This week I wanted to let you know about some of my favourite cooking tips. When I started this blog I could just about cook pasta and not much else, but as I have experimented and grown I have picked up a lot of little quirks that make things easier or tastier. Here are my top five killer veggie cooking tips for vegetarians that have helped me so far.
1. Use sundried tomato oil
When I cook, I fry vegetables a lot. Red onion almost always goes in the pan, whether I’m cooking a soup or a curry or just some quick and simple wraps. But there’s a great way to get more flavour into your dishes, and that’s by using flavoured oil. I use garlic oil whenever I have it in the cupboard, but I also like to use up something that would otherwise be wasted: the oil which is used to preserve sundried tomatoes. Since we buy them a lot anyway, this oil would otherwise be thrown in the bin – and it’s full of that tomato flavour, as well as a few herbs that sink to the bottom. A little bit goes a long way.
2. Soup is everything
If you don’t know what to cook, cook soup. That’s my motto and I’m sticking by it. When you have such a crazy mixture of ingredients that you don’t know where to start, soup is always the way. You just need some form of vegetables and/or beans, herbs and spices to improve the flavour, and a watery element such as chopped tomatoes, pasta sauce, or similar. In a pinch you can even get away with just using water. Lentils, beans, chickpeas, leftover vegetables, spinach, kale, and so many other ingredients can easily be used up this way. Pick up a hunk of cheesy bread on the way home to go with it and you have a meal that works every time, no matter what.
3. Always stock beans and onion
On a similar note, there are just two elements you need in stock if you want to be able to cook anything at any time. These are: one tin of beans, and one red onion (or yellow, your choice). With this combination you can make any dish work. Fry them and add tortillas and you have easy wraps. Puree them with sauce and you have soup. Add pasta and you don’t need sauce. Fry them up with a little garlic and some cayenne pepper or barbecue rub and you have a tasty bowl that makes you feel as though you have more than two ingredients in your cupboard. Never run out of beans or onions.
4. Smell your herbs
I’m always experimenting, and I don’t have a natural flair for cooking – I really resisted learning for a long time. So I don’t know the conventional pairings of spices or what goes well with what. So when I’m making something and I don’t know what to add, I take the lids off the herb and spice jars in my rack and smell them. Then I smell the food. If they smell good together, it goes in. When you consider how much of taste is influenced by smell, this really works – and it’s never let me down as a method.
5. Add bread or syrup
When making soup or a stew or anything of a similar consistency, there are two directions you can go in. If your dish is too watery or needs more savoury flavour, add bread. Take the soft white or brown insides and add them to a blender with your mixture – just a little at a time. This really thickens up and improves the taste of most soups. If you want them to be sweeter on the other hand, add maple syrup. The real thing or a fake, it doesn’t matter – the consistency is not affected but the taste really is. Even a teaspoon makes a huge difference. Try this with vegetables like sweet potato, parsnip, pumpkin, beetroot, or so on as well – it really brings out the sweet flavour and can be used to caramelise chunks of vegetable before serving.