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

Cooking methods & styles

Batch Cooking and the Freezer

Foil Containers I'm deliberately starting with this subject as I can't emphasise enough the benefits of freezing food, whether you are cooking for low numbers of people, or whether you are trying to keep your food bills down while the cost of living is going up. It's both practical and economic.

Most of us probably buy our meat and vegetables from a supermarket these days, and then probably only shop once a week. This habit can present a challenge as to how we approach our cooking, whether there is only one person in the household or whether there is a large family.

Some fresh foods might struggle to stay their best during this period no matter how much effort we put into storing them. Some foods are packaged in quantities of more than we need at one sitting.

Supermarkets often have special promotions, or discount their products when they near their sell-by or best-before dates. I especially like to buy meats, at this time. For example, I might buy a large quantity of braising steak when there’s 15% off and then perhaps three bottles of beer from a “three for the price of two” promotion. I can then cook a large batch of beef in ale, eat what we need, and freeze the surplus.

Cooking food in large batches and then freezing it (or freezing what you don’t eat straight away) is a highly efficient, economic and practical approach to keeping food fresh, whether meat or vegetables. One pot dishes (for example, casseroles and stews) really lend themselves to this strategy, because it’s so easy to reach into your freezer at a later date and get a complete healthy, home made, ready meal out. You can even freeze mashed potato.

Consignment of Lamb Rogan Josh for the Freezer The cooked food should be frozen in practical sized containers, either in individual portions or to suit the size of your family. Plastic containers like ice cream cartons can often be re-used for this purpose and, when required, the food will need transferring to a cook proof container. An alternative is to buy foil containers designed for this purpose. The container can usually be put straight into the oven from the freezer, and heated through until piping hot, in about an hour.

The following of my recipes are really suited to this approach: Chilli Con Carne, Ragu alla Bolognese,  Beef in Ale, Coq au Vin. Also, you can scale up the ingredients if your cookware can handle it, for example, I make around 16 portions of chilli con carne at a time.

(Note: Don’t forget to keep your freezer in good order. If the elements are caked in frost and ice, it will need defrosting otherwise it will be using more electricity than necessary).

Bain Marie

Bain-marie means water-bath.

While we may use a bain marie in restaurants to keep cooked food hot enough to keep it safe, we also use the term for using an improvised device to melt chocolate, butter, etc.

A practical approach is to mix the ingredients in a pyrex bowl, or similar, which is perched on a saucepan of a smaller diameter.

The saucepan contains water which is kept warm on the hob with just enough heat to melt the ingredients in the bowl above.

This approach ensures there’s no disaster like accidentally boiling or burning any of the ingredients.


Means cooking in an oven and is often used with reference to bread and cakes.

Cooking temperatures in most gas ovens are given in “marks”. Temperatures for conventional electric ovens are given in degrees centigrade. Some recipes may advise cooking on the top shelf where the temperature would be warmer than the centre or the bottom. Ovens with fans are more efficient at distributing the heat and recipes usual reduce the recommended temperature by 10 degrees for these types of ovens.

Don’t forget that cookware that has been in an oven is going to be too hot to handle – so use oven gloves for handling it.


The simplest way to cook food is by boiling it in a saucepan on a hob, usually in water but perhaps in a sauce.

When the liquid is boiling, the temperature can be turned down to either a gentle boil, which is still 100 degrees centigrade, or a simmer which is just below. If the liquid is water, for example, boiling carrots in a saucepan of water, then the saucepan will require little or no supervision at this point. However, if the liquid is thicker (perhaps a sauce), then an occasional stir may be required in order to stop the contents from getting too hot and burning at the bottom of the saucepan.


Braising is a technique used for slow cooking cheaper cuts of meats in order to render or melt the fat content and tenderise the meat. The meat would normally be browned first in a frying pan.

The braising is done in a pot or casserole dish with a lid, containing a liquid (stock, sauce, gravy) in which the meat and any vegetables are suspended. The liquid will be brought up to boiling point and then reduced to barely a simmer, in an oven, and left until the meat is ready. A tagine uses the same principle.

Deep fat frying

This means having the foodstuff on a hob, entirely submerged in very hot oil. Traditional chips, fish in batter (or breadcrumbs), and doughnuts are cooked this way.

None of the recipes currently featured on my website use this technique. However, if you are going to deep fat fry, I would recommend using a wok, and just enough oil to cover the food. Also, exercise great care that the oil doesn’t become too hot and catch fire.


A grill radiates heat downwards onto the foodstuff. The temperatures involved are normally very hot. The effect is not dissimilar to shallow frying, but there is no oil involved, and any natural fats in the foodstuff, for example in a meat burger, can drain away into the bottom of the grillpan. Grilling is therefore more healthy than frying.


A popular type of cooking on Sundays in the UK. It involves cooking a joint of meat in a hot oven, perhaps some stuffing too or a Yorkshire pudding, and potatoes. There may even be some vegetables involved (carrots, parsnips, cauliflower cheese), to take advantage of any spare space in the oven while it is hot.

Shallow frying

This means cooking in a wok or frying pan on the hob, usually with a small amount of oil.

This allows the foodstuffs to be cooked at higher temperatures than boiling, and can caramelise the food, particularly meats, and give it more flavour.

I prefer to use 100% rapeseed oil for most of my frying as, not only am I led to believe it is a healthier choice, but it is flavourless. If a recipe calls for frying in butter, for example to add a buttery taste, I would add this to the oil, to stop the butter burning and becoming acrid.

Stir fry

A popular technique because it means all of your dish is cooked the same way and in one pan – preferably a wok. It’s also very healthy.

You may need to control the order in which the ingredients go into the wok. Normally, if raw meat is used, it will go in first to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If pre-cooked meats are used, they may go in last.


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