- Blind baking
- Bread rising and proofing
- Beef roasting times
- Lamb roasting times
- Liquidizing versus blending
- Pasta making and cooking
Blind-baking is the process of pre-baking pastry without the filling. It makes your pastry cases cook evenly and flat, and ensures a lovely crisp casing for your pie or tart. Reasons for blind baking pastry include:
- The filling will not be baked
- The filling will be baked, but needs structure
- The filling has a shorter cooking time than the pastry
- To stop the filling from making the pastry soggy
How to blind bake
- Grease your tin with a light coating of olive oil or butter.
- Lay in the pastry, making sure there are no bubbles of air trapped underneath. Cut the overhanging edges off with a sharp knife.
- Line the pastry with greaseproof paper. It helps to screw the paper into a tight ball, then flatten it out before lining the pastry, otherwise it’s a bit stiff.
- Fill with pastry weights or dried legumes right to the top edge of the pastry. This stops its sides from shrinking.
- Bake at 180c (356F) for 15 minutes, or until golden.
- Remove from the oven, and remove the pastry weights.
- Continue with your recipe!
The American Angus Association has a fantastic diagram of cuts of beef and their best cooking methods.
Eye fillet, tenderloin, rib eye, scotch fillet, rump, porterhouse, sirloin, rib roast:
- Brown in a very hot pan first, around 2 to 3 mins per quarter turn
- Roast at 200C (392F)
- Rare: 20 mins per 500gm
- Medium: 25 mins per 500gm
- Well done: 30 mins per 500gm
Blade, eye round, girello, topside:
- Slow roast:
- Roast at 130C (266F)
- 50 mins per 500gm
- Short roast:
- 160C (320F)
- Rare: 25 mins per 500gm
- Medium: 30 mins per 500gm
- Well done: 35 mins per 500gm
The Gawler River Cattle Co. has a fantastic lamb cut chart.
Eye of shortloin/backstrap, lamb round or topside mini roast, lamb rump
- Rare: 15 to 20 minutes per 500gm
- Medium: 20 to 25 minutes per 500gm
- Well done: 25 to 30 minutes per 500gm
Rack of lamb, four rib roast, crown roast, shortloin/midloin
- Rare: 20 to 25 minutes in total, regardless of weight
- Medium: 20 to 35 minutes in total, regardless of weight
- Well done: 40 to 45 minutes in total, regardless of weight
Loin (boned and rolled), leg or shoulder (bone-in), easy carve leg or shoulder
- Rare: 20 to 25 minutes per 500gm
- Medium: 25 to 30 minutes per 500gm
- Well done: 30 to 35 minutes per 500gm
I talk about liquidizing a lot in my recipes, especially soups. Liquidising – using a liquidiser, or drinks blender – is a completely different process with a completely different outcome to blending in a food processor.
I like to use soup as an example. Good soup is all about texture and concentration of flavour, and comprehensive mixing and aeration are how it’s done. The combination of blade sharpness, mixing speed and gravity make a liquidizer the best tool for this job. A food processor spreads the food out too much, and the blades move too slowly. They’re made for chopping, not liquidising.
Hand held blenders are the next best thing.
Bread needs two rises; the first is for bulk, the second for fermentation (‘proofing’), which enhances the flavour of the bread.
Why two rises? Well there are a few reasons:
- a lot of carbon dioxide builds up in the bulking stage which will eventually kill off the yeast – ‘knocking back’ the dough releases the gas
- it ensures the yeast is evenly distributed throughout the dough
- to relax the gluten and make it more elastic – gluten gives the dough elasticity which helps to rise and shape, and gives it a chewy texture. The greater the strength, the greater the elasticity, ability to hold its shape and stay risen, and chewier texture
Yes, the temperature does matter. Retarding the rising process develops the bread’s flavour and gives it greater gluten strength. You can retard the rising time by covering your dough and putting it in the fridge overnight.
If you want to rise bread fast, put it somewhere warm for both rises. I often put the oven on for 10 mins then turn it off and pop the dough in. This will seriously shorten the rising time, but it’s a trade off because proofing is where the flavour comes from.
Biga is a pre-fermented mini dough used in Italian bread baking, and it is used similarly to a poolish or sourdough starter, although it is a bit thicker. It makes the flavour of the bread more complex, and helps to preserve it.
Mix 1 cup flour, 100ml water and 3gm dried yeast together in a bowl. Cover with clingfilm and set in a temperate spot (not much warmer than 25C) to ferment overnight. The longest I’ve left a biga to ferment is 2 days.
1 egg to every 100gm of ‘oo’ flour. This will make a main-sized serve for 2 people.
Method of making pasta dough
Measure out the flour and pour out directly onto your worktop, making a hillock. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Using your fingers mix the eggs and flour together until a dough forms. Dust the worktop with flour then knead the dough until completely combined.
Separate the dough into 2 pieces per 100gm flour, rolling each into a ball. Dust the worktop with flour then using a rolling pin roll each ball into a long oval. Starting with the widest setting work through a pasta maker until until it is rolled to the thinnest setting. Cut into 30 or 40cm lengths, coating each layer liberally flour so it doesn’t stick together when stacked.
Cut the rolled pasta into your desired shape. If you’re making spaghetti or parpadelle drape it over a coat hanger while you cook the sauce and boil the water. This will ensure it doesn’t stick together. Don’t worry if your pasta dries out – it won’t hurt it one bit.
Cooking fresh pasta
It is easy to overcook fresh pasta so follow these steps to get it just right.
Pasta likes lots of room to move around while it’s cooking. Get out your biggest pot and fill it with water. Bring it to the boil then add a tbsp or two of salt – your water should taste like the sea. Add the pasta and boil until al-dente, which is the moment the pasta floats to the surface (between 2 and 4 minutes depending on thickness and shape). Drain in a colander immediately.