Dead Simple Thai Laksa

 

It’s a super flexible recipe: you can use prawns or chicken or tofu

There are many variations of Laksa: some are mild, some are curry-fiery; some use coconut milk, some do not; some are soups, others resemble casseroles. That gives us a pretty free hand.

THE PRAWNS

I used prawns for this, those frozen Ocean Chef Argentine reds form Patagonia I bought a while back. Woolworths no longer carry these. ALDI is now the only source I know of, and the packet simply says ‘Ocean Royale Frozen Wild Raw Peeled Prawns 500g.’ You need to read the fine print to discover that these are Pleoticus Muelleri: Argentine Red Prawns. $17 for 500g. Smaller than Ocean Chef’s.

I’ve tried Ocean Chef’s Extra Large Raw Prawns, now sourced from the Gulf of Carpentaria. They’re good, firm, flavoursome prawns. $22 for 500g deveined and shelled but they’re often on special. There is a smaller option for $18. You can of course use prawns of your choice, including fresh ones; these are just my picks for price, quality and convenience.

THE NOODLES

Laksas rely on rice vermicelli or Hokkien noodles, but I don’t like either and prefer to use Italian style vermicelli. As long as you’re not fussed about authenticity, you can choose the noodles you like.

THE LAKSA

This is the easy part, as long as you’re happy to use packed products off the shelf. The quality is very good these days, so that’s the dead simple way to cook Thai food. Like most Asian dishes, you can cook this in batches and then combine the ingredients in the last step.

The photo is of the chicken version

 

Ingredients

  • Prawns, 300 – 400g for 2
  • 2 – 3 tbspoons Laksa paste
  • 1 tbspoon chopped lemongrass (from a jar is easiest)
  • 1 tbspoon Tamarind paste
  • Can of coconut milk
  • 2 tbspoons sour cream

 

  • 3 – 4 Shallots
  • Half a small leek
  • Handful of sweet peas
  • A few pieces of Asian greens like bok choy
  • 2 limes leaves
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • tbspoon grated ginger

 

  • 1 tbspoon fish sauce, or soy sauce with a couple of anchovies
  • Balsamic Reduction (I prefer it to sugar)
  • white wine
  • coriander seeds and leaves
  • chili flakes
  • seasoning

THE PROCESS

  1. I always have some pasta in the fridge, cooked and ready to go. I just add it at the end. If you’re using rice vermicelli, it will cook quickly when added to the final assembly
  2. Warm up the laksa paste mixed with half a glass of wine, then add garlic, ginger, lemongrass and tamarind paste. Set aside after a few minutes, when you can smell the aromas
  3. Stir-fry the veggies in a decent size wok or pan,  for about 5 mins
  4. Add the prawns
  5. Add herbs and seasoning, lime juice and more wine or broth as needed
  6. Add the set-aside laksa paste with the add-ins
  7. Add more than half the coconut milk, add the sour cream, add fish sauce/ soy sauce, Balsamic reduction, throw the noodles into the mix
  8. STEPS 4 TO 7 SHOULD ONLY TAKE A FEW MINUTES
  9. Keep stirring. Test the taste, adjust seasoning, add more coconut milk if too strong, add some chili flakes if you want more heat
  10. If you want more flavour, add a little more laksa paste. Stir well and serve.

It looks like a lot of work, but it’s not really, and it’s easy to divide it up into manageable tasks; and you can take a breaks before the final assembly.

Sausage and Bacon Casserole

 

I love casseroles. Why? Because they are powerhouses of flavour if you know what you’re doing, and they largely cook themselves. The other day I felt like doing something different, so I went for sausages rather than chuck steak, chicken or pork belly.

Our local butcher has a good selection of sausages, from chicken to pork to lamb and beef, from mild to hot, from thin to thick. I was also thinking about caramelized onions, which I used tom buy in a jar, so I looked up making them from scratch. I wondered if you could caramelize fennel, which I often add to casseroles instead of boring veggies like celery.

It’s really simple, it turns out: you cut up some Spanish onions and fennel bulbs into pieces about the size of those lemon slices they serve with fish in restaurants. You chuck them in a fry pan and add generous quantities of olive oil and butter.

If you’re on the side of those who believe that fat is evil, this will not appeal to you. You can add a little white wine, but the process relies on a fair amount of oil. I add some balsamic reduction as well, just to steer the outcome in the right direction.

The rest is straightforward.

Ingredients

  • Assorted sausages
  • Bacon pieces
  • 2- 3 cloves of garlic
  • A few small onions or eschalots
  • Caramelised onions and fennel
  • Green beans
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Chickpeas (tin)
  • Olive oil, butter
  • Sweet paprika
  • Crushed tomatoes (tin)
  • Passata
  • Red or white wine
  • Worcester sauce
  • 2 – 3 Bay leaves
  • Chicken or veggie stock
  • chili flakes
  • tarragon
  • oregano

Process

  • Brown the sausages and bacon in a big pan with some olive oil
  • add the small onions and garlic, then the crushed tomatoes and beans
  • Add the trimmed beans with some passata and stock, enough to just cover the sausages
  • Add a pinch or 2 of paprika, dash of Worcestershire sauce and seasoning
  • Put the casserole dish in the oven at about 170
  • Get the onions and fennel going in a fry pan – caramelizing takes about 30 mins
  • Keep them coated with the sauce – olive oil, butter, balsamic, small amount of white wine
  • Stir every few minutes to prevent burning any bits
  • When they’re done, add them to the casserole, along with chopped leeks and button mushrooms
  • Make the final adjustments for seasoning and herbs, add the chickpeas 10 minutes before serving (drained and washed) – they don’t need cooking, just warming.

Serve on its own or with some boiled or mashed potatoes

Thai Green Chicken Curry

 

OK, it’s no big deal, there are loads of recipes for this dish on the web, but as usual we have some simple hacks to make life easier.

This one started with some leftover chicken, already cooked. All I needed to do was to add a bunch of stuff:

  • Leeks or shallots
  • Green beans or bok choy, and / or sweet peas / snow peas
  • A few strips of red chili, red pepper or capsicum
  • Garlic and ginger
  • 2-3 Kaffir lime leaves chopped up

 

  • 2 tbspoons of green curry paste
  • 2 tbspoons of Fish sauce (or soy sauce infused with anchovies)
  • Can of Coconut milk
  • White cooking wine
  • Lemongrass paste
  • Tamarind paste (non-essential)
  • Lime juice
  • 2 tblspoons of Balsamic reduction (instead of sugar)

 

  • Fresh Thai basil or mint – the remaining herbs can be dried
  • Coriander leaves and coriander seeds (cilantro)
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • seasoning

As usual, I almost forgot to get a snap of the finished product. Here it is on my plate, mixed with rice.

The rest is easy:

  1. as usual, line up all your ingredients
  2. fry or roast the chicken or prawns or whatever, set aside
  3. chop up the garlic and grate the ginger, add them to the vegetables
  4. stir-fry the veggies, cut beans in half lengthways
  5. warm the curry paste with some soy sauce and white wine in a small pan until fragrant, turn off
  6. After a few minutes, add the chicken or prawns to the veggies, then add the curry paste mix and some of the coconut milk, then the rest of the ingredients .
  7. Bring to a simmer, then add the remaining pastes, the lime juice and the herbs.
  8. Add more coconut milk, stir and test the taste.

The cooking process should not take much longer than 10 minutes. If you need to regroup and take a breath, just turn things off – this dish handles interruptions very well.

Serve with your favourite rice.

Kim

Dead Easy Thai red curry with Prawns and Broccolini

 

You can substitute fish or chicken or pork or tofu if you like

It’s easy as long as you’ve nailed down the process. Takes about 20 – 30 minutes, less once you’ve done it a few times. What I’ve learned about Asian dishes is the importance of 4 things:

  1. Quality ingredients
  2. Thorough preparation
  3. A process that works under pressure
  4. A decent size wok or fry pan that you can take high heat

Let’s start with the ingredients:

  • Prawns – I use Ocean Chef Extra Large Raw Prawns Tail On, from Woolworths. They come around every 2-3 weeks at half price, $10 for half a kilo. As I’ve said before, these are firm, fleshy, tasty prawns from the cold waters off Patagonia in Argentina.
  • Leek, 1/3 of a decent sized leek; or spring onions if you prefer
  • Bunch of broccolini
  • Handful or sweet peas (sugar snaps)
  • Grated ginger to taste
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, chopped up
  • 2 tbsp sweet chili ginger and soy sauce (Kikoman is good)
  • 5 tbsps of Ayam red curry paste
  • 2/3 can of coconut milk
  • White wine
  • Teaspoon Chili flakes
  • Coriander, fresh or dried
  • Basil, fresh or dried
  • seasoning

Prep and Process

As usual with Asian cooking, it’s best to have all the bits and pieces ready to go before you start cooking

  • Thaw the prawns, ideally put them in the fridge on a plate covered in cling wrap for a few hours or just let them thaw in the open air for an hour or two, make sure you pour water off once in a while
  • Parboil or steam the broccolini – 5 minutes depending on thickness, set aside
  • Grate the ginger, smash and chop the garlic, cover in lime juice – set aside
  • Chop the leek and cut the strings off the sweet peas
  • Fry the garlic, ginger, chopped leek and lime leaves in sesame oil in a wok or hot pan for 3 – 4 minutes, add the broccolini, the soy sauce, and 1/3 or a glass of white wine or thereabouts
  • in a small pan. fry red curry paste for a couple of minutes with about 3 times the quantity of white wine or sherry, set side
  • Add the prawns, add seasoning, fry and toss for 3 minutes
  • Add the red curry paste mix, then the lime juice, the chili flakes, basil and coriander
  • Stir well, then add the coconut milk and the sweet peas.

The last 3 steps shouldn’t take longer than 6 – 7 minutes. Serve on its own or with some rice (I use rice I’ve left over from the day before.

Easy French Provincial Chicken Casserole

 

It’s a simple, traditional recipe that relies on quality ingredients coming together in a seamless dish. It all starts with quality ingredients. Real chicken is a minefield these days given the laughable definition of free range: 10 birds max per square meter and an open hatch in the barn door. Did you know that Lilydale chickens don’t come from Victoria, let alone the Yarra Valley? That Maggie Beer products don’t come from the Barossa and King Island meat comes from other places? Our butcher gets his chickens from Thirlmere in country NSW. Hudson in Sydney sells terrific Bannockburn chickens. If you look around, you can find real chicken.

Ingredients

  • Drumsticks, wings and thighs (skin on)
  • Speck or Kassler or thick streaky bacon
  • Small onions or eschalots
  • Carrots
  • Fennel bulb
  • Swiss brown mushrooms (optional)
  • Garlic, to suit your taste but don’t overdo it
  • Wholemeal flour
  • Tin of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tblspoons tomato paste
  • Dry white wine
  • Chicken stock
  • Butter, olive oil
  • Seasoning (I use coarse black pepper and Herbamare salt)
  • Thyme, rosemary, chives

Quantities depend on the size of the casserole you want to make. I tend to make enough in a big flat dish to feed 6 (or two of us for 3 meals). I’ve taken to freezing portions of meals for convenience.

For 4 people, you’ll need 8 chicken pieces, a handful of speck, 4-5 carrots, 2 fennel bulbs, 5 onions and a handful of mushrooms. The rest is tasting and and judgement, and adding the right amount of liquid: what we want here is a sauce that is in between thin and thick.

How-to

I find that the carrots and onions take longest to cook so I put them in the oven (in the casserole dish) with some olive oil while I prepare the chicken and the rest of the ingredients

  • Dust the chicken pieces lightly and brown in a frypan, a few minutes each side, in olive oil and butter
  • Add the chopped garlic when you turn the chicken over
  • Turn the heat down, give the pan a minute to cool, then add the crushed toms and paste
  • Add a glass or 2 of white wine and stir
  • Cut up the fennel bulbs into big chunks and add
  • Add seasoning
  • Add the lot to the casserole dish with the carrots and onions
  • Add some chicken stock to cover, stir well and put back in the oven
  • Cook for half an hour at 175
  • Just before the half-hour mark, fry the speck / kassler / bacon with the mushrooms in butter for 5 – 7 minutes
  • Add these to the casserole and stir well, turn over chicken pieces, add wine or stock as needed
  • Add the herbs, check if it needs more seasoning and adjust
  • If there’s too much liquid, take some out and reduce it in a small pan.
  • Give it another half hour (or less if you like your chicken firm)

Serve on its own or with potatoes, rice or pasta, a a bottle of good Riesling

Dead Easy Chili Ginger Prawns in Teriyaki Sauce

 

I used Argentinean red prawns for this dish, which I found recently in Coles, frozen, peeled with tails on. The brand was Pacific West, and the prawns were firm and tasty. That they are red in their raw state was confusing at first, but that’s their colour. I hate messing around with fresh prawns, and the peeled ones at most fish shops these days are from Vietnam or Malaysia or China (and they’re obviously not fresh anyway).

These prawns are from the freezing, clean ocean around Patagonia. As soon as I discovered them at Coles, the idiots in head office decided to terminate that avenue of pleasure. I found an alternative at Woolworths, and they’re just as good. I picked up a half kilo bag on special for $15.

PROCESS

  1. I used cooked basmati rice from the night before, warmed up in the oven with some olive oil
  2. Make sauce for the veggies: 1 – 2 tbspoons of oyster sauce, 2-3 of soy sauce, a dash of sdesame oil, a dash balsamic vinegar and a splash of water. Just mix it up, and it’s ready
  3. Fry the smashed and chopped garlic, spring onions, bok choy and thinly sliced peppers for 5 minutes & add these to a small oven-proof serving dish. Pour sauce over the veggies
  4. Fry the prawns with some grated ginger, add the sugar snaps late if you want them crunchy
  5. Add seasoning and spicy stuff (see below)

Please note: I used small quantities of these ingredients one tablespoon at a time, constantly checking the taste. These prawns are quite forgiving and not easily overcooked, but don’t push your luck: it’s better to take them off for a minute if you need extra time. This is the creative part – use your own judgment, and experiment.

I served the prawns straight from the pan, and the veggies and rice in 2 separate containers.

INGREDIENTS

  • Good quality prawns
  • Spring onions
  • Baby bok choy
  • Sugar snaps or snow peas
  • Red pepper or caps
  • Sesame or macadamia oil for frying
  • Garlic chopped
  • Ginger grated
  • Lemon zest
  • Coriander (fresh or dreid)
  • Fennel seeds (crushed)
  • Chinese 5-spice

The spicy stuff

  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Balsamic reduction, small teaspoon
  • Chili jam, 2 teaspoons
  • Chili flakes, just a few
  • Sherry, just a dash
  • White wine
  • Soy Sauce

Easy Pork in cream, mushroom & mustard sauce

 

This is an old favourite with a few new tricks that make it more exciting. It’s an easy dish, but you need good concentration and timing for great results. I’ve updated it just now: added some fatty bacon because the fillet is too lean, and lacks flavour. I’ve added leeks as they add a sweet sensation, and Balsamic reduction to counter the cut of the green peppercorns. The final addition is chives.

Feeds 2 – 4 depending on the quantity of pork, takes about 20 minutes

DSC_5994

Ingredients

  • Pork fillet or tender pork loin (I prefer fillet cut into almost inch-thick slices)
  • Some thick-cut bacon pieces
  • couple of cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 4 – 5 small spring onions or big shallots, or leeks coarsely chopped
  • Fennel bulb, with the outer layer discarded, finely sliced
  • Big handful of Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
  • A glass of white wine or chicken stock
  • Small tin of green peppercorns
  • dash of Balsamic reduction
  • Sweet peas
  • Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard or more. Use Australian if you prefer
  • 3-4 tablespoons of sour cream
  • Seasoning
  • Fennel seeds, Coriander

 The Process 

The easiest thing is to prepare everything beforehand, and then stir-fry the dish: cut up the pork, spring onions, fennel and mushrooms, and place on different plates. Heat a decent size fry pan and add some olive oil or butter a mix of both. The cooking should take just under 15 minutes on medium to high heat – turn it down a little once you add the liquid. Keep a watch or timer handy.

  • Add the spring onions and fennel to the fry pan
  • Add the pork and the peppercorns
  • Brown the pork on both sides
  • Fry for a couple of minutes
  • Fry the mushrooms and leeks in a separate pan for a few minutes, in butter and rosemary, add to the prok
  • Add the wine, the mustard, Balsamic reduction, seasoning, fennel seeds, coriander and chives, plus wine/stock
  • Turn heat down to simmer, stir well for a few minutes, making sure all the ingredients are covered in sauce, add more liquid if need be but not too much since the cream is yet to come.

12 to 14 minutes should’ve elapsed since you began the stir fry, now add the sour cream and blend it into the dish on low heat; check taste and consistency and adjust, and you’re about ready to serve it with a pile of beans or rice, pasta or potato.

Kim

Dead Simple Backoefe

 

This recipe from Alsace comes with a story: Monday was the day the women of the village used to do their washing, so they’d throw all the leftover bits into a big pot, add some Riesling and cover it with pastry. This one of those traditional leftover dishes that becomes a classic, like Paella and Frittata. Whatever is left in the fridge goes into the pot, and you can add some cheap cuts.

Then they’d take their pots to the Baker who would put them in his big oven, which was still hot from baking all those croissants and baguettes. In the afternoon, the women would collect their slow-cooked pots and take them home.

The Process

As always with these kinds of dishes, there are as many variations on the recipe as there are villages in Alsace. Pretty much anything goes. I chucked in some leftovers: a couple of chorizos, some smoked pork (Kassler), and some fennel.  The rest I had to buy: chicken drumsticks, a couple of lamb chops and the veggies.

The basic process is

  • chop everything into casserole-size chunks
  • add the herbs, spices and seasoning
  • slice the potatoes fairly thin
  • put a layer on the bottom of the pot, add the rest of the ingredients
  • add a bottle or two of white wine, then add a layer of thin potato slices on top.

This was my first crack at this dish, but I’ve had it a few times in restaurants including a couple in Alsace. So I knew what it should look and taste like, but I ran into a couple of minor problems on the way: the first one was that the usual wide, shallow casserole dish I mostly use didn’t work. This dish needs a tall pot with a lid.

The second problem surfaced later, when I checked progress during the 3 hours in the oven at 160 degrees: There was far too much wine in the pot, probably because I hadn’t packed the ingredients down properly. I scooped the excess out with a ladle, thinking I could reduce it later if I needed to. You want the liquid to come up to top layer of potatoes but not over it, so they can get brown and crisp.

You can just toss everything into the pot and cook it slowly, but I decided to brown the chicken and lamb in a pan with the garlic and onions (using duck fat for that authentic touch), and a dusting of flour on both sides. The sauce is meant to be light, not thick, but you don’t want it to be watery.

Ingredients

  • Meat – a mix of your choice of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, thick-cut bacon, sausage
  • 1 bottle of dry white wine, ideally Riesling but it’s a minor point
  • Optional: a cup of stock (I used a cube)
  • The recipe call s for 2 tsp. juniper berries – I didn’t have any so I used green peppercorns
  • 3 cloves of garlic, squashed and chopped
  • 3 – 4 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 4 – 5 spring onions
  • 1 smallish fennel bulb, chopped
  • One leek, coarsely chopped
  • 3 – 4 potatoes, peeled and sliced (you can use more)
  • Seasoning (liberal)
  • Thyme and a couple of bay leaves
  • Half a cup of flour

I added a couple of things:

  • Passata – just a cup; I use it as a thickening agent. In a big dish like this, you won’t taste the tomato
  • Bacon pieces mixed into the top layer of potatoes
  • I didn’t make the pastry cover, but used a lid which I took off during the final hour of baking to help the potatoes brown

It’s cool to make your own mods to a dish like this, after you’ve done it once. The beauty of it is that it more or less cooks itself.

Tarragon Chicken Casserole

 

I love casseroles, especially those based on chicken. There are quite a few on the website already, but I love experimenting. This one uses a white wine sauce (it comes out more green as it happens) with herbs in the anise family. The list of ingredients looks far more complicated than it is, and the ingredients are all familiar. More on tarragon HERE.

As always, use good quality produce, i.e. real free range chicken and fresh veggies from your favourite greengrocer. Herbs can be fresh or dried, wine just has to be drinkable. It takes about 1 hour 20 minutes all up, with plenty of breaks. The quantities are for a biggish family or 2 -3 meals for a couple.

Stage 1

  • Put the onions in a casserole / baking dish, into the over at 170 – 180 degrees.
  • Sprinkle the chicken pieces with flower and fry on both sides in a mix of olive oil & butter, smash the garlic cloves, brown them and then set the chicken and garlic aside
  • Deglaze the pan with some white wine
  • Put the casserole dish on the stove, and add the chicken pieces, the chunks of fennel and capsicum, add the wine from the fry pan, add some more and some of the stock, bring to the boil and put back in the oven.

Stage 2

Pour yourself a glass of wine, have a rest, watch the news on TV … I use the timer on my iPhone to make sure I get the timing right. You have half an hour, give or take. You might want to peak in the oven and check that all is OK, or spoon some of the liquid over the ingredients, or turn the chicken pieces over.

Stage 3

  • Add the zucchinis to the casserole now if you like them soft or wait a little longer.
  • Check the seasoning, turn over the chicken pieces, adjust wine and stock levels
  • Add the peppercorns, the herbs and the lemon
  • Add the pesto, the caramelized onion and the mustard
  • Fold everything together and return to the oven

Stage 4

Have some more wine, then chop up the leak, the mushrooms and bacon, chuck it all into a fry pan with some butter and olive oil, add a little wine if things dry up too much. Add some seasoning and more tarragon, and stir-fry for about 6-7 minutes, then add to the casserole. Fold in the new goodies and taste. Add more seasoning or wine if needed.

If there’s too much liquid in the dish, spoon some out into a small fry pan and reduce slowly on the stove. By now you should be 20 minutes from the finish, so you can add the reduced liquid back when you add and mix in the sour cream just before you serve.

Ingredients

  • 9 – 12 chicken pieces, thighs and drumsticks are best, skin on, bones in
  • 6 slices of thick-cut bacon or speck
  • 2-3 tablespoons of flower (I use whole meal but white works too)
  • 3 cups of White wine
  • 2 cups of Chicken stock

 

  • 3 – 4 small red onions or spring onions
  • 1 or 2 fennel bulbs, depending on size
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 red capsicum
  • Half a decent size leek
  • mushrooms

 

  • 2 -4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 teaspoons green Pesto (from a jar)
  • 3 teaspoons caramelized onion (also comes in a jar)
  • 2 tablespoons Masterfoods Australian mustard or similar
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • A pinch of lemon zest or squeeze of lemon juice
  • Small tin of green peppercorns

 

  • Seasoning
  • Fresh or dried tarragon, to taste – a fair whack is needed for this big dish
  • Teaspoon caraway seeds
  • Teaspoon oregano
  • Teaspoon crushed fennel seeds

My simple rules for cooking tasty tucker

 

It’s a lot simpler if you follow a few basic rules

  • Don’t overreach, but push out of your comfort  zone
  • Don’t explore new horizons at a dinner party; use your best tried and true recipes
  • Buy the best / freshest ingredients you can find
  • Don’t pay ridiculous prices for cookware, just buy cookware that works reliably
  • Organize the production line before you start cooking.

Most dishes have ingredients with different cooking times. An example is my salmon and spinach pappardelle:

I use left-over pasta and salmon from previous meals, then I

  • fry the leeks and the thick ends of the asparagus first, for a few minutes
  • add the thin ends of the asparagus spears
  • fry the spinach in a separate pan for a couple of minutes, then keep it warm in the oven
  • add some white wine to the main dish, then the salmon cut into chunks
  • add seasoning and herbs, combine (Italian herbs, dill and chives)
  • add several tablespoons of pesto – red or green or bothAdd sour cream & combine
  • add more wine if necessary (or stock)
  • taste, add more seasoning and herbs if needed
  • add the pasta and combine
  • serve

All this happens at low-to-medium heat over a period of 10 minutes, so I lay all the ingredients out on the bench, in the order they’re needed.

Another example is roast veggies: the carrots and onions go in the oven first, the fennel and capsicum half an hour later, the pumpkin and sweet potato 15 minutes after that, and so on.

What’s the kitchen trick that gets you out of trouble all the time?

Some good advice from serious chefs and foodies, from the Good Food website. I’ve extracted the most useful bits of advice (for me)

Neil Perry: Everyone should have a salad spinner. There’s nothing nice about limp leaves and water dilutes the dressing and therefore the flavour. One of the first things I learnt with Stephanie Alexander was to wash, pick and dry a salad properly.

Andrew McConnell: I organise myself. I organise my head, my space, my ingredients and then – if I’m cooking at home – I can have a glass of wine and relax into it. If you’re not organised, a half-hour recipe can take an hour and a half.

Danielle Alvarez: It sounds silly but adding water. For example, if I’m browning something in a pan and it gets too hot, I add a little water to bring the temperature back down. If I’m sauteing greens, they often brown too much on the outside without cooking through: a little splash of water in the pan creates enough moisture to get into that veg and cook it the rest of the way. I hate soups that are way too thick, like a puree: a couple of tablespoons of water can make it velvety.

What do you think home cooks often do wrong and how can we improve?

Danielle Alvarez: Not adding enough seasoning! It’s a hard lesson to learn because you only learn it over time, and different salts behave differently. To learn how to season, you have to taste your food through the cooking process, not just at the end. Taste everything, even the liquid you’re cooking beans in: is it a flavourful liquid to cook t

Neil Perry: People sometimes think an impressive meal for friends has to be complicated. It doesn’t. Shop well, cook well, and cook within your abilities: don’t push the limits of your capacity when you’re trying to impress. If you want to do something complex, experiment on your husband, your wife, the kids before you unleash it on others.

Kylie Kwong: Menu planning. There is nothing worse than being an exhausted, stressed-out host, so when I plan a dinner party menu, I choose my dishes carefully to be not only seasonal and delicious, but also practical. For example, I love roasting a whole ocean trout as the main dish. I do this several hours in advance, as it can be served at room temperature. I prepare side salads which can be pre-prepped and simply dressed and assembled upon serving. I might have some fried rice pre-cooked which I heat up in the oven, just before serving and perhaps one other hot dish, which I can cook a la minute.

Katrina Meynink: Trying to follow a recipe so closely they forget to have fun. Cooking is a joy. If you are too rigorous and concerned with following a recipe to the absolute letter you don’t get to bring any of yourself to the food. By using a recipe as a guide you learn more about the ingredients you are using, your kitchen appliances and your own skills as a cook. Every time you do this, you are building skills and confidence and the cooking will become more natural and enjoyable.

Is there a recipe of yours in the Good Food book that demonstrates a kitchen principle we all should know?

Neil Perry: With my pan-fried swordfish, I add a little oil to the butter to stop it burning. I generally use a combination of oil and butter when sauteing. It allows you to caramelise and brown beautifully without the butter going too far.

Katrina Meynink: Salt. It’s the single most important ingredient in the kitchen to balance and enhance flavour. When a dish falls short it can be as simple as adjusting the salt, and not just in terms of flakes or crystals but a grating of cheese, pounding a few anchovies, olives or capers. The only way to learn to love it properly is to use it. And to taste. All the time. Gradually add salt and keep tasting to learn how it rounds out, contrasts or intensifies richness.