healthy meals

5 Ways To Add Flavour To Healthy Meals

Eating healthily and enjoying a balanced diet is something many people are still working hard to achieve. For food lovers and budding amateur chefs, it can be tricky to manage your diet while being around so many delicious temptations all the time! Once you get used to flavourful cooking, some of the recommended healthy options we encounter can seem less than appealing, especially if they’re a little lacking in flavour. Low-carb diets and an increased emphasis on fruit and vegetables can be especially off-putting for people who expect them to taste boring compared to their usual meals.

However, with a little creative seasoning, you can easily turn the healthiest dishes into some of the tastiest. Here are our top five tips for experimenting with basic seasoning to unlock the hidden potential in your healthy meals.

1) Salt and pepper to taste

Your number one secret weapon for bringing out the best in almost any meal, salt and pepper needs to be handled carefully. If you get it right, you can improve practically any flavour combination, and you don’t have to worry about sodium levels as long as you’re avoiding processed foods. (more…)

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kitchen

Home & Commercial Kitchen Cleaning

No matter what kind of cooking you’re interested in, your experience level, or even whether you’re running a commercial kitchen in a restaurant or cooking for yourself at home, one thing remains the same for everyone. Hygiene should be your number one priority, since without proper care, dangerous situations can arise during food preparation and cooking.

For commercial kitchens like those in restaurants, takeaways, pubs, hotels and so on, standards are set high with good reason: to protect the public. It’s vital to be compliant, which is why it’s important to know when to use a professional deep cleaning service such as KDC (Kitchen Duct Cleaning), a prominent UK kitchen and ductwork cleaning company. A professional service like this is necessary to ensure you meet the required health and safety guidelines for running a clean and safe commercial kitchen.

Most of us are aware of the dangers of poor food hygiene, as bacterial infections and food poisoning can be extremely serious and even deadly to some people. These kinds of problems can result from simple errors like incorrect handling of raw meat and other unprocessed ingredients, as well as cross-contamination from preparing different types of food on the same surfaces, allowing them to pick up unexpected bacteria.

This is just as likely to happen in a domestic kitchen as a commercial one, although the potential scale of a disaster is probably restricted. Keeping hygiene under control requires a basic understanding and remembering to do simple tasks like washing hands regularly and using dedicated tools and surfaces for handling high risk foods like uncooked meat. It is generally considered common sense to keep kitchens safe in this respect, although over time you might forget to clean certain areas and allow them to become breeding grounds for bacteria, so it’s vital to have your kitchen deep cleaned every so often. (more…)

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fine dining

The Most Renowned Restaurants in London

There are so many amazing restaurants in London – the heart of the UK and one of our favourite cities in the world – that it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s why we decided to narrow down the list by focusing on those that have built up the finest reputations over the years. Here are some of the best restaurants in London that have stood the test of time and show no signs of slowing down yet.

Dabbous – At one time this restaurant was one of the most difficult ones to secure a table at in the whole of London. Now thanks to the overwhelming number of options it’s a little easier, but its reputation remains outstanding. It boasts an ever-evolving menu that’s always full of new and exciting dishes to try, keeping guests coming back regularly.

Goodman – Some restaurants end up being known as the best in their field, and that’s certainly true of Goodman, widely celebrated as the finest steakhouse in London. It’s also credited with ushering in a new era of premier steakhouses across the city, but remains the best in many critics’ eyes. (more…)

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bay-leaves

Basic cooking and seasoning checklist

One common mistake people make with cooking from scratch is thinking that there’s no point having a wide selection of spices if you don’t know much about cooking. We’d actually argue the opposite is true, since there’s no better way to learn than through experimentation! Whatever your skill level, we have a checklist for you to make sure you’ve always got all the essentials in to produce restaurant quality flavours at home.

Bay Leaves

These leaves are best when they’re a rich green in colour, and they’re usually dried. Whole leaves added to your dishes will impart some great savoury flavour, but make sure you take them out before serving.

Black Pepper

Go for whole black peppercorns since the flavour will be much better if you grind them fresh.

Cayenne Pepper

This is particularly useful in many Indian recipes, and pretty much anything Cajun or involving hot pepper sauce.

Chilli Powder

Made from a combination of chillies plus various herbs, this adds a touch of heat to a great variety of Mexican dishes.

Ground Cinnamon

Cinnamon is very fashionable at the moment, especially to add some bittersweet warmth in the winter. Everything from cake to curry can benefit from a bit of cinnamon, just be careful not to overdose.

Ground Cloves

Another perfect ingredient for festive baking, this one is powerful too so be careful not to use too much.

Cream of Tartar

A functional spice used mainly to help make meringues, this is actually made from a substance that collects inside wine barrels.

Ground Cumin

Perfect for curries and used in many Indian and Asian recipes, this aromatic spice is made from fine seeds ground up.

Curry Powder

Although this actually contains up to twenty other spices, it comes in handy with more than just curry, and also comes in various heat levels.

Ground Ginger

This is ideal for baking because when it’s been ground, ginger has an even more delicious and powerful flavour.

Kosher Salt

Table salt usually has smaller crystals as well as added iodine. Kosher salt has coarser, larger crystals making it easy to measure out by hand.

Nutmeg

Another one common in winter baking, this is also perfect for certain sauces and goes perfectly with spinach.

Oregano

Although related to mint, oregano is widely used for savoury dishes in the Mediterranean as well as Cajun recipes. Use it with even the most basic dishes from cheese on toast to chips to add a summery European flavour.

Paprika

Usually this power made from ground red peppers is sweet, but it also comes in a hot variety. It works perfectly to season most meat and adds a deep red colour to anything from vegetables to seafood.

Dried Red Pepper

Crushed, dried chilli flakes are a perfect garnish if you also want to add a touch of heat to your finished dish.

Rosemary

This basic herb is ideal for roasting meat such as lamb as well as a variety of other Mediterranean dishes. It has a citrus, woody flavour.

Sesame Seeds

A great balance between sweet and savoury, sesame seeds have a very distinct taste and smell when roasted. They don’t keep well due to their high levels of oil, so need to be frozen for best results.

Thyme

Another basic essential, this is also popular in European dishes and ideal for many types of poultry and other meat.

Vanilla

Using alcohol to soak vanilla pods produces this extract, but it works much better if it’s pure rather than having artificial additives.

If you’re able to keep your kitchen stocked up with all these essentials, you can turn simple ingredients into delicious meals with a little guidance and bit more practice!

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buying-spices

Buying the best quality ingredients

If you really want to build up an excellent seasoning collection that will allow you to add high quality, exciting flavours into your cooking, then you’ll need some advice on where to start with choosing how to buy your ingredients. There are too many options around to know what you’re looking at without some guidance, so here are some key points we have learned from years of experience.

Avoid supermarkets and retail chains

Mass produced spices are designed to sit on supermarket shelves or be stored in warehouses for a long time, because they’re produced in such large quantities the manufacturers don’t know when they’ll be sold by. Many processed ingredients suffer a similar problem. As a result, they have to contaminate the foods and flavourings with artificial ingredients that will affect the quality of your cooking. Regardless of use-by dates, spices, herbs and fresh ingredients simply don’t have a long shelf life and will not be as good if you buy them from a supermarket.

Choose whole spices

If you have the option of buying whole spices and grinding them yourself, this is much better. That will mean your ingredients stay fresher for longer and retain a more full flavour. You can grind them up only when you need them, and this ensures they’re as potent as possible. The other main benefit of whole spices is you know exactly what you’re getting and there are no artificial additives mixed in.

Be wary of cheap options

There is a reason why some spices are significantly cheaper than others. This is almost always a mark of low quality because regulations in the industry are not very tight, and it’s considered acceptable for big companies to grind up spices and sell them without disclosing how much filler material is bulking them up (and a lot of this might just be dirt).

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sourcing-spices

How to source the best spices

We have already covered what you should be looking for as a sign of quality spices, and what you might be doing wrong so far when building up your collection of flavouring ingredients. But what is one to do when looking for ways of sourcing excellent quality spices? We have some wisdom to impart about the best ways to find great spices.

Buy spices online

If you’re looking for something very specific it might be difficult to track down in shops, so you might want to research cooking spices online and find somewhere you can purchase what you’re looking for. Quality spice merchants will know what they’re talking about so you can ask questions about the products before placing your order. Many online stores carry a huge collection of the best cooking spices, herbs and blends for Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese dishes.

Visit ethnic markets

To find spices for a specific sort of cooking or something that originates from a particular country, you might be best visiting an authentic market for those goods. These prices are likely to be fair and the products will usually be the best quality around, plus they will be restocked much faster than those in supermarkets and other big retailers.

Find a local expert

If you want a single place you can visit to get advice on cooking as well as a full range of high quality spices, you might be able to find a local spice specialist. A merchant who is an expert in the field will be able to help you find what you’re looking for and assure you that the products you’re buying are of the finest quality. (more…)

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storage

How to look after your herbs and spices

To ensure your cooking is always top quality, it’s really vital to start with a great herb and spice collection. But once you’ve figured out where to buy your seasonings and how to choose the best ones, your efforts might still be wasted if you don’t store and look after your collection properly. Here is some of our tried and tested advice regarding the best ways to look after your spices.

Review your storage cabinet

First of all you need to review and analyse your collection closely. Do you have a load of spices that can’t be used any more because they’ve been left too long and gone stale? If you’ve had them for more than a few months, chances are they’ve either gone off, or they have too many preservatives in them to be considered good quality. There are a few exceptions which will keep for years, but for any particular spice make sure you throw it out when it’s too old rather than spoil your food.

Keep everything organised

If you enjoy tidying up and keeping things in order then you’re the perfect seasoning connoisseur in the making. You don’t have to obsessively label everything, but it’s a good idea to mark things with the date you purchased them, and also to group things by theme or based on what you use them for. Ones you rarely use might end up at the back of the cupboard but you need to be careful they don’t get lost and go off.

Choose where to keep them

If your herbs and spices are too close to the oven, chances are they’re going to be weakened faster. Heat, light and air getting to them will make the flavours evaporate faster and they’re more likely to be unusable. You can put your seasonings and condiments in a dedicated cupboard, or keep them mobile in plastic containers or glass jars that you can move around your kitchen as needed.

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spices-to-try-next

Top 5 herbs and spices you should try next

If you’re building up a collection of herbs and spices you’re well on your way to cooking a wide variety of exotic and exciting dishes to enjoy at home. However, it’s easy to get into habits with food and if you find a few useful ingredients that work with many dishes you’ll probably find yourself sticking to your comfort zone. If you want to improve your cooking skills you should focus on trying new things rather than going over the same recipes trying to get them perfect.

As such, we have a few suggestions for some of the best herbs and spices you can use in various styles of cooking. We highly recommend trying these ones next if you haven’t managed to yet.

Turmeric

Notable for its vivid golden yellow colour, you have to be careful with turmeric because it will stain your skin and clothes easily. It’s often found in Indian cooking but is also present in American mustard and many more things, tasting something like spicy ginger. Use this with curry, soup, rice dishes, chicken or pretty much anything vegetarian for great results.

Smoked Serrano Chilli Powder

Serrano chillies are famous for being spicy and flavourful. When dried and ground into  a powder, they become a powerful, smoky spice that’s very versatile and suits a range of cooking styles, including Mexican and South American.

Saigon Cinnamon

Of all the varieties of cinnamon available, this is considered the finest flavour as it’s both hot and sweet. You can use Saigon cinnamon for your favourite winter baking and coffee blends, and it also works brilliantly with seafood, chicken and lamb dishes.

Herbs de Provence

The Provence region of France is famously home to a variety of useful herbs including thyme, basil, lavender, rosemary and more. These can easily be found in a single blend which makes it a simple process to add these to your roast or grilled meat. Herbs de Provence can also add a lot of depth of flavour to hot recipes.

Vanilla Paste

Although vanilla extract is widespread in recipes, there is a new trend for vanilla paste because it’s made without wasting the pods that have to be ground up to make the extract. It’s easier to use than starting from the actual beans so you can easily add it to homemade desserts.

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spice-facts

11 amazing cooking facts you never knew

Adding flavour and excitement to our cooking requires fresh ingredients, great seasoning and skillful cooking, whatever style we choose. We might think we know a lot about the origins of the ingredients we’re cooking with today, but what about their history and the science behind them? Here are some interesting facts about some of the items in your kitchen cabinets which might open your eyes.

1) The world’s hottest chilli pepper is officially the Trinidad Morgua Scorpion. It is reported to give people a rush similar to crack cocaine, is over 200 times stronger than Tobasco sauce and is capable of burning through protective latex gloves.

2) Wasabi is a traditional Japanese condiment that’s made with a specific blend of ingredients, but in America the majority of “wasabi” sold in shops is actually just green horseradish.

3) One of the most common cooking ingredients in ancient Rome was a herb called “laser” that was harvested in Libya. It was so widely enjoyed that it became completely extinct and it no longer exists, but experts believe it would have tasted like a better version of garlic.

4) Only 10 grams of saffron is a lethal dose. This amount would require over 1,500 flowers to be harvested to produce it.

5) The Cinammon Challenge that was made popular on YouTube a few years ago is actually extremely dangerous and can result in permanent lung damage and even death.

6) Paprika is extremely high in Vitamin C thanks to the red peppers it is made from, and also contains high levels of other antioxidants which can be beneficial.

7) Worms are extremely rich in protein and Omega 3, and it’s said that they go very well with curry.

8) High amounts of nutmeg can trigger delusions and hallucinations since it contains psychoactive chemicals.

9) Turmeric is a better antidote to Alzheimer’s than any drugs currently used to treat the disease. This has been proven in numerous clinical trials.

10) A particular genetic pattern has been identified in some humans which makes coriander taste extremely unpleasant to them, while to most people it is perfectly pleasant and inoffensive.

11) Studies have shown that women are attracted to the smell of black liquorice. It’s not known why this mainly applies to women but it’s been observed by tests.

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