Ask a chef: Hacks to up the flavour in any meal March 16, 2016
HelloFresh founder Tom is full of cooking wisdom. To find out how to up the flavour in any meal, check out his tips for a perfect cook every time!
“I can cook a little but when it comes to adding flavours to meat, poultry and fish, I am dead set out of my comfort zone! …what suggestions could you give me to add more flavour to [a] dish, for my poor abandoned taste-buds?
The difference between a really amazing cook and a beginner is often a few simple techniques and tricks that can transform a meal from sufficient to superb. Here are a few of my favourite tips to keep in mind when it comes to maximising flavour in every meal.
Respect the marinade
Marinating is a fantastic technique for getting big flavour in meat and fish. If it’s not given the proper time to develop though, the results can be disappointing. To make sure any seasoning you’re applying has time to penetrate the meat and give it flavour, I always marinade before I do anything else. That way, when you’re chopping veggies, pre-heating ovens and prepping all of your ingredients, your marinade is already working hard for you.
Back the ‘Basics’
There a few basic flavours that can always be relied upon to maintain the flavour of your meal – even if they’re not included in the recipe. Leftover cloves of garlic from a whole bulb? Tossing a few into Italian or Asian dishes is always a good idea. Salt and pepper, or soy and pepper can always be used liberally. Most recipes call for seasoning at some point (although some don’t), but it’s always wise to suck it and see – taste as you go and feel free to add more seasoning if you’re not happy with the flavour. Ingredients that are not often thought of as seasoning like citrus, apple cider vinegar and chilli are also options to cut through richness, add heat, or draw out fresh flavours in a dish.
When using fresh herbs, I like to reserve a little for garnish even if the recipe doesn’t call for it. Far from being just for presentation, a hit of fresh herbs will echo the mellower flavours that have been incorporated in the cooking process, and can ‘draw out’ a more subtle note of, say, oregano or basil.
Mind your Fs and Ts
Easy, tiger. We mean flavours and textures! The two go hand in hand, and can really enhance each other. A good soup is delicious, but how much better is it with a crispy bread roll? A salad can go from boring to daring with a sprinkle of sesame seeds or pine nuts. Letting chicken cook until it’s crispy not only creates caramel flavours via the Maillard reaction, but also adds a different texture on the outside of the chicken breast which enhances flavours. Keeping in mind how varied textures play against each other in a meal is a great way to improve a dish.
Starting with meat or fish that is at room temperature will always result in a better flavour, and a more tender final product. A little organisation (taking meat out of the freezer in the morning for that night’s dinner), will make all the difference.
Trust your tastebuds!
Finally, don’t forget to relax and trust your own intuition with cooking. Every oven and every person’s taste is different, and tasting and learning as you go is a sure fire way to develop your cooking skills. It’s only food, and it’s supposed to be fun!
Do you have a question for Tom? A cheffy conundrum that you’ve always wondered about but never dared to ask? Tell us in the comments or hit up HelloFreshAU on facebook and instagram to have your questions answered!