Jamie Oliver's 5 Nuggets of Cooking Wisdom

Jamie Oliver's 5 Nuggets of Cooking Wisdom

What should you do to get sweeter, mellower onions in cooking? Jamie tells us this top tip and more in TLC's Jamie Cooks Italy

1. Use salsa as a great base for meat, veg and seafood

Jamie's lemon-olive oil salsa on grilled squid

If you're watching the series Jamie Cooks Italy, you would have probably drooled over this luscious squid salad. While this was a winning dish, the thing we remembered was salsa. It isn't just eaten with chips, but in Jamie's own words, "also great when used to dress grilled veg, lamb or other seafood, tossed with pasta or as a topping for crostini." When he made this grilled squid appetiser, the salsa of choice was a spoon of vinegary capers, crunchy pistachios, chillies, mint, and two fresh lemons. Besides squid, you can easily use salsa as a oozy, juicy, soupy base for any of our seafood recipes here, to dress up some oven-baked vegetables, and perhaps even as a side for some roast beef mash

What you need: 

  • 2 tablespoons baby capers in brine
  • 2 lemons
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil, from sustainable sources
  • 30g shelled unsalted pistachios 
  • ½ a bunch of fresh mint (15g) 

Putting it together: 

  • Soak the capers in a bowl of water. Squeeze all the lemon juice into a large shallow bowl and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Peel the garlic and finely chop with the chilli, anchovies, pistachios, drained capers and mint leaves. Scrape it all into the bowl and mix together well.

Related article: 10 Colourfully Fresh Recipes For An Instant Health Halo

2. Soak onions in water to get them sweeter and milder

Probably one of the most important things the British-born Chef learnt while making a wonderfully zesty and umami prawn and tuna linguine was not about its star ingredients. Instead, it was about the solid supporting one: onions. "I’m using her (Nonna Rosanna, the cook who was teaching him the pasta dish) trick of washing sliced onions to make them milder, and that moisture also helps to add extra sweetness as they cook, before we add vinegar for contrast," he said, gingerly peeling and finely slicing the onions, before placing them in a bowl water. 

And while we're at it, another similar method is to put your onion under running water as you peel and slice it. Besides getting more mellow tasting onions, water rinses off tear-inducing sulfuric compounds that onions give off. Still, there's one more method that's said to work better: freezing. Some swear by first freezing the onion, as the ice cold temperature will reduce the rate of "onion gases" being released, so you get all that good and tear less. Amazing isn't it? 

3. Making your own pasta? Practice is key

Clam-shell like orecchiette pasta, as made in Jamie's Aubergine and Black Chickpea Orecchiette

"There are a few techniques to making these little buggers. It’s one of my favourite pasta shapes, but weirdly tricky to master. I don’t want that to put you off – I’ve seen both 5-year-olds and 100-year-olds rattling it out in Italy very easily! Approach it with a Zen-like mind and I promise you’ll get into the rhythm soon enough," Jamie wrote in his recipe for a homely Aubergine and Black Chickpea Orecchiette. And when he was making this "Little Ears" pasta, nicknamed for its resemblance to tiny ears, the celebrity chef soon learnt how difficult it was, but how quickly he got better at it with practice. But mostly, Jamie remarked that when making pasta, perfection really isn't a necessity. “In one part of Bari, they’ll make it a certain size, and in Alto Moro, they make it a slightly different size, and they’ll all be orecchiette,” the British chef mused, peering at the dough.

And here he shares two methods of making the ridged clam-shell like pasta: 

Method #1 

  • Starting at the edge furthest away from you, drag a blunt eating knife towards you over a nugget of dough, so it curls round andover the knife. 
  • Gently pull the dough off the knife, push your thumb inside and turn it inside out. Repeat, and you’ll get it after a while. 

Method #2 

  • Stick your thumb into the centre of a nugget (roll it into a ball first if you want to be more precise), rotate your thumb around to create a round disc, then pick the disc up and hold it between your thumb and forefinger, pulling it gently over your forefinger to make a similarly effective little ear. 
  • Transfer to a floured tray as you go.

Make some in a rustic olive oil chickpea pasta

4. With fish, poke at the head to know when it's cooked

Whenever you're making a whole fish, whether steaming, boiling, etc, the best tell-tale sign of it being ready to serve is to "go to the thickest part up near the head – if the flesh flakes easily away from the bone, it’s done." Well, the fish in question that he was cooking was a herby Italian braised fish dish with lots of garlic, mild vine tomatoes, and nutty olive oil. Of course, this trick works for any type of fish dish, like a simple Steamed Fish with Lime and Chili Dressing, or a Baked Snapper With Sweet Butter Soy

If you cooking a fish with full-flavour ingredients, or braising / steaming techniques, Jamie also suggests to "score the fish on both sides to help flavour and heat to penetrate as it cooks," and "stuff herbs in cavities." You can do that particularly with Thai herbs of lemongrass, sweet kaffir lime leaves, and chillies

5. Always twist a piping bag for a better pipe

Now if you've ever piped on cream, you'll know it's a lot harder than it looks. Too much force and it comes out too fast, too much. Too little force, and you won't get the plump and "lift" you desire. Now here, the trick lies in a simple twist. Instead of scrunching the bag up, twist and push out as much air as you can to get it taut. Then squeeze confidently. In this Chocolate Cannoli dessert (pictured), Jamie expertly fills in some crunchy pasta tubes with cold vanilla chocolate ricotta cream. For a glamourous touche, use a star nozzle, the same one used here for a twisty, starry puff of cream. 

Piping bags can also be used for more controlled layering, like in a Matcha Tiramisu, or even jazzing up this Tangerine Cake with Vegan Chocolate Ganache with splashes and splotches of more chocolate. 

Check out some of the series’ most interesting snippets on our page, Jamie Cooks Italy, here. It premieres 7 April, 9pm HK/SGT on our sister channel, TLC.

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