For a faultless boiled egg – don’t boil it!
The classic way of making a boiled egg is to pop it into boiling water for three or four minutes. But a couple of things are happening here. If you take a cold egg and chuck it into boiling water, it’s likely to crack. But if you start it off in cold water you’ll minimise the chance of this happening.
Also, don’t store your eggs in those egg compartments in the door of the fridge. It’s a lot warmer than the main body of the fridge, and when you open and shut the fridge door, those eggs will rattle around and you’ll start to weaken the walls of the egg yolk and white. Keep your eggs in the main body of the fridge.
You want the white to be delicate, not like a lump of rubber. With a boiled egg, you subject the outside to such a high temperature you either get an overcooked rubbery white to get the yolk done properly or you get the white nice and delicate and the yolk’s not quite right, not quite set. All you have to do is reduce the temperature a bit and cook it for a bit longer.
It’s so simple. You put the egg in a pan. You take the smallest pan you can find that will fit however many eggs you want to put in there in one layer. Only just cover it with cold tap water, then pop it on the highest heat with the lid on. As soon as it boils, take it off the heat and count six minutes and that’s it. And that way, it’s not sitting in boiling water, and you’re cooking it more gently, so there’s a more even heat throughout the egg. You will get a perfect soft-boiled egg yolk every time.
The tastiest chicken stock – just add milk powder
To make the perfect chicken stock, get some chicken wings, chop them up, and put them in a roasting tray with a little bit of oil. Dust the chicken pieces with skimmed milk powder that you can buy from the supermarket. All the supermarkets do their own brand of pure milk powder. You can add carrots and onions as well, if you like. Then roast them.
All the nice brown bits in meat happen because you get the protein and carbohydrates in the meat reacting. So by sprinkling milk powder on the chicken, you’re adding more proteins and carbs in the way of sugars. So you’re adding more to the meat, which results in a really meaty-flavoured base for your stock – and there will be no milk flavour whatsoever. You can use it as the basis for so many dishes.
Flip, flip, flip for restaurant-quality steak
One of the simplest things you can cook is a steak, and there are some simple steps you can take to make sure it’s as good as one you’d get in a restaurant. Firstly, the steak should be at room temperature. Have the pan smoking hot – that’s what a lot of people don’t do.
Leave it on the heat for ten or 15 minutes, so when the oil goes in, it smokes. Don’t put loads in, you need just enough to coat the cracks and crevices of the steak. I’d use groundnut oil or grapeseed oil. Salt the steak, don’t pepper it. If you’re going to put it in a hot pan, it might scorch the pepper.
Put the steak into the pan so it falls away from you: don’t put it in towards you because you don’t want to splash the oil. And then, and this is the magical thing, flip it every 15 seconds. Just flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. It will cook more evenly and you’ll get the crust.
It’s counterintuitive because you think you should leave it in there and turn it half way through. But if you keep flipping, you’ve got the hot bit in the pan then you expose it to the air, it’s another way of getting an even heat to the meat. You’ll get a nice brown outside that’s lovely in the middle.
Take the steak out of the pan and rest it on a cake rack. Resting it for five minutes allows it to cool down. If you start eating it straight out of the pan, the juice will come out and it will be dry. But don’t put it on a plate, as the plate will sandwich the heat – it’s better on a rack where the air will circulate. Then you can pepper it, and maybe rub it with butter and I would then slice it.
Stupidly smooth truffles in an instant
There’s a really simple way of making beautiful chocolate truffles. Take some chocolate, break it up into a bowl over water in a pan on a medium heat, and slowly melt it. For this I’d use 60 per cent chocolate. You can buy loads of decent stuff from the supermarkets now.
When it’s nice and softly melted, add your cream. I’d use 50/50, half chocolate, half cream. If you add more chocolate and less cream your chocolate truffle will be harder, while obviously more cream and less chocolate will result in a softer truffle. Double cream or whipping cream is fine. The key thing here is that you add a third of the cream at a time. So, just add a third then combine it. When it’s combined, add another third and combine it and then the final third.
Leave it to cool, then pop it in the fridge. To form the truffle, use a little spoon or a melon baller to get a ball of chocolate, roll it in your fingers, then just chuck it in some cocoa powder. And you’ll have some stupidly smooth chocolate truffles.
It will make you really fussy, because they’re so much better than the stuff you can buy. Let them come up to room temperature before you serve them. You could spread this mixture onto biscuits or it would make the base of a beautiful chocolate tart. The trick is the addition of the cream in three stages.
Revolutionise the way you make cheese sauce
A cheese sauce is all about melting the cheese. Traditionally you make a béchamel by putting flour and butter in a pan, cooking it, then adding the milk and the cheese. The problem with that is that the flour thickens the sauce but cuts back the flavours. My method cuts down the flour and is much cleaner. So you’ve got your liquid, whether it’s milk or cream or white wine, and it’s in your pan.
Grate the cheese, then coat it in some corn starch [cornflour]. As you heat the liquid, keep adding the cheese to the liquid in spurts until it’s all melted in. Then you can finish it with butter or whatever else you want. The corn starch will thicken it enough, but it won’t be as thick and floury as the other way of doing it, and the flavours will come through better. If you dust the grated cheese with the corn starch it will stop the protein clumping together.
The classic cheese for this sauce is cheddar, but I think gruyère and emmental are great, too. Another tip is to add a tiny pinch of clove powder, which will go so well with the cheese.
Four easy steps to perfect roast potatoes
For me, there are about four key steps to creating the perfect roast potatoes. A lot of people will peel potatoes but they won’t cut them, so you end up with round roast potatoes. What you need is corners, so the edges can get crispy. Ideally, cut your potatoes into quarters. Maris Piper are a good all-round variety for this.
Most people parboil potatoes prior to roasting them, but they should actually be boiled to within an inch of their life. To the point just before they’re about to fall apart, because you need all those cracks to absorb the oil and it’s the oil that will give a juicy crust. Lift them carefully out of the pan and steam-dry them; that will help the cracks to open up.
Let them dry and cool down before adding any oil. Goose fat gives great flavour and beef dripping will give the strongest flavour and the crispest potatoes of the lot.
Personally, I’d use beef dripping if I was serving the potatoes with roast beef, and duck fat if I was serving them with duck, but as an all-round one, go for olive oil. Be generous with the oil, coat your potatoes in it, then put them in the oven till they’re done. This will take between 45 minutes and an hour and a half but you can gauge when they’re ready.
But the biggest tip of all? Time the rest of your meal around the roast potatoes; don’t make the potatoes wait for anything else.
The next big thing in the kitchen? Boil in the bag
Since the microwave, I think sous-vide [cooking vacuum-packed food in a a water oven] has the potential to have the biggest impact on the domestic kitchen, in terms of consistency and accuracy and the quality of the food it produces, but also its convenience and the nutrients it offers. It’s all going to come down to education. Take the George Foreman grill, which sold 90 million units. All that was was somebody taking a grill and angling it 30 degrees so the fat would run off – that was it.
The problem with sous-vide is that you can do so much with it, so many different things, that it’s like learning a new language – it might seem a bit daunting. We want to get to the stage where you can communicate some really simple things about it.
For example, if you take a beautiful piece of fish and put some lemons and dill with it, pop them in the bag and put the bag in the bath for 20 minutes, you’ll have a piece of fish that’s as good as any piece of fish you can eat in a Michelin-starred restaurant. If you can do that at home, time after time, that’s amazing.
You can do stews in there; some beautiful vegetables. You can set timings and temperature, it keeps all the juices in, it keeps all the flavours in.
We’ve been working on a domestic sous-vide system to launch late next year and the idea is that it will be in the range of a food mixer price-wise, much more accessible. It’s the size of a small bread-maker, so won’t take up too much room. Once you’ve done a couple of things in it with unbelievable results, you’ll be hooked.
This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 23 December 2011.
How to Cook like Heston starts tonight at 8pm on Channel 4/C4 HD