Somehow when you are cooking at home your food doesn’t taste as good as it does at a restaurant. Why is this? We asked trained restaurant chef Arnaud Thulliez for his tips. Arnaud has over 20 years experience working in top hotel kitchens in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. So let’s use his pro chef tips to take our home-cooked meals to the next level.
You don’t necessarily need to cook with rock salt and peppercorns to get the benefit -
Many restaurants grind peppercorns instead of using white pepper powder. And rock salt is more often used in restaurant kitchens than table salt. You’ll find it labeled Maldon sea salt, Sel Gris, or Fleur de Sel. You don’t necessarily need to cook with them to get the benefit – just grind them over dishes before you serve them to add a punch of flavor and an appealing crunch.
Oil and butter are similar, you don’t necessarily need to cook with the best quality extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil. But use it at the end to bring out the flavour. Drizzle your salads, kebabs and pastas with a flavorful cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. A few drops of sesame oil adds fragrance to Chinese recipes, while walnut oil is a winner on Middle Eastern recipes - we’ve found a Vegan one here and here.
“Home cooks are often scared of sharp knives - but they’re safer than blunt knives. You don’t press so hard, so the knife is less likely to slip. Sharp knives are much more precise, like an extension of your finger. You only need two and three good knives. Buy the best knives you can afford. And find a shop to professionally sharpen them for you once a year,” advises Chef Arnaud.
In Singapore you can try Razorsharp, who import professional knives, from Japan, Germany and the USA. They sharpen knives and can give you free knife sharpening lessons.
“Fresh and dry herbs do two different jobs. Fresh herbs are when you want to finish a dish. When you sprinkle a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander over a dish you instantly add flavour.” explains Chef Arnaud.
“Fresh and dry herbs do two different jobs. Fresh herbs are when you want to finish a dish. When you sprinkle a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander over a dish you instantly add flavour.” explains Chef Arnaud. “Dry herbs are great for marinades or barbecues. For example, I make a marinade with dried oregano and marjoram, or use a bundle of dried thyme and rosemary to brush oil on steak before grilling.”
If you use dry herbs or spices, replace them often. Dried sumac or oregano that has been sitting in your kitchen cabinet for years won’t add much flavour or fragrance to a dish.
If your dry herb or spice has lost flavour, you can revive it. Heat a heavy pan or wok over medium fire for about 5 minutes, until it’s hot. Add spice, and shake or stir it for about three minutes until the spices start to smell fragrant again. It’s not as good as fresh spice, but if you can’t get out to shop, it will do fine.
Restaurant kitchens are organised with military precision. The French phrase chefs use to prepare their counter before work is called ‘mise en place” and it literally means “everything in place”. These tricks also work at home:
● Prepare your ingredients ahead
Read the recipe. Check you have all the ingredients you need. Weigh, chop, slice and measure everything before you start. Now you can pay attention to cooking.
● Keep your workspace tidy, and clean up as you work. Many chefs keep a bowl on your counter to clean up scraps and peelings as they work. It’s more efficient than walking to the garbage bin twenty times.
● Organize your food and cooking equipment in your kitchen. For example, keep all your baking things together in one place. Keep all your sauces on one shelf in the refrigerator. You won’t waste time opening the refrigerator to grab one thing, or walk all over your kitchen to find your measuring cups.
Chef Arnaud is here to give us all hope. “One mistake I see home cooks making is that they try to follow a recipe line by line. They lose confidence if it does not work exactly. But maybe your oven is slightly different, or the ingredients are not quite the same. Everyone cooks slightly differently - you give the same recipe to 10 chefs and you will get 10 different results. So maybe a dish does not work quite how you want it - that’s not a failure, it’s an experiment. You’ve learnt something and you’ll do better next time.”
A traditional dish made with good ingredients is often more memorable than a fancy new recipe no-one understands. If you want to surprise people (in a good way), try a “Grazing Table”. This is when you serve several small dishes at the same time. Guests help themselves to what they like. Grazing tables work great when you serve a variety of nibbles and include vegetarian and vegan snacks. The Arlene range of snacks were co-created with chefs. They’re 100% vegan and 100% halal.
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