Author Archives: Clyde

Caramelized Onions

In fear of burning your caramelized onions? Well there is a way of caramelizing them which reduces this risk.

First, in order to make caramelized onions it’s best to use the large standard yellow ones. This type of onion is best suited because it contains the greatest amount of sugar which is essential for the whole caramelizing process; the benefit is you don’t have to add additional sugar to the recipe and therefore there are fewer calories in it. Of course if you are using any other type of onion then a teaspoonful of sugar should be added during the cooking.

In essence the process of caramelizing onions is simple; but you do have to constantly monitor them in case they start to stick. Remember also that the amount of the finished product is reduced by two thirds of its original quantity.

CARAMELIZED ONIONS the burn- free way:

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons of good quality cooking oil.

1 medium sized yellow onion cut in half then cut again in half rings.

A good pinch of salt; this is important as it draws out the moisture and thereby accelerates the caramelizing process.

Method:

Start by heating up the frying pan or skillet to a medium high temperature with the oil.

Toss in the onions together with the salt and coat the onions thoroughly with the oil. Keep moving the onions around as they cook; you will notice that they will soon start to change color changing from pale golden to eventually to a dark rich brown.

Keep on monitoring them, all the time tossing and stirring them around the pan; if you find the onions starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, as is sometimes the case, then don’t panic; just pour a small amount of liquid, it can be stock, water or even a drop of wine into the pan to loosen them. The liquid will act as a deglazing agent and will quickly evaporate as you loosen the onions from the base of the pan and so preventing them from burning.

Continue with this process of deglazing, tossing and stirring and keeping the onions from sticking until eventually the onions are soft, brown and juicy.

Ideas for using caramelized onions:

To take plain old cheese on toast to a new dimension, spread a generous dollop of the caramelized onions onto the bread just before piling on the grated cheese; finish by toasting under the grill.

Fill some small ready made pastry cases with some caramelized onions, don’t overfill; next pipe some soft cream cheese right around the edge. These are ideal for a buffet.

Spread a pizza base with some caramelized red onions (remember red onions need that teaspoon of sugar during the cooking process); top the onions with about twelve ring of soft goats cheese (120 grams); bake in the oven and finally top the cooked pizza with a sprinkling of rosemary.

Reference:
1. How To Caramelize Onions — Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn …
2. How To Caramelize Onions, Step By Step – Allrecipes Dish

Best Quality Cookware

Picking Good Quality Cookware

What’s the best way to Select Cookware? Go to any well-stocked kitchen retailer and it is simple to be overwhelmed by all your cookware alternatives. Which pots and pans are necessary, and how are you able to tell whether they are of good quality, well designed and will work well?

Recognizing Excellent Cookware

Most pots and pans look comparable, but you’ll find particular qualities are important to check for as you are deciding which cookware to get. When you’re in the shop, use the pots and pans. Lift them, move them around as if you were using them in your kitchen. It may look a little strange, but it’s worth the effort. Check the thickness of the material, especially the sides and bottom, and tap the pan with your knuckle. You ought to hear a thud rather than the ping of a bell. You can use your cookware nearly every day, so it really is significant to ensure it has the correct “feel.” Heavy-gauge materials with thick bottoms and sides will conduct heat properly. Pots and pans ought to be heavy. You are much less likely  to have problems with scorching.

Materials

Copper may be the highest-priced cookware choice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice or right for your needs. It reacts with acidic food and requires specific care. You have to polish it. Anodized aluminum is a great option for sauteing. The pans are responsive to heat and are treated to avoid chemical reactions with food. Cast iron cookware also conducts heat well, nevertheless it reacts with acidic sauces and can rust if not properly cleaned and seasoned. Cast iron pots coated with enamel avoid these dilemmas, but they are pretty heavy, which can be a drawback. You shouldn’t  scrub these pans with abrasives. It will scratch the surface causing foods to stick and burn. Non-stick cookware is always a great choice, particularly if you’re cutting down on cooking with fat and newer non-stick coatings are more scratch-resistant than they used to be. Stainless steel with an inner layer of copper or aluminum is also an excellent all-around selection, due to the fact it’s durable, non-reactive to acidic foods, it conducts heat properly and is simple to clean.

Well-constructed Heatproof Handles and Knobs

Pots should have handles created of a low conductive metal like stainless steel so they remain somewhat cool. With metal handles, some cooks prefer welds to rivets, which can collect food residue and are more challenging to clean. Whatever you choose, ensure the handles and knobs have been secured in numerous areas so that they will not come loose. Plastic and wood handles are
heatproof, but not ovenproof: you can’t start a dish on the stove top and finish it in the oven. Metal handles with removable plastic or rubber heat guards are the best and the most versatile.

Lids

Lids really should fit tightly to hold in flavors and have heatproof knobs. Glass lids are handy due to the fact you may check the cooking progress without removing or lifting them. Use the manufacturer’s guidelines for oven-safety. Generally speaking, if the pot or pan is oven safe then the lid that came with it is also, but don’t assume. Lids that fit snugly will preserve moisture within the pot.

Pre-packaged Sets or Hand-picked Pieces?

A lot of manufacturers sell matching starter sets with five, eight or maybe 10 typically employed pieces for a budget price. Even so, you normally get pieces you don’t need. Also, the exact same material does not normally perform properly for every cooking process. You may be more satisfied buying fewer individual pieces in distinct materials – for instance, a big anodized aluminum saute pan or wok with high sides for stir-fries and an omelet pan for egg dishes. In case you like to make soups, stews, casseroles and pot roasts, you’ll need a cast iron Dutch oven which can go from stove top to oven. An important piece, but it’s hardly ever included inside a starter set. You’ll probably need to have a few more items as well. A vegetable steamer in either stainless steel or bamboo, a roasting pan with a rack, a grill pan and a broiler pan will all get a lot of use in most kitchens. You may also wind up spending less money by deciding upon good-quality individual pieces that match the type of cooking you do.

In short, when shopping for quality cookware, do your homework and take your time. It’s worth the effort!

Reference:
1. The Best Cookware From Consumer Reports' Tests – Consumer …
2. Best Nonstick Cookware – Best Non Stick Pans and Skillet Reviews

Beginners Guide to Tamales

Tamales can have many fillings. Tamales can also have either savory meat fillings or sweet and tempting dessert fillings. Due to the amount of work that is involved in making tamales, tamales are most commonly served at holiday celebrations and are generally made through the participation of many family members. Because tamales gives family members time to chat and catch up on family matters by creating an enticing treat, the dish achieves twofold satisfaction for the entire family. Here is how to make tamales.

Filling

3 lbs. pork meat (pork butt or pork chops), cut into cubes
1 onion, chopped
Oregano
Minced Garlic
Pepper
Extra Hot New Mexico red chile powder 2-6 oz cans tomato paste 1-28 oz can tomato sauce 1 1/2 c. water

In a Dutch oven, brown pork meat and onions. Add spices, tomato paste, sauce and water. Bring to boil and then simmer on low about 6 hours allowing water to evaporate. Meat will begin to fall apart and mixture will be fairly thick. Allow to cool. In a food processor or blender, grind the mixture.

Tamales can also be made with shredded beef brisket and jalapenos or just cheese and green chile. Sweet tamales can be filled with pie fillings, jams or a sugar filling blended with cinnamon.

The Masa

You can use the instant corn masa mix (found at Wal-mart). The dry masa is mixed with lard and chicken broth per package directions. This is usually 4 cups mix to approximately 1 cup lard and 3 cups of broth. Mixture should be thick, but spreadable. How much you make will depend on a number of factors: 1) How many tamales you want to make; 2) how big the corn husks are and 3) how thick you want the ratio of masa to filling. Some people prefer a thinner masa around the meat and some like less meat and more masa. Experiment with your preferred thicknesses. This recipe with a masa that is only about 1/8 of an inch thick. Make the standard recipe (maybe doubled or tripled) over and over again until you either get tired and freeze the rest of the filling or run out of filling.

Assembly

Dry corn husks are soaked in warm water to make them pliable. Use the damaged ones to make ties that will secure the husk. If you don’t want to bother with this, thanks to modern times, after the tamales have been wrapped in the husks, you can also wrap them in a light-weight aluminum foil. They steam just as well and are not nearly so hard to deal with. It also makes them convenient to freeze.

Remove a corn husk from the water, shake off excess water. With the back of a tablespoon, spread masa in a layer over the interior side of the husk. Do not spread the masa into the cone. Try and keep the layer fairly square. Add the desired amount of filling about 1/3 the width of the square and spreading lengthwise in a line to within a half inch on either end of the square. Fold cone side in and then with a rolling fashion grab the filling side of the tamale and fold flat to the middle, then roll the tamale up. Secure with corn husk tie or wrap in aluminum foil.

To Steam

Since we all do not have tamale steamers, an alternative method is to use a Dutch oven or any other deep pot you may have. Layer the bottom with corn husks. This will prevent burning. In the center, place an upside down metal colander or heat proof bowl. Pour in enough water to cover bottom of pan about 1 inch. Cover and turn on high heat until water is boiling. Turn off heat and begin layering tamales on top of dish to top of pan. Do not pack the tamales too tightly allowing steam distribution. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Check on the water level and add more as it runs low. Tamales can be checked for doneness by unwrapping one. If it pulls apart from the corn husk easily, the tamales are done.

Storage and Reheating

Tamales that are wrapped in aluminum foil can simply be allowed to cool and then tossed into the freezer. Tamales just wrapped in corn husks can be wrapped in aluminum foil individually or in bundles and then put in the freezer. They will keep for several months nicely.

To reheat, allow tamales to thaw and then you can either unwrap them or not from the aluminum foil and resteam or leave them wrapped and place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. They can even be placed on a grill. Frozen individually wrapped tamales may also be reheated in the oven, but they may take a little longer.

How to Serve

Tamales are served with a variety of other traditional Mexican favorites such as beans, guacamole, or a simple salad consisting of shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and chopped onions. They are sometimes served freed from their corn husks and smothered in red or green chile sauces or con queso. In the case of sweet tamales, they are served for breakfast with coffee.

Reference:
1. Tamales 101: A Beginner's Guide to Making … – Amazon.com
2. Tamales 101: A Beginner's Guide to Making … – Chowhound

Aldi Food Store

I have always ended up having to shop at Aldi wherever I’ve lived and I’ve moved a fair few time in the last 10 years because although only having about 400 stores in the whole of the United Kingdom, I’ve ended up living close or a fair distance away from one, so it’s either I’m lucky or their store positioning is outstanding.

Just to clarify, I’m reviewing mainly my local store in Chester, UK, so it can vary between stores around the country. Although I shop at Aldi on a regular basis, it isn’t my favourite supermarket in the UK.

Store Layout

The store I go to is of a reasonable size, typical of an Aldi store, once you’ve walked in you’re faced with the confectionaries like your chocolate and sweets as well as cereals and whatever else that contains a fair amount of sugar, so you stock up on your essential sweets, chocolate and other junk food. That is pretty much the only laid out bit, as well as the frozen and cooled goods. The rest of the store is a bit of a maze in the sense of being hard to find the first time you’re in the store, there are no signs or anything indicating the location of products, you basically have to go around the store until you find it, and if you shopping for your weekly groceries, you will find you accidently forget something because you missed out that section of the store. The store also sells gadgets, computers and clothing, which is usually in the middle of the store and there is always limited stock, but you do find that things have been opened and others have been broken.

Products available

Aldi is famous for stocking infamous brands at low prices, so it is rare you will find anything in Aldi you can get in Tesco, although on occasion they have some known brands of Beer or some confectionary, but don’t expect to come out with any Walkers crisps and a bottle of Sprite anytime soon, but anything you can get in Tesco, Aldi probably has an alternative, so it’s all good. 

My main complain about the products (apart from quality, see below) is that when you begin to really like something and you keep buying it, you may one day come in and it isn’t there anymore, which is quite depressing, so do stock up when you have the chance. Also they keep changing the products, for instance, they had quite good quality Cola a few weeks ago, but now changed it to something that tastes like Baking Powder.

There isn’t much choice either, they typically have 1 brand of 1 product and it is either that or nothing, so if the Cola is bad, do without or go to a different shop (I pick on Cola because it happened recently).

Quality of Product

The quality I’ve noticed changes quite frequently, you may get a bag of crisps that was really good quality, but the next time you go, they will be horrible, and this happens to most products, like Yogurts, Meat and of course the Cola. So don’t be dependent on quality consistency.

Prices

The prices are very reasonable and cheap for the good majority of the products. So you can in general stock up on the goods when you go there, so the advert doesn’t lie about price, it is cheap, but like I mentioned above, you usually get what you pay, cheap quality food (not always). I have noticed that they never or very rarely do any special offers or discounts, so it’s always the same price and sometimes the offers in Tesco are better than in Aldi.

Conclusion

Aldi is a cheap supermarket which offers your basic variety of food at cheap infamous brand prices. There isn’t much or any choice in different type of product, usually there is just one choice, leave it or take it. The quality of food varies even if you buy the same product a week after, it can be very different. They also offer some electrical goods and clothing which is usually quite good and I have bought a coat which I am very happy with from there and the deals on computers are also pretty decent. All in all, it’s a decent shop, but doesn’t match up to the bigger store standards and doesn’t offer the same variety or choice as Tesco, Asda or Sainsbury’s or even Netto for that matter.

Reference:
1. Aldi
2. ALDI US – Homepage