• Start the New Year on a clean chopping board by banishing bad habits and myths in the kitchen.

    7 Cardinal kitchen rules to make 2017 a breeze:

    1. When using fresh garlic, stop stressing about chopping and crushing it. Make your life easier – peel and simply grate on the finer side of the grater.
    2. How to peel the banana the right way: most people peel bananas from the stem down, often bruising and squashing the fruit. Next time, approach it from the other end of the banana: “pop” the knot and peel, using the stem as a handle – voilà!
    3. When working with mascarpone, make sure to remove it from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before using. As it curdles quickly, you have to work gently with it. To avoid it separating (you’ll end up with a lumpy mess), stir very gently, only briefly, with a spoon (no whisking or beating) before combining with any other ingredients you will be folding in.
    4. Don’t overcrowd your food in a pan when frying or searing, as you might end up with a soggy, colourless result. When you squeeze too much into a pan, not only does the temperature drop, but there’s too much moisture, resulting in the food getting braised instead of fried or seared. This also leads to uneven cooking and insipid-looking food.
    5. Nobody likes gluey mashed potatoes. The more you mash your boiled potatoes, the more starch will be released – creating a gooey outcome (use only a potato masher or ricer, never a blender and mash when the potatoes are piping hot). To make the best mash, use boiled but firm potatoes and mix in your fat only at the point of perfect consistency. Push your mash through a sieve for a silky- smooth end product.
    6. The general rule of thumb for perfectly cooked al dente pasta is to boil it for 1 minute less than the packaging instructions indicate. Always set a timer when cooking pasta and do a quick taste test, 2 minutes before the time is up, to make sure you’re right on track.
    7. When melting chocolate, if heated for too long, you may end up with a separated muddle. You’ll know it has split if it looks greasy, grainy or lumpy, when you were aiming for a velvety finish. You’ll need some fresh cream. Add a dash of cream and emulsify with a stick blender until the chocolate returns to normal.

    By Nomvuselelo Mncube

    Imka Webb

    Imka Webb is a freelance digital marketing expert and the digital editor of Food & Home Entertaining magazine.  www.imkawebb.com