and use your judgement before adding more.

Thyme: – I use this to enhance my roasts, both on the meat and on the roast potatoes.

Turmeric: – Used quite widely in world cuisine and adds a yellow colour to sauces as well as flavour. If used, it should be added to a dish at the earliest opportunity in order to completely cook the grittiness out of it.


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